October 16, 2013

Millsaps kicker able to put the past behind him

More news about: Millsaps
Beau Brady's kicking last weekend landed him on D3football.com's Team of the Week.
Millsaps athletics photo

Junior Beau Brady booted a field goal with 12 seconds remaining in regulation to give Millsaps a 27-24 win over Trinity and preserve the Majors undefeated season. 

That kick meant more than a game to Millsaps. Aaron Pelch, now in his fourth season as the Majors head coach, says his staff and players are all feeling the pressure of maintaining that perfect record as they make a push for the playoffs. Just winning a conference championship -- a goal in its own right -- might not be enough to put Millsaps or anyone else into post season play.

With two talented recruiting classes now playing out their junior and senior seasons at Millsaps, this season has been laced with high expectations. Last year the Majors shared the SAA title. This year, they’d like to own it outright.

Even with the expectations high and the pressure mounting every Saturday, there was confidence on the Millsaps sidelines as Brady lined up the 33-yarder.

“There was no question,” Pelch said. “And I don’t think any of the coaches and players on the football team ever felt like there was a chance he was going to miss it – and I think that speaks volumes about a kicker, when your coaches and your players are behind it and they feel confident that you’re going to be able to make it, no matter what the situation is.”

The kick, and the confidence behind it, might mean more than a game to Brady, too. It was a little bit of validation for a kicker who has had to chip away at a rough introduction to college football.

In his first football game in a college uniform, playing in the face of Tropical Storm Lee -- which made landfall in neighboring Louisiana -- the former soccer player made a pair of field goals against in-state rival Mississippi College. Brady lined up a third field goal from 37-yards out and missed it a foot to the left.

“The wind had died down right after I hit it,” Brady said. “And it just did not fly the way every other ball that game had flown.”

After the failed field goal, the Majors lost in overtime. Brady remembers that vividly, too.

Players at other positions are faced with make-or-break moments virtually every week. But Brady hadn’t faced a potential game winner -- or loser -- since that freshman year.

“Kicking is so mental,” Pelch said. “You know, it’s far more mental than it is physical. There’s a lot of mental maturity. You can’t just go at it and kick harder to be more successful like you can at some other positions, you know. So it’s the mental part that he’s worked so hard on and gotten so much better at. The pressure doesn’t bother him anymore.”

The Majors (5-0) trailed by seven entering the fourth quarter Saturday, but Mike Barthelemy broke free for a 49-yard touchdown run and Brady put the tying PAT through the uprights with 9:25 to play. 

The Tigers responded with a 70 yard drive that took nine plays and just under five minutes.

Trinity started the drive with three consecutive Desmond King carries adding up to 23 yards. Stephen Smith completed back to back passes good for another 43 yards, including a 13-yard completion to Matthew Kennemar that set up first and goal from the Millsaps 9-yard line.

But the Majors defense held.

“I think we went 2 for 5 in the redzone,” Pelch said. “The only two that they got initially were in the first half of the ball game, so we had a little bit of confidence because we had stopped them.”

King carried twice for a 1-yard loss. On third down Smith made it five yards before being brought down by Alex Jackson on the Majors’ 5-yard line.

The Tigers lined up Kennemar for a 22-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-goal. Millsaps responded with the same scheme that Dustin Harscher had come free on earlier in the afternoon, but had mistimed the jump and failed to get a hand on it. With 4:26 left in the game, Harscher got his hands on the ball and blocked the field goal.

Millsaps launched a 64-yard drive in which Taz Watson carried six times for 53 yards and culminated in the Brady field goal.

“I knew if they got me there, I was going to put it through,” Brady said. “Everyone did so well to get there. I just had to do what I can.”

The set up, he said, couldn’t have been better: The 33-yard line, right down the middle.

“Right after he kicked it, right after the game, you know, he came running up to me and he said, ‘Well, I guess we can forget about Mississippi College now,’” Pelch said. “So it was definitely on his mind I think, knowing that we’ve never been in a position since where he had to kick a game-winner. So a little bit of validation for him personally, for sure.”

That validation is a little bit on Pelch as well. Between his time as an assistant coach at Millsaps and assuming the head coaching job, Pelch served as a special teams coach on the Oakland Raiders’ staff. He’s the one who recruited Brady out of high school and takes a personal interest in the success of all his special team units.

“We’re kind of tied at the hip, he and I -- for better or worse,” Pelch said, laughing. “He would probably say for worse.”

Brady might not say he’s tied to his coach at the hip. But the junior business major takes his kicking responsibilities seriously enough to delay surgery to address a lingering stress fracture in his vertebrae. The injury has been there since middle school. The season is only so long and recovery from surgery could cut in.

“I started for him, ever since I was a freshman in my first game, and it happened like that,” Brady said. “He’s always been there to help support me and give me confidence. He’s always believed in me.”

