Kyle Bambard warmed up before N.C. State’s game with Clemson last Saturday and drilled a series of 45-yard field goals.
Nice and smooth, the freshman kicker successfully repeated the process. Then the game started and the trouble started.
The first-year kicker has struggled to find his game form. By all accounts, from Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren to his teammates, Bambard has had success during practice and warmups.
“I just have to translate it to a game,” Bambard said. “There’s no excuse for the kicks that I’ve had and I understand that.”
Bambard missed a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter of the 56-41 loss to Clemson. He missed a pair of attempts in a 35-17 win at Wake Forest the previous week and is 3 of 9 for the season on field-goal attempts.
The 5-8, 190-pound freshman from Walled Lake, Mich., has also missed two PATs in four ACC games.
“Right now, I’m letting my teammates down and they’re going to have my back, and I understand that, but I have to come through for them,” Bambard said.
Doeren recruited Bambard, an excellent athlete who played quarterback for his high school team and was a standout baseball player, in 2013 to replace Niklas Sade.
Sade became the school’s all-time leader in field goals made (55) and points (332) but he struggled as a freshman, too. In his first eight games in 2011, Sade was 4 of 8 on field goals.
Bambard “grayshirted” last year while Sade finished up his stellar career. Bambard took classes at a community college near his hometown in the Detroit suburb and helped coach at his high school. He kicked every day but sat out the football season and enrolled at N.C. State in January.
The time off might have affected him in the spring, Bambard said, but he doesn’t think it’s a factor in his struggles this season.
“There are no excuses for it now,” Bambard said. “I just have to understand that every kick is the same kick whether it’s in warmups or in practice or the game.”
Bambard’s done enough in practice to keep his job. Jackson Maples, a redshirt freshman, has handled the kickoff duties but Doeren said Bambard is his kicker.
“He’s a kid that can kick the football and I’m not going to turn my back on him,” Doeren said. “I need to be positive with him and I’m going to continue to do that.”
Bambard has the support of his teammates. Freshman punter A.J. Cole, who’s the holder on field goals and also a first-year starter, said he has been trying to keep Bambard’s confidence up.
“Every kick that he has missed this season, I’ve seen him make millions of times in practice,” Cole said. “We all believe in him and we have faith that he’s going to start putting them through.”
Bambard admits his biggest problems are mental ones and finding his confidence. His kicking form and unusual pre-snap windup – where he turns his hips and poses almost like a sailor – are not the culprits.
Getting in rhythm would help, Bambard said. He had his first field-goal attempt of the season, a 33-yarder against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 12, blocked.
He had a clean game in the opener with Troy on Sept. 5, with all seven PATs, and at Virginia Tech on Oct. 9, with two field goals (33 and 36 yards) and a PAT. He’s confident he’ll have more of those in the final four games.
“I’ll definitely bounce back,” Bambard said.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio