UA kicker Casey Skowron scores
Arizona redshirt junior kicker Casey Skowron (41) kicks off Arizona’s season opener against UNLV at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 29. Skowron leads the nation with seven made field goals in the first two games of the season.
Over the last few seasons, Arizona football has struggled to find success in their special teams players, especially the place kicker. Year after year, Arizona fans have watched important field goals missed.
Nonetheless, the Wildcats haven’t necessarily been known for their consistent kicking since 2006 when now-NFL player Nick Folk handled the kicking duties — that is, until redshirt junior Casey Skowron and his interesting background showed up in the picture.
“When he’s focused and keeps his head down, he’s pretty spot on,” Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “You don’t really know how a guy is going to do until he does it under the lights, and under the lights, he’s been good.”
Just a few years ago, Skowron was the Arizona women’s soccer team manager and a walk-on. Now, he is among the most vital players on the Arizona football team.
After the first two weeks of college football, no place kicker in the country has converted more field goals than Skowron has.
Skowron is 9-for-9 in PATs and 7-of-8 in field goals. He averages 63.4 yards per kickoff and has kicked nine touchbacks. After his record-tying 16-point performance in week 1 against UNLV, Skowron’s 30 total points lead Arizona by 18 points and are the most in the nation by a place kicker.
Some could even say that he saved Arizona in the game against UTSA. Skowron connected from 44, 38, 28, and 23 yards out and added two PATs for a 14-point outing. Had Skowron missed any of those field goals, the game would have been tied late in the fourth quarter and could have ended differently.
Last season, Arizona’s special teams unit was largely mediocre. It ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in kick returns, seventh in punt returns and eighth in kickoff coverage.
Part of the reason for Skowron’s success is his holder, punter redshirt junior Drew Riggleman. Skowron contributed much of his success and improvement to Riggleman.
“I think a big factor was Drew [Riggleman] started holding for me again,” Skowron said. “He has been my holder for the last two years, so I think a lot of it might have been I was comfortable with what we had going.”
A place kicker and holder are two of the most teamwork-ridden positions in college football and ones that rely purely on trust and ability.
“Just knowing the ball is going to be there at the right time and place is huge,” Skowron said.
Riggleman has been a special teams threat himself. As the team’s first string punter, he is averaging 40.9 yards/game with his longest punt being 56 yards.
This week, Skowron won two national awards for his performance over the last two games. He was named one of the three Lou Groza Award Stars of the Week and the National Specialist of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards.
After missing his first field goal attempt against UNLV, Skowron has since hit seven consecutive field goals. That streak hasn’t been reached since 2008 by former UA place kicker Jason Bondzio.
If Skowron and the rest of the special teams players success continues, the Wildcats will continue to win football games.
—Follow Matt Wall @mwall20