Given how unsettled the University of Wisconsin football team's kicking spot appeared to be during preseason camp, sophomore Kyle French had a strong opening game against Northern Iowa on Saturday.
French nailed his two field-goal attempts from 32 and 35 yards and showed a booming leg on kickoffs, with four touchbacks on six kicks in the 26-21 victory. The only negative was a missed extra-point attempt that was blocked, which might have been the result of too much penetration.
"It came off a little low," French said. "I think it was also a combination, a guy snuck through up the middle."
French didn't win the field-goal job for sure until two days before the game, beating out freshman Jack Russell. But French held the kickoff job throughout camp and was especially impressive in that area.
When going toward the Field House, with the wind at his back, he flew two out of the back of the end zone. Going in the other direction, he still managed two touchbacks, one that bounced off the pylon and another than went about halfway back in the end zone. He only miss-hit one kickoff, a line drive that was returned to the 26-yard line.
"With the wind, the ball was carrying," French said. "When you put it on the other end, the ball would get caught in the air a little bit.
"I think kickoffs, it's more you need to have confidence. Throughout fall camp, I got a lot of confidence being able to hit the ball well."
Matthias' long journey rewarded
It was a long road back for junior Zac Matthias, who endured back surgery before making his first start at right guard. Matthias, who nailed down the job last week, played most of the game, while sophomore Kyle Costigan also played a few series.
"I think it was phenomenal for (Matthias) and I think he played pretty well for where he was at," junior center Travis Frederick said. "Everything he's been through, he worked really hard to get back there.
"I think he wanted to prove to the coaches he was ready to play and come in and play and I think he did that."
Redshirt freshman running back Melvin Gordon was part of the game plan going in, but didn't get any snaps on offense. Gordon was one of two players back on the last couple kickoffs, but didn't have any returns. "We really do want to get him involved ... we were just never in a situation at the line of scrimmage (to use him)," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. ... Bielema said there were no significant injuries to come out of the game.