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Hunnicutt Bringing Stability To Once Turbulent Position For Sooners

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

For several years, field goals were an adventure at Oklahoma. For a variety of reasons, you never knew what you were going to get when a kicker walked on the field to attempt a field goal, no matter the distance.

Beginning with the 2008 season, OU kickers Jimmy Stevens and Patrick O'Hara combined to miss 15 field goals over the course of three seasons. Throw in Tress Way's emergency start at Nebraska in 2009, where he missed three field goal attempts, and that's 18 misses in just three seasons.

Yet, when Stevens was sidelined for the Missouri game in 2011 with an injury, redshirt freshman Michael Hunnicutt was named the starting kicker and never gave the job back.

Since that game, Hunnicutt has provided stability at kicker, something the Sooners haven't had since 2007 when Garrett Hartley was the kicker.

"I definitely feel I've gotten better," Hunnicutt said Monday. "I try to get better at least. Being out there, I don't get quite as nervous as I did during my first few kicks."

This season, Hunnicutt has taken his game to a whole new level. Currently, he is second in the nation in field goal makes—15, second only to Texas Tech's Ryan Bustin and his 16 makes—and second in field goal percentage at 93.8 percent. His percentage is the highest among kickers with more than 10 attempts.

While he wasn't on the preseason Lou Groza Award watch list—awarded annually to the nation's best placekicker—Hunnicutt's performance so far this season will most likely have him on the semifinalist list which will be announced on Nov. 4. However, Hunnicutt isn't focused on that.

"A lot of it is out of my control," Hunnicutt said. "If we have field goal opportunities, and I make them, maybe that will come, but I'm happy kicking extra points all game as well. I love when we score touchdowns."

This week, Hunnicutt will get to relive the lowest point in his career when the Sooners face No. 10 Texas Tech on Saturday. During Oklahoma's shocking 41-38 loss to the Red Raiders at home in 2011, Hunnicutt missed two field goals, including a 28-yard attempt off the right upright with 2:52 remaining. The field goal would have cut the Texas Tech lead to just a touchdown.

While Hunnicutt certainly didn't lose the game, the misses ate at him afterward.

"I think about it a little bit," he said. "It definitely made me a better kicker. That was a really rough game. I didn't miss the rest of that season; it made me more mentally strong.

"When you have a miss like that, you never want to feel like that again. I've never felt that bad after a game before. I try to make all my kicks so I don't feel like that ever again."

Hunnicutt has done just that. So far, he's 53-for-61 in his career at OU, and became the school's all-time leader in field goals makes with his two field goals against TCU on Oct. 5.

He compares kicking to a golf swing. If it's just a little bit off, things can go awry, such as his only field goal miss of the year and the duck hooked extra point against Kansas on Saturday.

"It hit the upright from the right hash," Hunnicutt said about his lone miss this year. "Yeah, I'd like to have that back and have a perfect season right now. It is what it is."

The Sooners haven't been in any positions where they've had to call on Hunnicutt for a clutch, game-winning kick, but if the past few years are any indication, they can be comfortable calling his number if that time comes.

"I've had a lot of short, game-tying extra points, but I can't think of a high-pressure field goal," Hunnicutt said. "I just try to be ready when the time comes. Hopefully we don't need it, but if we do, I'll be there."

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