FOOTBALL: Mahoney maintains consistency

Grant Mahoney kicks off against Iowa on Sept. 12 at Jack Trice Stadium. Mahoney is 6-8 on field goal tries in 2009. File photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Shing Kai Chan

Grant Mahoney kicks off against Iowa on Sept. 12 at Jack Trice Stadium. Mahoney is 6-8 on field goal tries in 2009. File photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Jake Lovett

The little things are the hardest ones to get right, be it on a golf swing, a tennis swing or kicking a football.

Iowa State’s Grant Mahoney has the latter down to a tee … almost.

“[Grant has] been good. He’s the kind of guy we expect great things from,” coach Paul Rhoads said about his sophomore kicker’s performance in 2009. “Two 50-yard field goals are a credit to his leg and abilities, but the 41-yard miss is always the one your remember as a coach and as a kicker.”

In four games this season, Mahoney has converted six of his eight tries, with the miss from 41 yards against Army and 57 yards out at the end of the first half against North Dakota State. The Marion native has also converted on all 45 of his point-after attempts in his career.

Mahoney’s consistency in his first two seasons has given the ISU coaching staff confidence in his right foot.

“It’s really comforting to know that [Rhoads’] got confidence in me,” Mahoney said. “So when we get within my range he’s not afraid to send me out there if we don’t get a touchdown.”

That range has increased from last season into the early part of 2009, as Mahoney has hit two 50-yard field goals, breaking his 2008 high of 48 yards.

“I’d say at probably around 55, [Rhoads would] be comfortable,” Mahoney said. “Then, I think, anything from 55-60 could be at the end of a half type of thing.”

The kicker’s play has also played into the success of the offense as he has scored 30 points, tied for the team lead.

Mahoney’s success from long range allows the offense the opportunity to convert a stalled drive into points instead of turning the ball over or punting.

“We have a phrase that we say in the quarterback room all the time: ‘Reserve the right to kick,’” said offensive coordinator Tom Herman. “Anytime we can get ourselves into a position where we can reserve the right to kick, we’re going to be extra cautious with the football and make sure that we have reserved that right.”

That caution has showed in quarterback Austen Arnaud’s play, as Herman said the junior’s play focuses more on picking up a first down and protecting the football when the situation turns to third down.

Herman also said the team always wants to convert on third down, but Mahoney is “pretty dang good at putting it through” when the team fails to convert.

“We’re going to do our best to make that first down, but punting and kicking field goals is a whole lot better than going backwards or turning the ball over,” Herman said.

Even though Mahoney has made good, for the most part, on his big kicks in 2009, many ISU fans have not-so-fond memories of recent kicks gone sour in clutch situations.

In 2004 and 2005, Bret Culbertson missed field goals in overtime against Missouri and Kansas, respectively, that kept the Cyclones from winning outright Big 12 North titles.

“Let’s not talk about that,” Rhoads joked. “I think he’s a clutch performer. Time will tell. If he gets out there in that situation, I know he’s got it in him.”