October 23, 2009

Just Kickin' It: Bailey's foot lifts Pokes

There's no in-between when you're a placekicker in the game of football.

An afterthought until the game is on the line, this player is either the hero for winning the game or the goat for blowing it. All that for maybe only playing three seconds on the field.

Rough stuff. Especially when you're needed four times in a game and every point matters. That was the situation for Oklahoma State 's Dan Bailey against Missouri . In a game that ebbed and flowed in odd ways, every field goal he attempted seemed crucial to the outcome of the game.

A perfect example of that came early in the fourth quarter. Only up 27-17, the game still had some doubt left in it. Things had gone smoother in the second half for the Pokes, but Mizzou could wake up at any time and make things interesting late.

So when Bailey went on the field to attempt a 46-yard shot, there was some pressure. Those three points seemed vital in the "insurance points" department. In the Big 12, you just never know.

With the start of the final frame under way, Bailey booted the ball and… he missed. But fortunately for the junior out of Mustang, the Pokes were called for delay of game, moving the ball back and meaning he had another chance to tack on three.

This time? True and long, a 51-yarder that increased the Cowboys' lead to 30-17, a crushing blow psychologically to the Tigers, who thought they were still in it up to that point.

"We were running out of time, so I just went ahead and kicked it and pushed it to the right a little bit," Bailey said. "So I just told myself to aim a little left next time and it ended up going in for me."

One of the few times when a penalty can be described as a lucky break.

"Oh yeah, definitely," he said. "That's something that you don't usually get, a second chance. In a kick, it's one play and out so you have to take advantage. It was kind of a bad thing we got the penalty, but a good thing at the same time so it worked out."

Bailey had four field goals on the evening, from 26, 36 and 39 yards, to go along with the career-best boot. All but one of those came in the second half, so Bailey acted as a boa constrictor on Mizzou, slowly adding up points and choking the Tigers into submission. In fact, he was the only player to score points on either side in the second half.

It was a nice evening for Bailey, who has had his struggles at times. While never missing an extra point at OSU, he has only 24-of-33 in his field goals (72 percent), including an 0-2 mark from 50 yards and beyond.

Until last weekend. Now, after some struggles from deep, he has something positive to build on.

"It definitely gives you confidence because it's your career long and you're kind of like, 'Well, I've never done this before,' " he said. "So 51 is pretty far and it is definitely a confidence-booster for me on anything from 51 or closer."

Bailey's story isn't like some others on the squad. Not receiving a scholarship at first, he walked on the team. From there, he kept pressing and putting in the hours until he was finally awarded a scholarship by head coach Mike Gundy.

"Dan is a great example of a young man who wants to play college football and was not able to get a scholarship," Gundy said. "The walk-ons that we have in our program, and I tell the team this all the time - the scholarship players are spoiled. They get everything done for them. The guys that really, really, really love it, they walk-on here and they earn their way. They work in the spring trying to make enough money to pay for school, they put all the time and effort in over here and their reward is to be part of the team. And a guy like Dan Bailey did the right thing. And we've got a number of guys that we were able to award a scholarship to, which is the greatest thing we can do, is to reward a young man for doing the right thing."

Further proof that hard work really can get you to your goals. No handouts. No gimmes. Just hard work and earning your keep.

"It's been great," Bailey said. "I really appreciate what the coaching staff and coach Gundy did for me. I'm just glad I can finally get back on track and start proving that I deserve that scholarship; I kind of got down on myself a little bit. It's definitely been a good experience and I really appreciate everything they've done."

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