Saturday, September 13, 2008

Play(s) of the Game: McMahen's interception, Scott's game-winning field goal

UW photo service
Wyoming coach Joe Glenn celebrate's the winning kick Saturday against North Dakota State. At bottom, Jake Scott and Derrick McMahen came up with the big plays a the end.

By Richard Anderson

One play led to the other, which led to a Wyoming victory.

Wyoming senior strong safety Derrick McMahen intercepted North Dakota State quarterback Nick Mertens' pass with just over three minutes left in the game and junior place kicker Jake Scott kicked a 29-yard field goal with just seconds remaining to lift the Cowboys to a big come-from-behind 16-13 win Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

“Derrick McMahen made a huge play to get us there and Jake Scott kicked the field goal,” Wyoming junior defensive end Mitch Unrein said. “It is a bunch of guys who are stepping up.”

For McMahen, it was his first career interception. It was Scott's first game-winner. Two firsts made a right for the Cowboys on Saturday.

Wyoming sophomore free safety Chris Prosinski had two interceptions himself in the game, but they paled in comparison with McMahen’s.

“That was huge. He was in the right place at the right time,” Prosinski said. “I knew he could do it. He has been making plays all fall and all spring. Hats off to him.”

McMahen said that he was helping with the cornerback, but he saw the North Dakota State receiver get inside of the Wyoming outside linebacker and Mertens was staring his guy down the entire way.

“I thought he was going to throw it behind me, but he threw it right to me,” McMahen said. “I just made sure I caught it.”

McMahen added that the Wyoming defense was just looking for that big opportunity at crunch time and whomever it came to, they were going to take it.

“It came to me and I took it,” he said with a smile. “Defense, we’re all ready to go. Whether you are first string or second strong, I was ready when they called upon me. I was the one who happened to make a play.”

Talking to reporters after the game, McMahen said that it hadn’t really hit him yet that he was able to make a game-saving play.

“Maybe tonight or tomorrow it will. I’m just going to enjoy the win, mainly,” McMahen said.

McMahen took the pick 15 yards back to the North Dakota State 28-yard line. In good field position, the Cowboys still needed to make a couple of plays to get the ball better in Scott’s kicking range. They did and he got his shot with just four seconds remaining.

Scott said he actually started thinking with about seven minutes left that he was going to get a chance to win the game. At that time, he said he began to visually imagine himself making that game-winning kick.

"At three minutes, we got the ball and I was thinking, ‘OK, it is coming down to it,’” Scott said. “My buddy, Nick Landess, came up to me and told me and everybody stayed away. Once I walked out there, I knew they were going to ice me, but I was ready for it. At the same time, I was still expecting to be able to kick it as they iced me. One more mental imagery, though, and I knew it was going right down the pipe before I kicked it.”

After North Dakota State called a time out to try to throw off Scott’s focus and rhythm, the snap was perfect to holder Ian Hetrick and the kick was true. The celebration began.

“That’s great for Jake. It is a real confidence builder for him,” Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said. “He knocked them right down the middle, I think. We needed him big time. We needed 3-for-3.”
Scott also connected on a pair of 28-yard field goals - one late in the third quarter and the other midway through the fourth quarter.

It’s been an up and down career for Scott, who missed a short field goal in the opener against Ohio, but has been perfect ever since. In spring and early in fall, Glenn was a bit displeased with the consistency of his kickers, including Scott, as they searched to replace last year’s starter, Billy Vinnedge. A back injury also hampered Scott some this fall.

Scott is not only building his confidence, but the self-assurance of his coach and his team.

“I feel pretty confident right now,” Scott said. “I always felt like I had that type of confidence in myself. I had to make sure that the coaches saw it to.”

The only way to feel much higher, he said, is to keep making field goals.

“I’m going to keep building my confidence,” he said.

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