Carpenter gains redemption from game-winning kick

The kicker made two of his three field goals Saturday against Rutgers

Gophers kicker Emmit Carpenter kicks the ball on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Carter Jones

Gophers kicker Emmit Carpenter kicks the ball on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Mike Hendrickson

Emmit Carpenter probably never thought that his first game-winning field goal would come Saturday.

An early 18-point lead had vanished, and Minnesota was looking to avoid one of its biggest upsets in recent memory.

Rutgers was up 32-31, and Carpenter was called upon for a 28-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the game.

The Scarlet Knights used a timeout, but Carpenter didn’t mind. His kick went straight through the goal posts to avoid the upset and give the Gophers the two-point victory.

“That was my first [game-winning field goal] to date,” Carpenter said. “It’s an exciting experience and one that I’ll definitely not be forgetting anytime soon.”

Carpenter’s first nine field goal attempts of the season had all gone in. Minnesota’s new kicker was off to a hot start.

But at Maryland on Oct. 15, Carpenter missed a 36-yard attempt and his problems lingered into Saturday’s game.

His first field goal attempt in the game against Rutgers in the second quarter was from 34 yards out, but missed and he was suddenly one for his past three.

“I was a little bit too deep on my plant foot in the kick, so I just pushed the ball to the right a bit,” Carpenter said. “But we go out every day and go to work and try to fix everything.”

Minnesota still had an 11-point lead at that moment, but the game spiraled out of control for the Gophers after that.

Suddenly, with four minutes left in the game, Minnesota was down one point and had the ball at its own 31-yard line.

Quarterback Mitch Leidner engineered a drive that brought the Gophers to Rutgers’ 10-yard line with 10 seconds left.

“I asked [the] guys, ‘I need everything out of you here,’ Leidner said. “It all starts if you can get that first, first down and we were able to do that and keep moving the ball.”

Carpenter said he wasn’t watching the final drive on the sidelines, knowing he might be called upon to win the game.

“At the end of the game there, I was over at my net doing a few kicks making sure I was dialed in and ready to go,” Carpenter said.

The Gophers hadn’t won the game yet.

Carpenter had hit two field goals since his earlier miss, but this one was different.

Rutgers burned its final timeout, and now it was time for Carpenter to make his kick.

“I went out there with the expectation that they were going to use that last timeout,” Carpenter said. “I … took the time to just kind of gather myself and relax a little bit more. Just kind of think through the situation, think through what I needed to do to make the kick.”

The kick was good. Minnesota won the game, and Carpenter was tackled by his teammates.

“Emmit missed the first field goal, but definitely made up for it on that last one, so we’re thrilled to win obviously for homecoming weekend,” said head coach Tracy Claeys.

The game-winning field goal was the first of Carpenter’s career, high school included.

Carpenter’s earlier struggles weren’t going through his head at the time of his game-winning kick, he said. Kickers need a short memory.

“I knew that my name would be called again at some point in the game. I just had to respond for that,” Carpenter said.