LINCOLN — Nebraska kicker Brett Maher never questioned what he was doing and never worried about the way things were going to start this season.
The senior missed four field goals in the Huskers’ first four games, the same amount he had failed to put through the uprights over his entire junior year.
But all that Maher, holder Jase Dean and long snapper P.J. Mangieri chose to do was stay the course, which they believe is paying off now as Nebraska makes its run at a Big Ten championship.
“I really feel like we’re hitting our stride at the right time,” Maher said. “And hopefully we can finish the year off and keep making a difference.”
Maher was named the Big Ten special teams player of the week Monday after kicking three field goals in the 32-23 win over Penn State on Saturday, when he also added a 69-yard punt in the fourth quarter that went out at the 2. He also kicked three field goals in wins over Wisconsin and Michigan and is now 11 of 13 in Big Ten play.
“I knew that P.J. and Jase are always going to do a great job, like they have all year,” Maher said. “We just had to get in a little bit better rhythm.
“I think we didn’t necessarily start the season out quite as good as we would have hoped, but you take out that first game and look at the field goal stats and they’re really pretty similar to last year’s.”
Maher was one of the Huskers’ biggest surprises last season as he made 19 of 23 field goals after replacing four-year starter Alex Henery. The walk-on from Kearney, Neb., also averaged 44.5 yards per punt and was named both the All-Big Ten kicker and punter.
Looking back, however, he said the weight of expectations had nothing to do with missing twice against Southern Mississippi in the season-opening game (from 44 and 41 yards), then again at UCLA (37) and against Idaho State (51).
One kick he would like back is the 30-yarder he missed at Michigan State — with the game tied 7-7 — in a season where he is now 15 of 21 overall. There also have been some mis-hits on punts, including the 16-yarder into a brutal wind Saturday.
Still, Maher’s approach has remained as steady as his personality with both his teammates and the media, through both the ups and downs.
“I just try to worry about the next kick,” Maher said. “That’s the only one you can control. You can’t dwell on what happened in the past.”
Maher said one focus after last season was to better preserve his leg, which he said is “in great shape and strong” with two regular-season games remaining (and as many as four overall).
The hard part is realizing that only one more of those — Saturday against Minnesota — will be at Memorial Stadium.
“I know it’s definitely gone fast,” said Maher, who was the holder for Henery in 2009 and ’10. “We’ll see what the emotions and everything bring of it (Saturday), but it’s definitely going to be bittersweet.
“I’m just going to be very thankful to everyone that’s there with me and has been there with me along the way.”
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