Jake Moody has grown accustomed to rebound performances this season. Last year, the graduate kicker faced little adversity, missing just two field goal tries en route to capturing the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s preeminent kicker.
This year, however, has unfolded slightly differently. Uncharacteristically, Moody has missed five field goals. But after going 4-for-4 and 5-for-5 against Penn State and Michigan State — when he provided most of Michigan’s offense — he seemed to have put his struggles behind him.
“Having a strong mental game is just as important as having a strong everything else,” Moody said Tuesday, crediting his mental fortitude. “So I’ve had a couple of rough games this year. But the ability to just bounce back and not let that affect me, I think that’s where I’ve kind of matured a little bit.”
But adversity reared its head again on Nov. 5 against Rutgers, when Moody found himself in uncharted waters.
He shanked two first-half field goal attempts against the Scarlet Knights, contributing to the Wolverines’ 17-14 halftime deficit. Moody didn’t pay any attention to the shortcomings of Michigan’s offense and defense. He did, though, recognize the need to correct his own faults.
“I struggled a little bit,” Moody said, recounting the low-point of his season. “… As an overall special teams unit, we kind of struggled as well. So at halftime, we made the adjustments we needed to, told ourselves that we’re fine, we’re good. We’ve done this a million times.”
So, Moody emerged from the halftime locker room ahead of time, calm and collected. He called Rutgers’ SHI Stadium “tricky” and the wind conditions “a little bit tougher,” and wanted more time to make necessary adjustments.
“I felt like we needed to get out there and get a few more kicks up just to kind of figure it out,” Moody said. “And after that, we had all the confidence in the world that next time I was sent out there, I’d make every kick that they would send me out there for. And I did. So I feel like that helped.”
Evidently, it did. Moody knocked through a 29-yard field goal and canned all four second-half extra points. He followed up that turnaround with a successful game Saturday against Nebraska, in which he went 2-for-2 on field goal tries, putting the past behind him.
Moody’s mindset, one that embraces resilience, is shared among the entire special teams unit. On Oct. 1 against Iowa, special teams stalwart and senior leader Caden Kolesar suffered a season-ending knee injury, a blow to the punting and kicking units. Nonetheless, Michigan’s special teams have persisted, not missing a beat despite Kolesar’s injury.
Similarly, long-time long snapper William Wagner suffered a season-ending injury in that same game, another devastating hit to the Wolverines’ special teams, which pride themselves on being the nation’s best. In Wagner’s absence, junior Greg Tarr has filled the void admirably.
That continuity amid personnel changes is a credit to the way Michigan practices.
“It wasn’t really different at all,” Moody said of the acclimation process necessitated by Wagner’s injury. “We had Greg Tarr snap in practice. Ever since he got here, we’ve practiced with everybody just in case stuff like that happens. Obviously, you don’t want that to happen, but it was a very smooth transition switching from Wagner to Tarr. Props to Greg for stepping in and doing his job right when his name was called.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has seen that translate to on-field success, time and time again.
“We have a lot of trust in Jake Moody,” Harbaugh said on Oct. 29 after Michigan’s victory over Michigan State. “… He’s a great kicker, and a lot of credit to the whole operation. Greg Tarr the snapper, Brad Robbins the holder, just outstanding.”
And that formula — Moody, Tarr, Robbins and the entire unit — continues to pay dividends for the Wolverines.