The freshman kicker has connected on all three of his field-goal attempts and an onside kick.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Before Saturday, Sept. 19, the football team had managed a meager three points in its last three meetings with Penn State.
At Beaver Stadium Saturday, the Owls scored six points, and they all came off the foot of freshman kicker Brandon McManus. He was a perfect two-for-two on field-goal attempts in the 31-6 loss.
“He’s one of the guys that are very poised, and he’s very confident,” coach Al Golden said. “He really drilled them. He hit them really good.”
McManus wasn’t atop the depth chart at kicker to open the season but made his way up there after Temple’s season-opening 27-24 loss to Villanova two weeks ago. Golden named senior kicker Jake Brownell the starter entering the year but pulled him for McManus after he missed a 35-yard attempt against the Wildcats.
“I mentally prepared on both occasions,” McManus said. “Coming in here, I knew the atmosphere was going to be great. I just wanted to kick well for my team.”
Since taking over for Brownell just a quarter into the season opener, McManus has not missed. He nailed a 25-yarder against Villanova, and on Saturday, he made both his field-goal tries. His 25-yarder at the end of the first quarter cut Penn State’s lead to just 7-3. Temple opened the second half and drove inside the Nittany Lions’ 20-yard line. The offense stalled, but McManus converted on a 35-yard attempt, closing the gap to 21-6.
Owls redshirt junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton, who also holds for McManus during kicks, said that coming in as a freshman and making all your attempts in front of a crowd like Penn State’s was a tough task for the kicker, but that he was ready.
“[McManus] is actually a pretty level-headed kid for a freshman,” Charlton said. “He really doesn’t think too much when he kicks the ball. He just goes out there and kicks it through the uprights.”
McManus even made his presence felt on kickoffs. After his 25-yard field goal, McManus opened the second quarter with an onside pooch kick that went the necessary 10 yards and was recovered by junior defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett.
“All week we’ve been practicing it,” McManus said about the onside kick. “They made a great play and batted it back, and Jaiquawn picked it up.”
“I think anytime you play an operation like this, you have to give your kids a chance,” Golden added. “Also as coaches, you want to show them that you’re here to compete. This year was really the first time our guys said, ‘Let’s go up there and try to win,’ as opposed to, ‘Let’s survive.’”
Being asked to produce as a freshman can be tough enough, but being asked to kick field goals in front 105,514 Nittany Lions fans can be a daunting task.
Not for McManus, though.
“My team did a great job,” he said. “We practiced with crowd noise, and my teammates were yelling behind me to get me used to that game atmosphere. I am a pretty calm guy. I mentally block out everything just to keep my focus.”
Golden recalled McManus’ opening kickoff, which only reached the Penn State 17-yard line. Golden said McManus came over to him after the kickoff and basically told him it would never happen again.
“He has a great attitude for a kicker because he has a short memory,” Golden said. “He didn’t let that ruin the rest of his day.”
“I think you have to have confidence no matter what,” McManus said. “I’m feeling good right now and happy with my performance.”
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.