DeKALB – Overtime of the Mid-American Conference Championship Game, 40 yards out. Northern Illinois down 3 to Kent State.
If NIU kicker Mathew Sims hits the 40-yard field goal attempt at Ford Field, the Huskies stay alive. If not, there’s no second straight conference title, no BCS bowl game.
It wasn’t just a normal field goal for Sims. However, he had to have a mindset like it was.
“I had to treat it just like every other kick,” he said. “I knew what was riding on it.”
Things worked out, as Sims booted the kick through the uprights, sending the game into double overtime. The Huskies went on to win, 44-37, and earned a BCS berth two days later.
Sims, a senior, finished the 2012 season hitting 15 of 19 field goals, and set an NIU single-season record with 67 extra points, missing only one on the season. He hit six of his eight attempts from 40 yards or more.
After a sluggish freshman year when he was 2 for 3 on field goal attempts and missed two of his six extra points – losing his job to Michael Cklamovski in the process – Sims knew he had to look at a 50-yard field goal no different than he’d see an extra point.
He got distracted and lost his focus occasionally during his freshman year, something that didn’t happen during his sophomore and junior seasons. He tried not to overthink anything.
“I realized that I have to treat every kick the same. Treat every situation the same, every game the same,” he said. “Don’t treat anything differently, just do my job.”
Now, in his final collegiate season, Sims certainly is somebody his coaches and teammates can trust.
Last year’s overtime kick in Detroit wasn’t his only big-time kick in a conference title game – he hit a 33-yarder on the final play of the 2011 MAC title game for a Huskies victory.
At Western Michigan last season, Sims was able to boot a school-record 54-yard kick just before halftime to cut NIU’s deficit from seven to four. It was the start of 31 consecutive NIU points.
NIU coach Rod Carey doesn’t seem to have much of a problem getting Sims back that far. It all depends on the conditions and how Sims feels before each contest.
“You got a stiff breeze, that’s going to be a lot shorter. He may be in that 40-yard range. You’ve got a breeze helping, he may be able to go out,” Carey said. “At Western Michigan, he made what, at 54? So we can stretch him out about that far, and he’s probably gotten stronger after last year, too. A lot of that will depend on the wind, but we feel comfortable really anywhere depending on the conditions, up to 50 yards.”