Chris Summers couldn't pick out a particular moment last season when he hit rock bottom, probably because there were too many low points to count.
But what a difference a year makes.
Summers, Purdue's second-year place-kicker, has made a near 180, going from Mr. Unreliable to Captain Consistency. With his four field goals in Purdue's 33-19 victory over Notre Dame Saturday, Summers couldn't be any hotter, as the sophomore's hit 8-of-10 this season, equaling his total from last year in half as many attempts. Of his misses this season, one was only a foot or so outside the up-rights, while the second was blocked, due to a missed offensive line assignment.
"I really have my confidence up this year," he said. "I've really been working on that.
"Last year I just didn't feel like I was always hitting the ball consistently, whereas this year I feel a lot better about that."
Last season was a kicker's nightmare, as Summers hit just three of his final 14 attempts over the season's last 10 games, after making five of his first six.
In the midst of his struggles, Summers was even pulled for a 19-yard chippee against Michigan State in Week 10, as walk-on Casey Welch came off the bench to hit his first career field goal, a game-winner.
"There really wasn't a low point," Summers said. "It was just a culmination of poor play. I just really had to buckle down and figure out what I was doing. I think a lot of it was mental and I'm really feeling a lot better this year."
In the off-season, Summers was committed to making a turnaround in 2007. He twice worked out with kicking guru Doug Blevins, the personal instructor to NFL star Adam Vinatieri, trying to tune up his unrefined technique.
"One of the problems last year is I'd miss those field goals, then I'd come back and work on my technique, but it would fail on me again," Summers said. "So I really just needed to hone in on my technique and I feel like I've done that."
That certainly looked to be the case against Notre Dame, when Summers hit field goals of 27, 34, 26 and 29 yards, providing the Boilermakers with just enough points to hold off a late Irish charge.
Although Purdue would have liked to end its drives with touchdowns, field goals are providing a nice consolation this season. That's a luxury the Boilermakers didn't have last year.
Against ND, Purdue scored on all seven of its trips into the red zone.
"That's huge," Summers said. "It's all about momentum. If we go down there and we put it inside the 10-yard line and can't even score, it's really tough."
Receiver Dorien Bryant says it takes a bit of pressure off the offense, knowing a field goal is an option if the Boilers stall.
"That's devastating when you drive the entire field and don't get any points," Bryant said. "That's one of the worst feelings in football."
Now, all Summers has to do is avoid a late-season swoon like last year's.
"I like the way he is converting," Coach Joe Tiller said. "I like the way he's striking the ball and I just hope he'll continue. I expect it will."
Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in Gold & Black Illustrated Volume 18, Issue 6. For subscription information, click here.
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