Less than two minutes after drilling the most important kick of his career, Jake Moody trotted onto the field. His next one would be even bigger.
That was how the final stretch of Saturday’s narrow win at Nebraska unfolded for the No. 8 Michigan football team’s senior kicker. With the Wolverines trailing, 29-26, Moody’s 31-yard field goal tied the game with 3:05 to play. And after Michigan’s defense forced a critical turnover, Moody put the Wolverines on top for good with a 39-yard field goal as the clock ticked down to 1:28.
For Moody, Saturday night’s heroics are the latest example of his consistent success. He finished 4-for-4 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra-point attempts, earning Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors in the process. He’s converted 12 of his 13 field goal tries — including a 52-yarder against Washington — this season while successfully knocking through all 25 extra points.
“Jake is a part of the offense. We can always count on Jake,” junior receiver Mike Sainristil said Monday. “Moody, he’s real cold, to do what he did on Saturday. As a player himself, having that confidence in those situations, I just love that from Moody.”
Similar to a baseball pitcher managing his arm, the Wolverines’ coaches keep Moody on a “kick count.” He kicks just three days per week — twice at practice and once during games — in order to maintain leg strength and longevity.
For the first three years of his career, Moody split time with fellow kicker Quinn Nordin. Moody struggled to establish rhythm after his freshman season, missing six of his 13 field goal attempts in 2019 and 2020. But with Nordin now in the NFL, Moody can take comfort in knowing he’s the Wolverines’ clear No. 1 option.
“It feels good going into the games knowing it’s going to be you no matter what,” Moody said last Tuesday. “I enjoyed having Quinn around. It made both of us better for sure. But knowing it’s going to be you and you’re the guy for every single kick, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Moody and Nordin were locked into a battle for starting kicker duties. A native of Northville, Mich., Moody returned home to train at his high school field. He posted a video of himself kicking a personal-record 69-yard field goal in April and claims he made multiple kicks from 70-plus afterwards.
But last fall, that offseason work didn’t translate to results. Moody attempted four field goals during the pandemic-shortened season and missed three of them.
Through the first six weeks of this season, Moody has rebounded in a big way. Part of that comes from a new snap operation. Fifth-year senior punter Brad Robbins began receiving and holding junior William Wagner’s snaps during fall camp and the results have been encouraging.
“It’s been the confidence, the preparation,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Saturday. “Brad Robbins is a huge part of it, not just because he’s the holder, but his mental fortitude and positive daily infusion on our entire team, especially that snap, hold, kick battery. … Moody is just a straight calm, cool, collected kind of guy.”
Now, Moody says he’s comfortable kicking from anywhere inside 60 yards in good conditions. Wind gets tricky across the Big Ten during football season, but Michigan’s special teams unit always takes the field early for warmups on game days to test out the weather. While on the road, Moody looks for gaps in the top of each stadium and takes note of any wind deflections within.
Rainfall and wind may be out of the Wolverines’ control, but those factors are closely monitored on game days. What never changes with the weather, however, is Moody’s visualization of success.
“I’ll be sitting up in bed, can’t fall asleep, just kind of thinking of those different scenarios,” Moody said. “Like kicking a game-winner in the Big House against Ohio State. Stuff like that. Going into every game, I like to think of different kicks. Could be a game-winner, could be an extra point.
“I feel like once you visualize that kick in your head, once you get out there on the field, you feel a lot more comfortable since you’ve already kind of seen it through your head.”
On Saturday night in Lincoln, that dream of a game-winning kick became a reality.