Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson team’s biggest bright spot
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Daniel Carlson didn't want to be quite this productive.
The Auburn placekicker has been the team's biggest, most consistent weapon because of his own strong-legged accuracy – and the Tigers' inability to penetrate the goal line offense.
''Unfortunately, I've probably had more field goals than I would have liked,'' Carlson said. ''I would have rather had some more extra points, because hopefully we're scoring more in the red zone. But I think I've done a pretty good job of doing what I've been asked.''
Carlson has been the brightest spot on a struggling team. His performance would stand out even if Auburn (5-5) wasn't having a poor season going into Saturday's game with Idaho.
He has made 20 of 23 field goals, tying Idaho counterpart Austin Rehkow for the most in FBS this season. Carlson's also the only kicker with four made kicks of 51-plus yards, including a 56-yarder in the opener against Louisville.
From that start, he's avoided a slump and even gotten better. Carlson has made all 14 of his attempts over the past five games, two of them from 52 yards. It's the longest streak by an Auburn kicker.
''He's got to be one of the best in the country right now, if not the best,'' Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. ''He's just had an outstanding year. He's already broken two school records. He's made some huge pressure kicks. He made the kick against Arkansas to get it in overtime, but he's made two kicks this year at home that were tough kicks just to give us a chance, either to kick an onside kick or to get the ball back later on.
''He's really handled himself extremely well under pressure.''
Auburn didn't pull out the game against Arkansas, losing in four overtimes. The Tigers couldn't recover the onside kick after Carlson's late field goal made it a one-score game against Georgia.
His two fourth-quarter field goals against No. 25 Mississippi weren't enough to stave off a 27-19 loss after the Rebels did what the Tigers have so often struggled to do: Reach the end zone.
''A lot of it is just confidence,'' Carlson said. ''I'm in kind of a rhythm here. My legs are fresh and stuff, so I just need to keep growing with that and keep doing the same things I've been doing in practice that's been working so far.''
Carlson's been able to focus exclusively on kicks this season. As a freshman he also punted in 12 games while tying an Auburn kick scoring record with 18 points against Alabama with five field goals and three extra points.
His 52-for-52 streak on extra points last season was the most by a Tigers kicker in a season without a miss. Carlson's PAT string has extended with 27 straight makes so far this season – also indicating how many fewer touchdowns Auburn has produced.
Handing over the punting duties to junior college transfer Kevin Phillips has made a difference.
''I remember last year I was definitely struggling a little more at this time of year,'' Carlson said. ''Not that it was anything extreme, but I definitely feel a lot better this year. I like where I'm at this season.''