Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Special Teamers Far from the Usual Kicker Represents for the 'Goof Balls'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Special Teamers Far from the Usual Kicker Represents for the 'Goof Balls'

Article excerpt

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Josh Lambert isn't a prototypical place- kicker. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Texan is strong, not scrawny. He would rather kick from the hash marks than the center of the field. He's cerebral, a "flatliner," as special teams coach Joe DeForest says.

That all came together Saturday to save West Virginia against Maryland, when Lambert got a second chance after a blocked field- goal try on the Mountaineers' penultimate drive. With four seconds left, Lambert lined up a 47-yarder from the left hash and, the moment he started forward, thought, "Oh no."

What cues his approach to the ball, Lambert explained later, is when holder Michael Molinari lifts his finger off the turf to receive the snap. Instead, Lambert stepped when long-snapper John DePalma started his motion. Lambert stutter-stepped and drilled the winner anyway to lift West Virginia to a 40-37 road victory.

A typical "up" time, from snap to kick, is between 1.2 and 1.3 seconds.

"That one was 1.08," Lambert said with a smile. "So, I was a little fast."

As his teammates poured onto the field, the usually emotionless Lambert put a finger to his lips, shushing the crowd that had berated him all afternoon. Encircling the kicker on his parade to the locker room was his merry band of specialists.

"It was great to see him on cloud nine," said punter Nick O'Toole. "Well, not cloud nine -- cloud Josh."

While they form an often-forgotten sideshow for the resurgent Mountaineers, these special-teams specialists are a special bunch.

They're the guys coach Dana Holgorsen called "goof balls" after Molinari twisted his ankle doing a chest bump last month. Guys who won't skip a leg day -- squats on Sundays -- but care just as much about their tattooed and beefy biceps.

West Virginia's specialists have had to earn respect in "some nontraditional ways," Molinari said, and that starts in the weight room.

"Josh can bench upwards of 300 pounds," he said.

Lambert, the kicker, scoffed at that number.

"I can bench 400 pounds," he said.

Well, to be fair, Molinari did add, "Lambert is swole."

Ah yes, when speaking with these specialists, it's important to have a working knowledge of the term "swole," a spin-off of "swollen" used to describe someone as properly and outrageously muscular. …

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