Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WVU FOOTBALL ; Molina Finally Gets His Shot as Starting Kicker

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WVU FOOTBALL ; Molina Finally Gets His Shot as Starting Kicker

Article excerpt

MORGANTOWN - Even in the middle of a situation that was far from normal, all that Mike Molina could do was the usual. Same practice routine. Same swings of his right leg. Same obsessing over film from practice. Same stretches to ward off injury. And for five weeks and 10 practices, it was working as the redshirt junior settled into the role as West Virginia's starting kicker while the Mountaineers went on without suspended Josh Lambert.

"I've tried to make sure everything's been the same for me, Molina said. "There's not much you can really change with kicking. Every day, I work on better ball contact, the height of the ball, the speed of the kick, anything I need to work on.

None of that was new to Molina, a former three-year starter at Hurricane High who's readying for his fourth year and third season with the Mountaineers. He was even used to working around Lambert, though this time Molina was working in a shadow cast by Lambert's absence and not his presence.

The former Groza Award finalist who set and tied school and NCAA records in 2014 had been banished for the spring, and there was no indication he'd be back soon, in time for the start of preseason practice in August or at all.

Then came last Thursday's practice, the 11th of 15 in the spring and the first for Lambert. His suspension, it turned out, was for violating the Big 12's eligibility rules. WVU appealed a stiff penalty that involved the use of a banned substance, sources said, and the suspension was reduced to three games. Lambert would miss the start of his senior season, but he could practice, and on that day he did, taking all of the second-team kicks behind Molina.

"That was the only thing that's been different, Molina said of the player he first started competing with three years ago. "I went out there and just kicked. I was just worried about trying to get better that day. Nothing else was really different.

On Saturday, the Mountaineers scrimmaged. Lambert didn't participate and spent the day watching, advising Molina and stretching his legs. Molina handled kicks, making extra points and field goals and pushing just one too far to the right. Mark Scott, WVU's special teams coach, said Molina tries 10 or 12 field goals every practice and has made close to 80 percent of his attempts. …

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