Maryland-WVU features 2 of college football's best kickers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia's Josh Lambert and Maryland's Brad Craddock became fast friends last December when Craddock won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top place-kicker and Lambert was a finalist.
Both are having solid seasons again, and they'll be on opposing sidelines when the Terrapins and Mountaineers meet Saturday in Morgantown.
In 2014, Craddock made three field goals against the Mountaineers, but it was Lambert who had the final say, kicking a 47-yarder as time expired in a 40-37 win over Maryland.
''Hopefully that doesn't happen this year,'' said Maryland coach Randy Edsall.
It was one of two last-second kicks to win games in 2014 for Lambert, who had an NCAA-record 16 field goals of 40 yards or longer and five longer than 50 yards. Lambert was second in the nation in kick scoring to Florida State's Roberto Aguayo, the other Groza finalist who won the award in 2013.
Lambert made a national-best 30 of 39 field goals a year ago but said those nine misses was why his name wasn't called at the College Football Awards show in Orlando, Florida.
''I think that was a learning experience for me to see what kind of kickers I was up against and what it takes to get there,'' Lambert said. ''That whole process was good for me.''
Especially being able to spend time with Craddock in the days leading up to the show, including participating in a kicking clinic for children.
''Brad's a great kicker and an even better person,'' Lambert said. ''There's not enough good things I can say about him.''
Both kickers have been able to triumph over adversity.
Against Maryland last year, Lambert had a field goal attempt blocked late in the fourth quarter before he made good on another chance with time running out.
A month later, Lambert kicked a 55-yarder with no time left to beat Texas Tech.
''He goes out there with the mentality that he's going to be successful every time,'' said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
Like Holgorsen, Edsall said he doesn't feel the need to discuss technique with his kicker.
''I talk to Brad a lot during the season, but it's not about kicking,'' Edsall said.
A native of Adelaide, Australia, Craddock grew up playing Australian rules football. He landed as a punter at Maryland, then switched positions as a freshman after an injury to the incumbent kicker.
Craddock had a rough start in 2012, botching two conversions and making just 10 for 16 field goals, most notably hitting the left upright from 33 yards out with two seconds left in a 20-18 loss to North Carolina State.
Craddock rebounded to make 24 straight field goals at one point, including 18 of 19 a year ago. He had a 57-yarder against Ohio State and a 43 yarder in the final minute to beat Penn State.
This season, both Craddock and Lambert have made 5 of 6 field goals. Lambert said earlier this week that the pair hadn't had a chance yet to discuss Saturday's game.
''It's not so much me versus him as people make it out to be,'' Lambert said. ''What I do doesn't affect him and what he does doesn't affect me. You always want kickers as a whole to have good games.''
And Lambert will be ready if he's given another chance with the game on the line.
''I feel at home during those situations, for whatever reason,'' he said. ''Hopefully we don't need to. But if it does, I think we're in good hands.''
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org