Even with the field goal, the Majors didn’t entirely believe in the win until junior Zach Bell sacked Smith and stripped the football with seven seconds remaining. (Pelch was just an assistant in 2007, but that was the kind of impossible loss that still stings. Google it, Pelch says wryly. Trinity-Millsaps.)

Brady was successful on two field goal attempts Saturday. Barthelemy had 24 carries for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Watson finished with 12 carries for 79 yards. Zak Thrasher was 10 of 20 for 99 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Jackson finished with five tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss. Jeff Milner had 2.5 tackles for (-11) yards, including a 9-yard sack, in his five total tackles.

“What I think I’ve been most impressed with our football team is the maturity that they’ve showed because our backs have been against the wall a couple times and the key players have stepped up and been able to make plays and do things that we really needed to be able to do to win football games,” Pelch said, “the thing that we have not done in the past, we weren’t mature enough to handle those things. We kind of would have cracked in the past.”

More SAA notes

-- Trinity’s Smith completed 13 of 26 attempts for 279 yards with three touchdowns against one interception. Sam Harford had three catches, good for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Kennemar also caught three passes, his for 70 yards, and connected on all three PATs. He was successful on one of four field goal attempts.

Connor Yorloff was in on 13 tackles for the Tigers. J.P. Sanchez got a hand in 12 tackles.

-- Washington University has been a conference-wide stumbling block. The Bears are 4-0 against teams out of the SAA.

Rhodes tops the conference standings after going on the road Saturday to defeat Sewanee, 50-23.

The Lynx (5-1, 2-0 SAA) only loss was 10-7 at Washington University on September 14.
Centre rebounded Saturday with a 48-6 conference win over first-year program Berry. The Colonels suffered their first loss of the season two weeks ago at Washington University.

Centre (4-1, 1-0) hosts Sewanee this Saturday.

Rhodes (5-1, 2-0) is off this week. Centre visits on October 26 in what may be a pivotal conference contest.

First-year program Hendrix was a few seconds or a few inches from ending Washington University’s run of luck against the SAA.

The Warriors took a 3-point advantage on a Tanner Frye touchdown run with under five minutes to play, but Washington went 83-yards in 10 plays to score on a 17-yard pass with :51 seconds in the fourth quarter.

In the final Warriors drive, Frye completed a 34-yard attempt to Spencer Smith, who was brought down on the 1-yard line as time expired.

Dayton Winn had 20 carries for 99 yards for Hendrix (2-3).

American Southwest Conference

Louisiana College visits Mary Hardin-Baylor this weekend as conference action quickens.

Mary Hardin-Baylor is undefeated (5-0, 1-0) ASC but currently sitting behind the Wildcats, who have two conference wins, and Mississippi College, which also has a pair of conference wins.

Louisiana College (4-1, 2-0) is coming off a 31-24 win over East Texas Baptist on Saturday. Mary Hardin-Baylor was off.

The Choctaws (2-3, 2-0) also won again this weekend, defeating Sul Ross State, 34-30, on the road. After starting the season 0-3, Mississippi College has recovered with a pair of ASC wins and the program’s first back to back wins since 2010.

Howard Payne (2-3, 0-2) travels to the Choctaws this weekend.

-- Hardin-Simmons ground game got rolling as the Cowboys got their second win of the season with a 59-24 victory over visiting Howard Payne.
Tevin Mitchell rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.  Bryce Johnson had 10 carries for 81 yards and three touchdowns.

Jessie Ramos caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Ramos also returned a kickoff 90-yards for a third-quarter touchdown.

Jonathan Wilder was in on 17 tackles. JW Barnes was involved in two tackles and returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown.

Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference

Undefeated Texas Lutheran is only halfway through the season, but the Bulldogs have already wrapped up their first SCAC championship and claimed the hardware.

The Bulldogs (4-0, 3-0) defeated Austin 45-12 at home Saturday and received the SCAC trophy.

Quarterback Brent Peavy was 22 of 29 for 363 yards and three touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Cameron Peavy had eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns.

Ty Johnson was in on eight tackles. Freshman Broderick Sargent forced a fumble, had two sacks for 28 yards, and was in on six tackles.

This is Texas Lutheran’s first year in the conference and fourth year under head coach Danny Padron.

Noah Jesko completed 22 of 46 passes for 242 yards for the Kangaroos (1-5, 0-1).

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Andee Djuric

Andee Djuric is a freelance writer and copy editor currently based in Virginia. She has 13 years experience covering sports for multiple metropolitan daily newspapers in the southeast. She is a graduate of Hollins University in Roanoke, Va., with a B.A. in English.
2012 columnist: Kyle Robarts
2008-11 columnist: Jason Bowen

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