The Journal Gazette
Friday, September 06, 2019 1:00 am

Hoosiers' kicking unit bonds over wings

Cameron Drummond | For The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – There are two things Logan Justus does during the middle of each week to make sure he's successful at the end of it.

Indiana's fifth-year starting kicker doesn't get nervous before or during games. He can't even remember the last time he was nervous attempting a field goal.

But the Wednesday of each game week is when nerves appear for Justus, and he begins to doubt what practice and repetition has taught him. By Thursday night though those concerns begin to creep away, because Thursday night is wing night.

Justus is joined by the other key members of Indiana's field-goal unit, freshman long snapper Sean Wracher and fifth-year holder and punter Haydon Whitehead, for an evening meal of chicken wings. Usually the restaurant of choice is Buffalo Wild Wings, although the closer-to-campus option of BuffaLouie's is sometimes preferred.

The point of the meal remains the same – to maintain the tight bond between members of Indiana's “trust team,” and to keep the good vibes from last season going into 2019.

All three men held up their end of the bargain during Indiana's 34-24 week one win against Ball State.

Wracher's snaps were perfect, Whitehead's holds were solid and the rest was done by Justus, who tied a program record with four field goals in the victory.

“I don't feel any pressure,” Justus said. “The team trusts me, and I trust them.”

Justus set a new personal record for longest collegiate field goal made on three occasions in the Ball State win. Makes from 48, 49 and finally 50 yards to seal the game in the fourth quarter proved the three-man unit was functioning just as well as in 2018, when Justus took over the starting job and made 15 of 18 attempts.

“There's some really good programs in the country that have had issues with kickers,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said. “To me, some guys have that innate ability to just come through when it counts, when the pressure's on.”

On special teams, and particularly with field-goal kicking, consistency remains key. It's the “word of the week” assigned by Allen to the Indiana team for this Saturday's home game against Eastern Illinois, and something Justus strives for in practice.

“Just really trusting the hold and snap and my line,” Justus said.

Regardless of range, Justus said he uses the same kicking motion each time. Whether it was the 30-yard field goal he kicked in the second quarter of the Ball State win or the 58 to 60-yard kicks Justus said make up his maximum range in practice, he also tries to go through the same pre-kick routine.

It consists of finding something in the crowd, in the center of the goal post uprights, that's slightly different for him to aim for. At Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Justus set his sights on a cluster of white seats in the shape of a horseshoe that stood out from the other blue seats.

He doesn't have a set target to aim at inside Memorial Stadium. It's something he picks out during pregame warmups, and a spot he aims at with the conviction of a player who knows his teammates rely on him.

“Special teams are a real important spot on the team,” quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said. “We trust Logan and we thank him for what he did.”

Indiana vs. Eastern Illinois

Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington

When: 3:30 p.m., Saturday

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 1250 AM

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