Gary Wunderlich: Poised under pressure

Posted on Nov 14 2016 - 8:43pm by Brian Scott Rippee

Gary Wunderlich booted a couple of footballs into the kicking net on the sideline as time wound down against Texas A&M. He knew what was coming as the seconds ticked off the clock.

“With about five minutes left, I had decided that it was going to come down to a kick, so mentally I was able to get ready and just did my normal warm up kicking into the net and went out there and we got the job done,” Wunderlich said.

Gary Wunderlich

Gary Wunderlich awaits the snap on an extra point attempt during a game against Georgia Southern. (Photo by: Cameron Brooks)

He’d never been in this situation in his life. He’d never been asked to kick a field goal to win a game. He tried to calm his emotions.

“Never being in that situation before, obviously I knew this kick was kind of the deciding factor,” Wunderlich said. “But I was able to focus and calm down.”

He wanted solidarity. He wanted to be left alone to focus. Hugh Freeze knew better than to talk to his kicker beforehand, and it’s exactly what Wunderlich preferred.

“I don’t really like anyone talking to me. I just try to keep to myself,” Wunderlich said.

A couple of teammates told him they’d believed in him, and why not? He’d made 12 of 13 kicks this year while quietly putting together one of the finest seasons in all of college football. But again, this situation was new to him.

The snap from Will Few came out well. Will Gleeson held it firm. Wunderlich hit it from 39 yards away, but he toed it a little bit.

“I didn’t hit it very well. It kind of went off my toe. I thought I missed it right, too,” Wunderlich said. “But it kind of hooked back in. I was very nervous when it came off my foot. But when  I saw it hook back in, I was relieved.”

It snuck inside the right upright and gave Ole Miss its first lead since he did so in the first quarter with a 25-yard kick. It won Ole Miss the game.

“Will Few, again, like I said a couple of weeks ago, has just been great. Gleeson holding has just been awesome,” Wunderlich said. “The guys up front blocking, we couldn’t get it done with out them. I think they’re overlooked, but they did a great job.”

Wunderlich jogged off the field just as calmly as he’d entered the game, a sense of calmness you might expect from a guy who has made 92.9 percent of his kicks this year. Ole Miss was 37 seconds away from its first SEC win since September, and it held on, thanks to the right foot of Wunderlich and his 13th field goal this year.