Eddy Pineiro’s right foot has redefined the word “kicking.”
What was once something you did to another person when you were pissed at them, or to a can on the street, or a table corner by accident, has become a valuable part of football, and Pineiro is the embodiment of its potential. He’s posted videos of himself kicking field goals in excess of 70 yards, which would shatter the NFL record of 64 yards. He even reported kicking the ovular leather through the yellow sticks from 81 yards away.
Yet, when that right foot was needed most, it failed. All it needed to do — all Pineiro needed to do — was kick the ball through the uprights on an extra point. He was 46-for-46 entering try No. 47 on Saturday against LSU. But with the ball still spinning in holder Johnny Townsend's hands, Peneiro hooked it left. And his miss was the difference in UF’s 17-16 loss.
After the game, his teammates didn’t blame him.
“You can’t down him,” safety Chauncey Gardner said. “It happens. Everyone can say it cost us the game, but it didn’t cost us the game. It’s one kick.”
Nevertheless, coach Jim McElwain noted how shocking it was for Pineiro to miss something as procedural as an extra point.
“It was (stunning),” he said. “It looked like the snap wasn't great. I don't know.”
Aside from being stunning because it was Pineiro’s first-career miss, it’s also stunning because of the hype he carries. He arrived in Gainesville as the nation’s No. 1-ranked kicker. He relieved a despised Austin Hardin, who became reviled in Gainesville for his missed kicks. When Eddy, a superstar, video-game-type kicker arrived, fans were so relieved by the switch from Hardin that they chanted Pineiro’s name — “E-ddy, E-ddy, E-ddy” — on his first kickoff and for weeks after.
For the most part, he delivered in that first season. Aside from being perfect on extra points, he made 21 of 25 field goals with a long of 54 yards. Extra points were so obvious and easy to him that he spoke at length ahead of the season about how great it is that the NFL has increased the PAT distance from the traditional 19 yards to 33 yards.
“I hope it happens in college,” he said. “That’s awesome! They’re making kicking so much harder. Even if you’re making rookie minimum, they’re making great money. So let’s make it harder, you know. I like it. I really agree. I hope they come and do it in college. That would be cool.”
About two months later, he’s nursing the lowest moment of his Florida career after missing one from 19. Again, his teammates don’t blame him. They note all the other opportunities they had to make up for the miss. But it still stings.
“You don't think that's gonna happen,” McElwain said, “and yet that's why you practice and that's why you play and that's why they don't give you the automatic one.”
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