September 25, 2009

Orange kicker moves on

At the conclusion of SU's opening drive against Northwestern last week in the Carrier Dome, Ryan Lichtenstein hit a career long field goal of 43 yards to put SU up 3-0 in front of the Orange faithful. Fast forward to a minute left in the game, Lichtenstein was called upon again to do something he had never done before at Syracuse - hit the game winning field goal in the waning seconds of SU's win over the Wildcats.

Lichtenstein converted with ease from 41 yards. A pressure filled situation handled well by the walk-on kicker, thrust into the role after SU lost several kickers in preseason camp.

Turns out, it wasn't even the most hectic part of Lichtenstein's night. That crucial few seconds belongs to the media, who fired question after question at Lichtenstein post game.

"I can kick, I don't like talking," said Lichtenstein.

But Lichtenstein isn't impervious to kicks like these. Sometimes nerves do play a factor for the Pittsburgh native.

"I mean there's always going to be butterflies. Coming in and trying to prove myself I was a little nervous. During the games I just try to keep my focus."

The most nerve wracking moment of Lichtenstein's night also could have been but wasn't a low second quarter field goal attempt that was blocked. Fellow Orange teammates were able to clear Lichtenstein's head and allow him to move on.

"Once I hit that, (QB) Greg (Paulus) came up to me and just said it got blocked, it happens, get over it, go to the next kick. That's what I try to focus on."

It's been a few days since Lichtenstein hit the game-winner. The soft spoken true freshman dismissed the idea that the thrill was still hanging over his head.

"I'm not thinking about it, I'm really not at all. I'm thinking about that game coming up in a couple of days," said Lichtenstein after practice this past Wednesday.

After notching the game winner last Saturday night, Lichtenstein's thoughts were elsewhere on the kick that sent SU to its first non-conference win over a BCS team at home since beating Cincinnati 19-7 in 2004 (the Bearcats joined the Big East conference the following year).

"It was a completely mind numbing experience. I don't have much recollection of what went on. It was completely unbelievable."

And while the Orange are happy they're somewhat comfortable on special teams, if kickers like Austin Wallis and Shane Raupers were still around(both left before the season), Lichtenstein may never have gotten the chance to walk on or prove himself to his teammates in the first place. But getting on the field was always the plan.

"The whole summer that was my goal. You don't come here to sit on the bench, you come to play. You want to get on the field and you want to help the team win, and fortunately, I was able to make that happen."

And it seems the top-notch play has won over Lichtenstein's teammates as well.

"I kind of started celebrating before it happened because I knew he (Ryan Lichtenstein) was going to make it. When it happened I just knew the team was going to run out on the field so I wanted to make sure my feet didn't get stepped on or something like that. It was a great thing - a great feeling to have," said SU starting linebacker Doug Hogue.

Lichtenstein hit three field goals against Northwestern from 43, 37, and 41 yards, with the one blocked attempt as well. Added on to Lichtenstein's numbers this year, the frosh is 5-7 on field goals and a perfect 7-7 on extra points.

While the experience on field has humbled SU's newfound kicker, Lichtenstein just keeps kicking because he knows he can do it - it's what he does.

"I mean it's good that it happened but I really have the same confidence that I did before. Confidence level is still the same."

Lichtenstein will need to be a safe bet in the clutch for the Orange, who begin Big East conference play October 3rd against South Florida at home.

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