The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

October 7, 2010

WVU coach not ready to give up on Bitancurt

West Virginia kicker Tyler Bitancurt had the kind of year a freshman could only dream about last season.

The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Springfield, Va. native was 13-of-15 on field goal attempts, made all but one of his 42 extra-point attempts and finished with 80 points.

The clear high came on a cold Nov. 27 night when he nailed a 43-yard field goal — one of four he had in the game — as time expired to beat hated Pitt 19-16.

He was a Big East all-conference performer last year and coming into the year, he was named to the Lou Groza Award watch list for the award given to the nation’s top kicker.

But, it’s been anything but a smooth ride since.

Bitancurt has already missed three field goal (actually, two were blocked) and two of those came in a 20-14 loss to LSU Sept.. 25, including a 28-yarder that was blocked. Marshall also blocked a 45-yard attempt.

He is listed as the starter on extra points and field goals when the Mountaineers host UNLV Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Milan Puskar Stadium. The game will be televised locally on WOAY-TV.

Both his blocked kicks were low, making the opposition’s task that much easier, which Bitancurt readily admitted.

“You try to get as comfortable as possible, but if you get too comfortable, that’s when things start to happen,” Bitancurt said. “I have to focus on one task — I can’t worry about getting enough lift on the ball and avoiding the posts. I can only do one at a time. If it gets blocked, then I wasn’t focused enough on getting underneath it.

“When you kick, it’s the same kick every time. My extra point is going to be the same as a 50-yard field goal. Only the aiming is different.”

Clearly there is cause for concern in the Mountaineer camp. But coach Bill Stewart well knows the psychology of kickers.

“I’ve talked to him about it,” Stewart said. “But I don’t want to put a bad seed in his head. I’m sure he’ll work it out and carry on and make some big kicks before the year’s out.”

For Bitancurt, it’s better to forget it and move on.

“You just have to move on, forget about it and find ways to improve,” he said. “You have to find a way to get better. You can’t dwell on the past — you keep moving forward or you’ll keep missing.”

There has been some good. He made a field goal in overtime that was the deciding points in a 24-21 overtime win.

And he is 5-of-8, a perfect 11-for-11 on extra points and has made both his attempts between 30-39 yards.

But it is the misses that stick with the redshirt sophomore.

“You go from kick to kick, but I never forget the ones I miss,” Bitancurt said. “You remember the misses and you learn from your mistakes. The only frustration that comes is from knowing I didn’t perform to the best of my ability. I can’t get down on myself. It’s too important for the team that I move on and do not reflect too much on the missed kicks. There’s so many games we still need to win.”

Stewart isn’t ready to give up on Bitancurt because of his past.

“He’s made so many big ones in the past that it doesn’t alarm me,’’ Stewart said of Bitancurt’s recent woes. “Any time you miss one it worries you, but I don’t see a pattern.”

— E-mail: demorrison@register-herald.com

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