Adam Mitcheson won’t let the high of kicking a 49-yard field goal overwhelm him. He won’t let the low of missing a chip shot from 25 yards drag him down, either.
Mitcheson has experienced both kinds of emotions as a kicker on the University at Buffalo football team.
The fifth-year senior from Pittsburgh set the school record for field goals (45) with a 37-yard kick that sealed a 51-42 win Oct. 30 against Miami (Ohio). A week later, he became UB’s all-time leading scorer (268 points) when he kicked six extra points in a 48-14 win against Kent State.
Mitcheson has also missed a few kicks; he's 6 for 10 on field-goal attempts this year and has missed five extra-point attempts (44 for 49).
He acknowledges that his performance this season hasn't been at its peak, but he's at a point as a kicker where he doesn’t let a make or a miss define him anymore.
“There were some times where I was kicking myself on the sidelines and thinking, ‘Come on, I’m better than that,’ ” Mitcheson said. “You’ve just got to learn to fight through those times. I handle things a lot better than I did as a freshman. The misses stuck with me longer. I learned to move on from those and the missed kicks and the bad games I had. Now, I know the next game I’ll be better.”
Next for UB is Wednesday night's Mid-American Conference game at Ohio (6-4, 4-2 MAC). The Bulls (9-1, 6-0) can clinch the East with a victory or a win in the season finale at Bowling Green on Nov. 23.
Mitcheson became UB’s full-time kicker as a redshirt freshman in 2015, and he handled the pressure, going 7-for-7 on field goals and 31-for-36 on extra points.
He's 39-for-59 on field goals (66 percent) in four seasons.
He says the kicks he has missed this year – including a 28-yard attempt that Army blocked and returned for a touchdown, or a 32-yard miss at Toledo that turned into a touchdown by the Rockets two plays later – don't haunt him at all.
Being a kicker requires a short memory and an understanding that one bad kick or one miss isn’t solely the fault of the kicker.
“An offensive lineman or a linebacker, they make mistakes, and it’s usually not seen by everyone,” said Brandon Kornblue, a former University of Michigan kicker who runs camps that specialize in training kickers who play college and professional football. “But a kicker, specifically, the nature of the position, everybody’s eyes are on them. Nobody’s watching the blocker, the snapper or the holder. No matter what the blame is, the kicker gets the blame, but at the same time, they’re getting the praises.”
Mitcheson's kicking percentages lag behind other kickers in the MAC. Matthew Trickett of Kent State and Ryan Tice lead the MAC in field-goal percentage (both at 10-for-12, 83.3 percent), while Akron's Nick Gasser and Toledo's Jameson Vest lead the MAC with 13 field goals each. Mitcheson has 15 PAT misses for his career. He's 133 of 148 on extra points.
What has defined Mitcheson, UB coach Lance Leipold said, isn’t his numbers. It’s Mitcheson’s perseverance.
“You can go back two years ago and he makes a game-winning kick against Army, and he’s made kicks that have put games into overtime," Leipold said.
“As we know in football, everyone’s been battling for a lot of time and that kicker that’s been on the sidelines gets put in, with the game on the line. It takes a special person. It’s one that, you’ve got to forget the last one, because you’re judged by the ones that are coming. It says a lot about Adam and him as a person, and what he’s been able to do.”
What separates successful kickers, Kornblue said, is resiliency.
"You have a few minor moments to get out there, and you have to make it count," Kornblue said. "Everyone is going to miss and have a failure, at some point. The critical piece is how you respond. Don’t let one miss become two.”
For Mitcheson, that's just as important as his ability to kick a ball through a set of goal posts. Especially when he is well aware that an entire stadium watches him as he lines up for a field-goal attempt.
“I handle it better now, being a senior, and I’m not so worried about the pressure,” Mitcheson said. “But it’s definitely weird, knowing all eyes are on you. I learned to handle that as best as I can and trust my training and my technique, and hopefully, the ball goes through.”