COLUMBUS – The last time Ohio State’s kickers were on the field, it was a bit of an adventure for both of them.
But kicker Tyler Durbin and punter Cameron Johnston expect things to return to normal against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. They’re relaxed, so maybe everyone else should be, too.
Durbin missed field goals of 33 yards and 21 yards before making a game-tying 23-yarder at the end of regulation against Michigan. Until that game, his only miss this season was the kick Penn State blocked and turned into the game-winning touchdown.
And Johnston was stopped short on a fake punt that OSU coach Urban Meyer called with the Buckeyes on their own 19-yard line.
Durbin, who had never kicked in an organized football game until this season, was 16 of 17 going into the Michigan game.
He says there are no lingering after-effects or memories that might haunt him in OSU’s College Football semifinal against Clemson on New Year’s Eve.
“It obviously wasn’t a good situation missing the first two kicks but I was ready to put us into overtime. I’m good, I’m past that,” Durbin said. “I was a little upset for the next day or two and then I came in and was ready to work and get ready for our next game.”
He said he doesn’t have social media accounts, though he has looked as some comments on other people’s phones. For the most part, fans have been supportive, even the ones celebrating on the field after OSU’s 30-27 double overtime win over Michigan.
“I don’t know if I would say it was nerves. It didn’t really feel any different than any other kick. From a mechanics standpoint, I did some things wrong. I don’t know what exactly it came down to but I’m working to get all that fixed and get ready for the next game,” Durbin said.
Johnston, a senior from Australia, is nearing the end of a four-year run as one of the best punters in college football.
His two attempts at being a runner have not turned out as well, though.
Ohio State was facing a fourth-down and six-yards-to-go situation at its own 19-yard line in the third quarter against Michigan when coach Urban Meyer called for a fake punt.
Johnston was stopped after gaining three yards and Michigan needed only five plays to score a touchdown to go up 17-7.
“That was a little more nerve-racking than punting. Usually I’m a little more relaxed than I was. But it was just to try to get the first down,” Johnston said.
He got a similar outcome as a freshman in 2013 when Meyer called for a fake punt against Northwestern at the Buckeyes’ own 32-yard line and he was stopped short. That call also resulted in points when Northwestern kicked a field goal to take a 20-13 halftime lead in a game OSU won 40-30.
Johnston, a former Australian rules football player, is averaging a career-best 46.2 yards per punt and has averaged 44.8 in his four years at Ohio State.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into really. I mean, the punting side of things I knew what I was going to do, but the whole everything else has exceeded expectations,” he said.
The NFL seems like a logical next step but his immigration status is something that has to be addressed.
“I think that (the NFL) has been an end goal the whole time. I wanted to come to college and play four years and see how it went and then, if you’re lucky enough, you have a chance. But it was never like the big aim. It was more just come here and see how it went and how it worked out,” Johnston said.
“There are a few different scenarios. You know, you’ve got work visas and stuff like that. So we’ll wait and see how that works out. I’m talking about the process with a few people right now.”