The only time Jacob Rainey was mentioned by name during the past two University of Tulsa news conferences was when coach Philip Montgomery said, “I got faith in Jacob,” after Saturday night’s loss to Memphis.
Rainey, TU’s place-kicker, missed a 29-yard field goal as time expired that would have given the Golden Hurricane the win over Memphis. Almost as soon as the kick went left of the uprights at H.A. Chapman Stadium, TU fans expressed their displeasure on Twitter and in emails to the Tulsa World.
But in the meeting room on the other side of the wall of the TU locker room, Montgomery didn’t voice any displeasure with his place-kicker or any player on his team.
“There’s lots of different plays throughout this game — that’s one of them, obviously, right?” Montgomery said about the missed kick. “But there ain’t a whole lot you can say to him right there. Stay confident in yourself, believe in yourself, and just hug his neck, tell him you love him and you’re going to be there for him.”
When players took the podium next, they echoed their coach. Linebacker Zaven Collins pretty much ignored the question when he was asked to “Walk us through that last play,” saying instead that the Hurricane could have won had the defense stopped Memphis from scoring the drive before.
“It’s not just (Rainey’s) fault,” Collins said. “It’s everyone’s.”
Defensive end Trevis Gipson and offensive lineman Chris Ivy said the same thing Tuesday at TU’s weekly news conference, where that missed field goal was still a hot topic.
“It’s not just one player’s fault just because it came at the end of the game,” Gipson said. “Everybody makes mistakes throughout the game. I feel like a lot of people zero in on that key moment at the game just because that’s when it arrives. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair because people on offense and defense make mistakes — special teams, too. It’s not just special teams or it’s not just offense or not just defense, it’s us as a team.
“Unless we’re 100% making every play and no mistakes at all, then it falls somewhere on the team — not just one person.”
Said Ivy: “I think that’s the greatest thing about playing football is that football is the ultimate team sport. You need 11 guys doing their job day in and day out. If one guy isn’t doing their job, then you’re not going to be as successful. And so we know that it can be one guy here, one guy there, but if it doesn’t happen, it affects the whole team.
“We can’t look at it, like, finger-pointing, blaming this, blaming that. We got to look at ourselves as a team and figure out what we got to do to do better and how we have to improve. That’s ultimately what it comes down to.”
But mistakes from a defensive end and offensive lineman usually are less noticeable. Montgomery compared a kicker to a cornerback on an island by himself. It’s more obvious who made the bad play when a cornerback gets beat by a receiver for a long touchdown. Or when a kicker misses a field goal that could have ended a losing streak.
“They walk out there and do their job, he’s just a kicker,” Montgomery said. “But when he misses, then all of a sudden he’s the devil made over. ...
“Those guys have got to be confident when they go out. We gotta breed confidence into them and continue to trust them to do their jobs.”