Terps' Novak has leg up on ACC's best

Kicker now takes aim at NCAA points record

College Football

September 08, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Four years ago, a walk-on kicker from Albemarle High School in Charlottesville, Va., strolled into Ralph Friedgen's office and made a specific request. He wanted a scholarship.

Maryland's former coach, Ron Vanderlinden, had recruited the kicker with the promise of a scholarship in 2000, but now Vanderlinden had been fired after his second straight five-win season. Nick Novak wanted to know if Friedgen, who had been the Terps' coach for almost 48 hours, would honor Vanderlinden's promise.

"Nick," Friedgen said. "I'm going to wait and see you kick before I decide to give you a scholarship."

"Well then you won't have any problems, Coach," Novak said.

Neither man knew it then, but Novak's quiet confidence would not only earn him a scholarship, but also help him, over the next 39 games, score the most points of any player in Atlantic Coast Conference history. Novak earned that distinction Saturday with three field goals and two extra points against Northern Illinois, giving him 335 career points.

"Coach announced it at our team meeting and everyone clapped," Novak said. "I was kind of speechless. I didn't really know how to respond."

It was hardly out of character, though. Novak has never been particularly verbal, preferring to go about his business as anonymously as possible. But he did thank his snapper, Jon Condo, and his holder, Adam Podlesh, and did his best to point out to anyone who would listen that he never would have scored that many points if he didn't play on some good offensive teams. After all, 134 of his points have been extra points.

Still, it's hard for Novak to digest the enormity of it all. If he scores 89 points, he'll have the highest total in NCAA history. Houston's Roman Anderson (1988-91) holds the mark with 423.

"I've always had high expectations for myself," Novak said. "My goal was always to be the best kicker in the conference each year. Every time I go out there, I think I'm going to make it. I knew I could play at this level. You can't be good at anything in sports unless you have confidence in yourself."

Friedgen would love to see Novak get the record, though he'd prefer to do it with Novak kicking extra points instead of field goals.

"He's an offensive guy," Novak said. "I know he wants to see touchdowns. But at the same time, I know he doesn't care if we win by three points or by 20."

Novak is a perfectionist, both in school (where he holds a 3.5 grade-point average in kinesiology) and on the practice field. To keep him sharp, Friedgen regularly puts his kicker in pressure situations, telling the players they have to run at the end of practice if Novak misses a field goal during Maryland's two-minute drill. After applauding Novak at the beginning of practice, the players were playfully cursing him out Monday after he missed one of Friedgen's pressure kicks.

"It shows you how quickly they forget," Friedgen said.

The tactic seems to have paid off, though. Novak has made game-winning field goals in each of the past three seasons, none more dramatic than his 43-yarder last year to beat N.C. State. That kick came just two minutes after Novak missed an extra point that would have tied the game.

"I know this," Friedgen said. "Anytime we get the ball to about the 35-yard line, I don't have a problem letting him kick it."

There may come a time when Novak will need to line up from even farther than that. When it does, he's ready. Occasionally, wide receiver Steve Suter will goad Novak into kicking field goals from 60 or 65 yards.

"It kind of a macho thing, just to see how far I can kick," Novak said. "I don't do it very often because I don't want to get hurt trying. But sometimes, if I'm feeling good, I can definitely make them."

NOTES: Maryland managed to avoid any serious injuries Saturday, but several players are banged up and limited in practice. Guard C.J. Brooks and running backs Josh Allen and Sam Maldonado were both held out of contact drills yesterday, and tackle Stephon Heyer didn't practice with a sprained left ankle. ... Friedgen said there were two plays in the second half against Northern Illinois where Maryland had just 10 defenders on the field because of a miscommunication. Down a man, the Terps were able to hold the Huskies both times. ... The College Sports Television network will broadcast an inside look at the Terps during preseason tonight at 10 p.m. The program is called Dog Days - University of Maryland Football.

Next for Maryland

Matchup: Temple (0-1) vs. No. 23 Maryland (1-0)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 27

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