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Football: Weis not losing confidence in Gioia

Kate Gales | Thursday, September 7, 2006

The Georgia Tech game didn’t come down to a missed field goal – thankfully.

Because if it did, Notre Dame kicker Carl Gioia would have had more questions to answer than his already heavy load this week. In his first game as starter, Gioia missed attempts from 42 yards and 36 yards.

But coach Charlie Weis isn’t giving up on him yet.

“I’m not throwing in the towel on anyone,” Weis said Sunday. “I mean, it’s the first game. You got jitters. That’s not making excuses – the team’s still counting on him making them, and he knows the team’s counting on him.”

Gioia only kicked field goals and PATs against Georgia Tech – after D.J. Fitzpatrick handled all kicking and punting duties last season. Weis split the jobs this year, with Geoff Price taking over punting duties and Bobby Renkes working as the kickoff man. Freshman Ryan Burkhart, rated the No. 2 kicker in last year’s recruit class, is waiting in the wings.

Gioia’s leg strength didn’t appear to be the problem against the Yellow Jackets. Neither attempt fell short. Either way, as soon as Saturday’s game concluded, the coach set about building his kicker’s confidence.

“I think the most important thing is when you can sit there, kick an extra point, kick field goals in practice – you know you can kick them in the game,” he said Sunday. “You’ve just got to be able to kick them under duress. That’s just the way it is.”

Gioia has been in pressure situations before.

In the spring game, Weis called a timeout before sending Gioia on the field to make the winning field goal. The 20-yarder sailed through the uprights as time expired, giving Blue a 10-7 victory over the Gold.

However, Gioia did miss attempts from 33 and 20 yards earlier in the game.

One of the most difficult parts of being a kicker is the mental aspect of the game – something Weis was quick to recognize. He praised Gioia’s work in camp so far, and defended the problem as complex, both physically and mentally.

“No one’s more discouraged than he is,” Weis said Tuesday. “We have to go out and fix something. [But] it’s never simple – anytime you have a problem you don’t just wave a magic wand and they’re gone.”

Prior to the 2006 season, Gioia had started eight games as the kickoff specialist. He successfully completed his only field goal attempt – a 29-yarder against Stanford.

Gioia, a graduate of Valparaiso High School in Indiana, was a three-year all-state selection before coming to Notre Dame. As a senior, he received the Indiana Mr. Football award at kicker. He made 30 field goals in that time, on the same team as current Irish receiver Jeff Samardzija.

But Weis is concerned that Gioia’s confidence will not return until he makes a field goal in a game situation this season.

“Until he puts one through the uprights from a distance … like you and everyone else, [his thought] will be, ‘will this one go through or not?'”