April 11, 2008 in Sports

Rooney getting kicks

By The Spokesman-Review
 

PULLMAN – Last season, kicker Patrick Rooney got cut from the Washington State football team one week after walk-on tryouts.

Determined to try again in the spring, he worked out on his own throughout last fall, kicking field goals through the uprights at a rugby field on campus.

Now, with just one football practice left this spring, Rooney has worked his way into the No. 1 spot as the Cougars’ kicker.

“It just feels amazing,” Rooney said Thursday. “I was ecstatic when I found out that I moved up from third (place) in three weeks.”

He’s one of three kickers at Washington State, and the Cougars expect a fourth to arrive in the fall.

As of now, Rooney is filling the shoes of last year’s starter, Romeen Abdollmohammodi. Once again, sophomore kicker Wade Penner is shaping up to be the backup, followed by redshirt freshman Matt Myers.

“You know, that’s just all subjective,” special teams coach Steve Broussard said. “(We’ll) just see how things go come Saturday, and then we talk about it as a staff and see where we’re going to go with that, how things are going to fit.

“You know, it’s always tough when you’ve got three good ones and you gotta make a decision, because all three of them can’t kick off or all three of them can’t kick a PAT field goal.”

At the end of practice Thursday, as their teammates taunted and encouraged them, the kickers took turns kicking 40-plus-yard field goals, with the distance increasing with each kick.

On their longest attempts (49 yards), each kicker sent the ball straight through the center of the uprights, with distance to spare.

The rest of the Cougars whooped and cheered.

“With each day I feel like I earn more and more acceptance with the team,” Rooney said. “And, I mean, all the guys on the team are great guys. It actually makes me want to make the kick even more when they’re sitting there taunting me. Sometimes it actually starts to relax me a little bit.”

Heading into his junior season this fall, Rooney said he is excited to be playing football again. Last year, he transferred to WSU from El Camino College in El Segundo, Calif., and just took classes last season after he was cut from the team.

Now that Rooney has proven his worth, he needs his kicks to stay consistent, he said. With three and, perhaps, soon to be four long-range kickers, the starting spots will come down to whoever has the steady shoe.

“I can’t really take a day off. I’ve gotta go out there and kick and play my game every time,” Rooney said. “There is pressure to make the kicks whether it’s in a game or on the practice field. Because if we don’t make it on the practice field, we’re not going to get to take a kick in the game.”

Penner said he feels there is a lot of pressure and competition. And while he feels bad about not being the No. 1 kicker, he said he thinks he has made a lot of progress this season and plans to keep working this summer for a starting spot.

But just because Rooney is the No. 1 kicker today doesn’t mean it couldn’t change at any time.

“They’ve been working hard, and they’re all excited about the opportunity,” Broussard said. “When they’re doing well, it makes your job tougher, when they aren’t doing well, it makes it easier to make a decision. We’ve gotta collectively, as a staff, figure out which way we’re going to go.”

Notes

Head coach Paul Wulff canceled Saturday’s scheduled Crimson and Gray game to give his players more practice and drill time. He cited injuries and lack of depth as his reasoning. The practice at Martin Stadium will be open to the public on WSU Mom’s Weekend, and players will be available for autographs afterward. … Running back Christopher Ivory, last season’s No. 2 rusher, practiced with the second-string offense after missing several practices so he could focus on academics. Logwone Mitz was practicing with the first team. The coaches also tried out Ivory as a punt returner.

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