Langley: Confidence is Key

LOREN LANGLEY

PULLMAN -- It was a fitting end to practice Thursday, with kicker Loren Langley sailing the ball through the uprights to the overwhelming cheers of his teammates. The junior from Puyallup, 3-for-3 in last week's game against USC, said he's never lacked for confidence. But not everyone has felt the same certainty since a rough stretch that began with last year's Apple Cup win over Washington.

After missing three-of-five FG attempts (50, 43, 28, good from 22 and 48) and being benched in last year's 26-22 Apple Cup win, one would expect a kicker's confidence to deteriorate. But Langley said Thursday that definitely didn't happen.

The Cougar kicker started the season 7-of-11, but ultimately made 14 of 22 kicks, struggled outside the 40-yard line (4-of-10), and missed 7 of his last 11.

"I had a really good beginning part of the season last year and it was just toward the end that I let it slip," Langley said. "I think I lost my focus a little bit, but I'm definitely focused this year."

Part of an adjustment this year stems from a new snapper and holder. Tony Thompson has assumed both the short and long snapping duties, with No. 2 QB Gary Rogers the holder. Peter Hill also competed for the snapping job this fall.

"It took me a little bit to get used to a new holder and snapper, but we have a good thing going now," Langley said.

But it's confidence, that of the unshakeable variety, that is key in the kicking game.

"I don't think I could make those kicks without it," Langley said. "I was confident last year and I'm even more confident this year. Even at the beginning of the season when I missed those two kicks I was still extremely confident."

But not everyone was so sure prior to the season in fall camp. Through the Cougars' three scrimmages, walk-on kicker Romeen Abdollmohammadi had connected on 11 of 13 field goal attempts. His 4-for-4 effort in Scrimmage One moved Doba to name him the front runner for the starting nod. Langley had to that point continued to struggle, making just 5 of 13 attempts in the three scrimmages. But then things began to reverse themselves, with Langley making more kicks than Abdollmohammadi, and Doba naming him the starter against Auburn.

Still, Doba decided on attempts longer than 30 yards or so, the Cougs would to go for it on make-able fourth downs rather than send Langley out, such as they did on fourth-and-ten from the 25-yard line against Baylor, and fourth-and-five from the 21 against Stanford.

In that Baylor game, though, Langley kicked the game-winning field goal from 17 yards out with nine seconds remaining, lifting Washington State to a 17-15 win. He was even named Pac-10 Player of the Week for special teams.

Against USC, Doba moved the line back a little, and Langley responded with makes of 35, 35 and 20 yards. And if he continues to drill kicks through the uprights, it will help garner the public trust in his abilities, Langley said.

"It's everyone else, reporters, coaches, teammates, and fans who are wondering whether I'll make the kick or not," Langley said. "It's not me. I think it helps to ease their minds when I have a good game."

Langley said having Abdollmohammadi out there doesn't add any extra pressure on him to perform.

"It's not like me versus him," Langley said. "It's more of a me versus me thing."

So has having Abdollmohammadi out there pushed Langley any harder during the rough patches? Not so, says Langley.

"It's not so much that I'm trying to beat someone else, so much as I'm trying to fix what I'm doing," Langley said.

And while Doba continues to say he would be hesitant to use Langley for kicks over 40 yards this week, Langley said he remains ready.

"That's his decision and I just have to be ready when he calls," Langley said.

THURSDAY'S NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Doba said Bobby Byrd will start at left tackle against OSU. The junior honors candidate missed the last two games with an MCL.

  • Cornerback Markus Dawes will travel and could see his first action since suffering a high ankle sprain against Auburn.

  • Josh Duin (MCL) will also travel, with how he warms up determining his availability. Kenny Alfred will get the start at center.

  • Safety Michael Willis is out for Saturday, after re-injuring his shoulder against USC. Doba said Doba said Xavier Hicks and Christian Bass are the two safeties listed behind Willis on the depth chart.

  • Jason Hill and Derrell Hutsona are both back in Pullman after being excused this week to head home and be with family. Hill's mother and Hutsona's grandfather are ailing. Hutsona returned to practice Wednesday, while Hill returned for Thursday's session.

    Additional details are available in previously published Hot News.

  • All remaining Apple Cup tickets go on sale this Saturday, Oct. 7, beginning at 10 a.m. on wsucougars.com. Tickets for the Nov. 18 game in Pullman will be available online only, unless any tickets remain after the weekend, when orders will be taken by phone at 1-800-GO-COUGS beginning Monday, Oct. 9 at 8 a.m. For more information, visit wsucougars.com

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