Weilers redemption helps UNC get its kicks at Florida State

Nick Weilers game-winning field goal give UNC an improbable 37-35 victory that end Florida States 22-game home win streak and provided Weiler with a large measure of personal redemption

Melina Vastola—USA Today Sports
Oct 1

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — North Carolina’s Nick Weiler started at around the 40-yard line and cut downfield once he reached the near sideline. Then with a burst of speed, he sprinted all the way into the end zone — — tomahawk chopping the entire distance — before being mobbed by his teammates in a joyous dogpile.Of all the amazing runs that were executed by players on both teams at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday, none was more spectacular or meaningful than the one made by the Tar Heels’ kicker. — And the game was already over when he did it. — Weiler’s run was actually a celebration of the 54-yard field goal he hit as time expired to lift his team to an improbable 37-35 victory. — “I’ve never been that tired ever in a game. I don’t think I’ve ever ran that much in a game,” Weiler said after getting some time to catch his breath. “Apparently I ran the whole sideline, I don’t know.” — The celebration was warranted. — Not only did it give UNC an improbable 37-35 victory, end the Seminoles’ 22-game home win streak and catapult UNC back into the driver’s seat for a second straight ACC Coastal Division title, it also provided Weiler with a large measure of personal redemption. — Just 2½ minutes earlier, his blocked extra point attempt put the Tar Heels in a position to lose a game it led until the final 23 seconds. He had also missed a 51-yard field goal in the game. — “You’re only as good as your last kick, so you got to have a short memory,” said Weiler, who was once so balky as kicker that coach Larry Fedora hesitated to even attempt field goals two seasons ago. — “Coach Fedora always talks about having grit and fighting through adversity, keeping your mind on the goal that’s off in the distance. So those missed kicks probably made me stronger, made be a better kicker and helped me have s short memory after missing the 51 and having the extra point blocked. Two years ago I probably would have gotten really mental about it, down on myself. After that I was just begging to get out there and give me another shot.” — As impressive as Weiler’s career-long kick was, the circumstances that allowed him to even have a chance at trying were even more amazing. — UNC took over the ball at its own 25 with just 23 seconds left after FSU scored a touchdown to go ahead for the first time in the game at 35-34. — With the partisan Seminole crowd already starting to celebrate their team’s anticipated victory, the Tar Heels quickly moved 48 yards on a Mitch Trubisky pass to Mack Hollins and an interference penalty on FSU. But that still only put them on the fringe of Weiler’s range, at Seminole 37 with four ticks of the clock remaining. — “I knew it was within his distance,” Fedora said. “We knew we had to get it close to the 35 to give him a shot.” — Weiler’s previous career long was a 49-yarder earlier this season at Illinois. — Fedora was so confident in Weiler’s ability to make the long kick that he said he never considered any other alternatives. He also steered clear of his senior kicker during the time out leading up to the game-winning attempt. — “He’s got his pre-swing routine,” Fedora said. “I don’t talk to him at practice before he kicks, so I don’t want to talk to him in a game. — What would I say? We need you to make it? What would I tell him, because there’s nothing to say? He knows what he needs to do and we have great confidence in him.” — Weiler said that he’d never been called upon to attempt a game-winning field goal before Saturday, although he added that last week’s decisive extra point with two seconds remaining against Pittsburgh at least gave him an idea of what it would be like. — He said he didn’t feel any pressure. That, however, could be because he was too busy thinking about everything else in the world to realize the importance and difficulty of the task at hand. — “Before that kick it was all just visualization,” Weiler said. “Leading up to it, it was all about having good confidence, hoping my offense would give me a chance and thinking about ‘you’re going to hit this kick, you’re going to kill it right down the middle, what are you going to do after? Make sure you get Kyle (Murphy), make sure you get Joe (Mangili), make sure you hug them. That’s what I was thinking.” — Weiler said he knew the kick was good as soon as it left his foot. But even with all his advance planning, he admitted to “blacking out” after seeing the ball split the uprights with at least 3-4 yards to spare. — He just took off running, tomahawk chopping the entire way. — “I remember the ref putting his hands up,” Weiler said. “I remember glimpses of the Florida State sideline and I remember running into the cameraman on the other end zone, falling down and then barely breathing under the dogpile.” — It was only after the kick that everyone else on the team started breathing again. — “I couldn’t watch. I was just over there praying,” linebacker Cole Holcomb said. — “As soon as I saw him make it, I just dropped everything and ran on the field to celebrate with him,” defensive tackle Nazair Jones added. “I had to get a good angle because he’s fast. Luckily the camera man helped me out. He stopped him and then I was able to get on him on the ground.”