Hauschka May Have A Leg Up

Kickoff Specialist Is Outplaying Rookie Gano, But Kickers And Coach Know Ex-ravens Star Stover Is Just A Phone Call Away

August 26, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Judging by looks alone, the Ravens' kicking competition might have been decided in the second quarter of Monday's 24-23 preseason victory over the New York Jets.

That's when Graham Gano's 46-yard field-goal attempt sliced wide right, leading coach John Harbaugh to glare in disgust at the field while shaking his head.

Halfway through the preseason, there are indications Steve Hauschka is close to winning the job over Gano. Hauschka has outplayed Gano, making all three of his field-goal tries. Gano has missed two of three.

Harbaugh acknowledged that the Ravens could determine their kicker after Saturday's preseason game at Carolina. "Like they always say, those guys will make that decision for us," he said, "and we'll see how it plays out."

So far, it has played out well for Hauschka, the Ravens' kickoff specialist last season. This preseason, he has converted field goals from 21, 37 and 42 yards.

Gano, an undrafted rookie out of Florida State, made his first field goal (a 39-yarder) before missing from 28 and 46 yards. A high snap led to his hitting the right upright in the preseason opener. On Monday, he missed badly on a long-range field-goal try, driving the ball 3 yards right of the upright.

"I was trying to play the wind a little bit, but I think I played it a little too much," Gano said. "I'm just ready to get back out there for the next kick."

Gano said he hasn't tried to figure out where he stands in the kicking battle. One person on a message board referred to him as Graham "Gone-o."

"I'm just trying to do my job," Gano said. "I feel pretty good about [Monday]. Of course, I wish I could have made that field goal. But I'm going to come back the next game against the Panthers and do my best."

The Ravens split the kickers' time in the preseason opener, letting Hauschka kick in the first half and Gano in the second. The team reversed the order Monday, but Gano didn't finish the second quarter.

Hauschka, who connected on a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, said he doesn't try to gauge the competition to replace Matt Stover, the veteran kicker who was not re-signed by the Ravens.

"I wasn't too concerned with Graham's kick," Hauschka said. "I'm hoping the best for him. I got to focus on myself, and that's the most important thing for a kicker."

It's a tough situation because Hauschka and Gano have been nearly inseparable this summer. They spend nearly every minute of practice side by side. They share a locker at M&T Bank Stadium. They were roommates in training camp.

When they weren't competing on the field, the kickers went head-to-head in Xbox. Hauschka won at the "Tiger Woods" game, while Gano got revenge in "FIFA soccer."

Hauschka said he doesn't look at it as if they are battling for one spot. "I look at it like there are 32 jobs out there," he said, referring to the fact that each team needs a kicker. "You strive to do your best and hope they have confidence in you."

Beyond field goals, Hauschka and Gano have been very close on kickoffs, generally placing them inside the 10-yard line. Gano made a touchdown-saving tackle at midfield on a kickoff against the Jets.

The kickers are doing all they can to stand out with the coaching staff.

"Both of them are working really hard," said punter Sam Koch, the holder for both kickers. "It's at practice and at the games. They both want to go out there and make that next kick. It's crazy how hard they are competing. It's so close."

Before camp started, the Ravens had expected the kicking competition to last through the final preseason game. Although Harbaugh said that could remain the timetable, he acknowledged that a determination could be made sooner.

"We could take it to the last preseason game - I think that depends on what happens through the weekend and the next game - or it could be decided next week," Harbaugh said. "If we think it's decided, we'll try to see if that guy can be the kicker through the last preseason game."

If the Ravens choose Hauschka, he understands he might not be the final winner. The team still could bring back Stover or sign another veteran kicker.

Hauschka got a friendly warning toward the end of a recent bad practice. Making sure Hauschka was within earshot, Harbaugh asked special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg whether he still had Stover's phone number.

"He reminds us every once in a while as a joke," Hauschka said. "I don't know how you could ignore [the Stover factor]. He's a legend around here."

Steve Hauschka:

Field goals: 3-3

Extra points: 2-2

Total points: 11

Graham Gano:

Field goals: 1-3

Extra points: 3-3

Total points: 6

Dates to remember

Saturday

Third preseason game at Carolina

Tuesday

Roster cut to 75

Sept. 3

Preseason finale at Atlanta

Sept. 5

Roster cut to 53

Sept. 13

Season opener against Kansas City at M&T Bank Stadium

NEXT GAME

Ravens@Panthers,

Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV: Ch. 11, MASN2

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

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