ORONO, Maine — There was a ton of pressure on Kenny Doak last season.
He was the first full-scholarship kicker at the University of Maine, and the Black Bears were counting on him to help win close games that are commonplace in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Things did not go well right from the get-go.
In the Black Bears’ season opener at the University of New Hampshire the then-freshman badly missed an extra point that would have tied the game with 9:07 left in the fourth quarter.
And that is how the game ended with UNH prevailing 24-23.
He eventually lost his job to walk-on Brandon Briggs.
Doak’s final statistics read 3-for-5 in field goals and 7-for-10 in extra points. Briggs made 8 of 11 field goals and 16 of 18 PATs.
Briggs had another year of eligibility but graduated and decided not to return.
So Doak is back and looking to atone for last season.
“I’m obviously looking to bounce back,” Doak said. “I’ve been working on my mental game. Trying not to let things faze me as much.”
The missed extra point has stuck with Doak, but he is trying to use it as motivation.
“It’s definitely something I’ve thought about, but I don’t want to let it affect me this season. I took it as an initiative to light a fire under me,” he said.
Doak has worked with his kicking coach, former Stony Brook kicker Luke Gaddis.
“We’ve done some mental work, and I’ve been getting more reps. I’m trying to stay consistent,” Doak said. “You can’t overthink it. You’ve got to do your job for the team. They’ve worked their butts off to get the ball down there (in field goal position), so I’ve got to finish it for them.”
UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak remains confident in his scholarship kicker.
“There’s no doubt he has improved,” he said. “He even looked good last year but struggled in some game-time moments and it hurt him mentally, so we had to make a change. But he has a chance to prove himself, and he’s on his way to doing it.
“We’ve invested in him. We know he has the talent. We’ve seen it. The big for him is the mental side of the game. When you get in those situations, you have to stay focused, you have to stay composed.”
Special teams coordinator Jared Keyte said beginning a college career in a rivalry game is a “tall task especially if you’re a kicker because your position directly leads to points.”
“Kenny has taken it in stride,” Keyte said. “It’s a learning curve. He has been doing a great job so far. He’s kicking with confidence. I have high hopes for him.”
Doak has the same snapper as a year ago in Bryce Colee and has been working with a new holder since last spring in punter Derek Deoul.
“Bryce can really sling it back there, and Derek has done a great job,” said Doak, a native of Perkasie, Pennsylvania. “Working with them has helped out a lot. We’ve created a bond.”
Doak, who has been kicking since seventh grade, said he knows the likelihood of being involved in close games this season.
“I just need to step up. That’s the bottom line. I need to do well for my team and for my coaches,” Doak said.
“I feel a lot better about my extra points. The height has gotten a lot better. And I’m becoming consistent (in field goals) from 40 to 45 yards,” he added.
Doak will get his first chance to prove himself against New Hampshire on Thursday night, Aug. 30.
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