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4 October 2007
JSU Kicker Shocked to be Nationís Best in FGs

By Al Muskewitz
Star Sports Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Heading into tonightís game with UT-Martin, JSU kicker Gavin Hallford has 14 field goals in five games, an NCAA FCS-best 2.8 per game. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

JACKSONVILLE ó Gavin Hallford was in the cafeteria earlier this week, having a nice lunch with his girlfriend when she dropped the news on him.

Boy, was he surprised.

Somewhere between the salad and dessert, she told the Jacksonville State junior kicker he was leading the country in field goals. You couldíve knocked him over with a feather.

Going into tonightís game with Tennessee-Martin, Hallford leads the Championship Subdivision with a school-record 14 field goals and 2.8-per-game average.

The former tuba player has more makes and attempts this season than any kicker on any college level in America ó the NCAAís four football-playing divisions, NAIA, or junior college. Only UABís Swayze Waters has a better per-game average in Division I football, just because heís played one fewer game.

ďIt feels good to be ranked nationally No. 1,Ē Hallford said. ďItís real cool to be ranked No. 1 at any point in the year.

ďTake a picture, write it down. If it comes down at the end of the season, at least I had it for a little while. Iíd like to stay there for the rest of the season, but just to be there at one point says a lot to me.Ē

What it says loudest is that the work he did in the off-season is paying off.

While kickers typically are off in their own little world, Hallford made his world the weight room. He lifted with whoever needed a partner, regardless if it were offensive lineman Keith Gergel or receiver James Wilkerson, then spent as much time afterward working on his flexibility.

As a result, his range and accuracy both went up dramatically. He was only 13-of-22 on his field goals last year, and didnít hit any beyond 40 yards (0-for-7). This year, heís 14-of-19 ó hitting eight in a row at one point ó and has made three from beyond 40, including a career-best 45-yarder into the wind against Eastern Kentucky.

And itís not just his field goals. Heís averaging nearly 62 yards on his kickoffs and has five touchbacks ó the most in the league.

With at least six games left this year, heís only eight field goals short of the OVCís single-season record, set by Murrayís Rob Hart in 1996. He needs only one more to tie Slade Stinnettís all-time JSU mark (36) and, with another season after this, he needs 17 to tie the OVC all-time mark.

ďI think itís attainable,Ē he said. ďIf it isnít, it isnít. If we score more touchdowns, itís not going to break my heart. OVC record or not, winning games is all I really worry about. If I have to kick four field goals, I have to kick four field goals. If I kick nothing but extra points, thatís fine too. I donít really look to make records, set records; if they happen, they happen. I didnít even know any of these records were set until after the fact.Ē

But his march toward the record books is somewhat bittersweet. As much as itís a testament to the work Hallford did in the offseason, itís also an indictment on the offenseís inability to finish off drives with touchdowns.

The Gamecocks have gotten to the red zone 27 times this year, but have scored only five touchdowns ó all in the past three games. Hallfordís leg has salvaged the drives with field goals 12 (of 14) times.

Three isnít as good as seven, but itís a heck of a lot better than zero.

ďNo matter how you lay it out there, youíre going to have a field goal that separates you at least two times a year,Ē JSU coach Jack Crowe said. ďThatís good, because (Hallford) has shown he ... has range and can make those kicks, and I think he can do it in the clutch, but you donít want to be kicking from the 20-yard line because you canít convert and get in the end zone.

ďHeís good enough to do this, letís save him for the opportunity when we have to have it at the end of a game or the end of a half. Thatís where youíd like to pull this out, not as a result of you canít get a touchdown in the red zone.Ē

If the Gamecocks do start finding their way home once they get inside the 20 ó and Crowe is convinced they will ó Hallfordís stay at the top of the rankings might be short-lived.

But he wouldnít mind trotting out for more extra points, and not because itís a shorter kick. He kicked 50 extra points as a freshman in 2004, when he finished third in the OVC in scoring, first among kickers.

ďIf we got in the end zone more I could care less about the national ranking,Ē he said. ďThatís not what Iím all about. Iím all about winning, and if we win games and I donít kick four field goals in a game, that doesnít break my heart at all. Itís better for the team and Iím not all about personal stats.

ďIt does feel great, but if Iíve kicked more extra points than field goals, I feel good about it. The rest of the team is scoring touchdowns and putting points on the board and weíre winning football games, which is what really Iím looking for. I pay more attention to the team record than I do my own.Ē

Jax State vs. Tenn.-Martin
Today, 6 p.m., CSS, FM 91.9, FM 92.7

About Al Muskewitz

Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State University sports teams for The Star.

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