Kentucky football: Kicking off Week One how effective are Wildcat kickers

Kentucky kicker Matt Ruffolo ( Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky kicker Matt Ruffolo ( Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) /

Kentucky football is ready to kick things off on Saturday against Louisiana Monroe so let’s kick off the week looking at our kicking game.

The Wildcats over the years have had some greats like previous Ray Guy Award winner Max Duffy for the best punter in the nation. For field goals and extra points, there was Austin McGinnis who jumps out immediately.

For the past few seasons, the punting of Duffy saved the Wildcat offense that stalled while the defense was always happy to trot on the field after the Aussie pinned opponent after opponent inside their 10-yard line.

Alas, one of the fan favorites of all time has moved on. The 28-year-old was drafted by the Denver Broncos but unfortunately was cut.

Max Duffy turns Kentucky football punting duties over to fellow Aussi

His departure left zero experience at the punting position.

So Duffy reached out to fellow Aussie Wilson Berry and helped pave the way for another Down Under Mate to head for Lexington to boot kicks at Kroger Field.

Berry, who is 24 years old, has some familiarity with the Bluegrass as his older brother Jordan played for Eastern Kentucky and currently does the punting for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Out of high school, Berry had been playing minor league Australian Rules football for Essendon in the Victorian Football League. While working with ProKick Australia that specializes in getting athletes to the United States to play Berry decided to pursue that option signing with Kentucky.

We have yet to really see what he can do in America, but Big Blue Nation is hoping for the same excitement that Duffy brought and kept opponents guessing just where kicks were going to land.

Berry, who goes by the nickname “Bangers”, says to calm any butterflies he watches Max Duffy highlight. One word to describe him on the field Berry said is “silky”.

No doubt Berry will get lots of advice from both Jordan and Max.

If it isn’t Berry kicking, and he has been battling a slight back strain the duties will fall to Colin Goodfellow. The fifth-year senior has practiced every season and finally saw action in two games last year when Duffy was out.

Against Vandy, he punted three times for a 46.3-yard average with zero return yards. He got a workout against Alabama trotting on the field seven times for 48.3 yards per kick including a career-long 55-yarder.

Matt Ruffalo brings stability to the placekicking game

Ok, so we know this is the polar opposite in terms of wow factor from the punters, but placekicker Matt Ruffalo is back for his fifth season on the team and third as its regular kicker.

Big Foot as he is known hails from Centerville, Ohio and has already graduated with a degree in finance, and is working on his masters while taking advantage of the extra Covid year.

He came to Kentucky as an accomplished kicker from Archbishop Alter where he did not miss an extra point for two straight seasons in 2015 and 2016. Hit 4 of 5 field goals, converted 79 of 79 PATs, 73 of 85 kickoffs were touchbacks and he also averaged 40.0 yards per punt as a senior.

He still ranks second all-time in Ohio for consecutive PATs made with 103.

He got his shot his junior season and we saw him quietly nail 4-of-5 field goals and 18-of-20 PATs,  His highlight of the year was a career-long 50-yard field goal in Kentucky’s 24-20 win over Arkansas. He equaled that feat last year against Missouri.

As a senior, he made good on 22-of-23 extra points and 12-of-14 field goal attempts, totaling 58 points which made him the Wildcats second-leading scorer. Yes, one miss was a 49-yard attempt in a 42-41 loss to Ole Miss along with an extra point, but there were plenty of miscues to go around for UK in that loss namely AJ Rose.

Don’t forget the UK bowl record he set with three field goals, from 25, 26, and 20 yards, in the win over NC State in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.

There isn’t a lot of flash from Ruffolo, but as long as he keeps splitting the uprights that is fine with BBN.

Those accomplishments have earned him a spot on the 2021 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award preseason watch list, given to the nations’ top placekicker.

If Ruffolo can stay as consistent then the Wildcats should have little to fear in this part of the game. Should he struggle it would fall to Chance Poore who at one time struggled and lost his job to Ruffolo.

Poore is a junior and handled kickoff duties for the Cats last year.

Week Zero observations of a UK opponent. dark. Next