After missing a 32-yard field goal against Georgia Tech earlier this season, Casey Barth was searching for answers as much as his critics were.
The sophomore place-kicker had made a lackluster four of seven field goal attempts on the season, and he was already referencing advice his brother, Connor, had provided about his own slump.
“He told me to visualize the kicks, you know, even when you are in the shower before you go to bed, just to make your mind see you’ve done it before,” Barth said in the week following the team’s loss to Georgia Tech.
“I guess I’ve gotten away from that a little this year.”
In a press conference following that loss, North Carolina coach Butch Davis put even more pressure on Barth to perform.
“If it’s inside 42 yards, you’ve got to be 100 percent,” Davis said.
He spent the following week focusing on visualizing his kicks and preparing himself mentally.
In the team’s next game against Virginia, Barth was given a chance to boot one through the uprights from 39 yards away — a must-make by Davis’ standards.
“I feel like a lot of people coming into it didn’t trust me at the time,” Barth said. “I had missed a field goal in every game so far.”
Barth made the field goal, the only points in the 16-3 loss. It turned out to be the catalyst to the remainder of Barth’s season.
“You’re talking about a kid who has attention to detail in practice and really tries to focus and put himself in situations to have success,” special teams coach Allen Mogridge said. “Through simulating those kinds of things in practice, that’s what has helped him.”
In his next chance against ACC competition, Barth made two more field goals against Florida State — one from 26 yards and another from 34 yards.
But Barth’s biggest kick of the season — the one he made his Facebook profile picture in the following weeks — was his game-winner against Virginia Tech.
After North Carolina recovered a fumble late in the fourth quarter, the offense pounded the ball downfield to set Barth up for a 21-yard potential game winner.
It was a short yet significant kick.
Barth drilled it.
“I kicked it, and I looked up. And I knew it went in,” he said. “It was awesome.”
In the Tar Heels’ latest outing against Duke, Barth accounted for 13 of the team’s 19 points. He connected on four field goals ranging from 29 to 41 yards — his longest of the season.
In the four games since the loss to Georgia Tech, Barth has attempted nine field goals, all within 42 yards in distance and therefore all expected by Davis to be made.
Barth has made them all.
Since starting out 4-7 on field goals, Barth has raised that total to 13-16.
“He’s really taken the challenge that we laid out for him and he’s accepted the challenge that he lays out for himself,” Mogridge sad. “Barth is a competitor and he wants to do the best he can every single time he goes out.”
Now, when Barth and his brother talk, Connor congratulates him on his success instead of offering his once-stuggling brother advice.
Casey figured it out.
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