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Setta’s field goals keep Irish in it

Matt Lozar | Monday, September 8, 2003

Glenn Earl called him his hero. But Nicholas Setta was just happy to do his job.

“To go out there, do your job and get the opportunity to do it, that’s all you can ask for,” Setta said. “It’s great. It’s all you can ask. When you can put that amount of points on the board, it really feels great.”

Helping out an offense that for three quarters shot itself in the foot every time it reached the red zone, Setta connected on 5-of-6 field goals in Notre Dame’s 29-26 come-from-behind win against Washington State Saturday afternoon. Without Setta, the comeback wouldn’t have been possible.

“Nick did a fabulous job with his kicking today to get us over the hump, especially at the end,” Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said.

The first three times the Irish drove inside the Washington State 20, sacks or penalties pushed them back and forced Willingham to call on Setta. The senior rose to each occasion and let the Irish hang around long enough.

This same situation was very similar in the 2002 season opener, when the offense couldn’t get to the end zone. Setta made 5-of-6 field goals, only missing a 56-yard attempt. He was named the national special teams player of the week.

“It’s exciting because you are really pushing it; the momentum is there. When you miss it, everyone feels it on the sidelines,” Setta said. “If you don’t make it, then what else is going to go right? Having that and everything else go right, that really helps the momentum continue.”

Besides his normal job of placekicker, Setta added the responsibility of punter with the graduation of Joey Hildbold. In his first game as the official punter, Setta averaged 39.7 yards per punt, including an impressive 54-yard boot on his first punt of the season.

Surprisingly to many, Setta feels handling both kicking and punting duties will actually keep his leg fresher throughout the season.

“It makes the whole transition easier during the day,” Setta said. “It always keeps you in the game. It takes some wear off your leg, because you aren’t always kicking field goals warming up.”

Any kicker just asks the team to give him a chance to contribute, since the kicker has very little control over when his attempts actually occur. The Irish turned to Setta Saturday to keep them in the game while the offense sputtered in the red zone. Setta couldn’t ask for anything else.

The only negative on an otherwise solid day for the kicking game was the first field goal attempt. Snapper Scott Raridon’s snap hit the ground before getting to holder D.J. Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick did what he could to get the snap down, but Setta had already started his motion to the ball. Setta attempted to hold up but couldn’t regain his momentum, and the 47-yard field goal fell short.

“It was unfortunate the way things happened,” Setta said. “They did a good job of getting it down. The first one, you kind of expect things like that.”

Despite the negative start for the kicking unit, Setta just put it out of his mind.

“You take it as what went wrong, and then move on,” Setta said. “There are going to be so many more chances, especially in this game, you just have to take your mind off it.”

It’s a good thing he did, because Setta gave the Irish what they needed – a chance.