University of Tulsa junior kicker Kevin Fitzpatrick was named the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week yesterday due to his four field goal performance in Tulsa's 33-20 victory over Bowling Green on Saturday. TU head coach Todd Graham says the accolade is well deserved.
"We want to be aggressive, but we have to get points when you're (deep in your opponent's territory)," said Graham. "We went for it on fourth down (once during the game), and that has been our MO this season. Kevin didn't have the kind of week we expect him to have (against East Carolina). We expect him to be the best in our conference and one of the best in the country. He bounced back this week in a big way.
"I was very impressed with how he bounced back from week one. He also did a great job of locating our kicks on our kickoff coverage. He's done a super job with that. We protected a lot better on our field goals, too, which helped to not get as much pressure on him. He did a great job scoring points, and he was well-deserving of player of the week."
Fitzpatrick also made a fantastic open field tackle that kept Bowling Green from scoring a touchdown on a kick return. He chased down Tyrone Pronty and stretched out for a diving stop. A penalty was called due to it being a horse collar tackle, but Coach Graham was impressed.
"(Fitzpatrick) made one heck of a play on the kickoff return, even though he got a penalty on it," Graham described. "I like that, because we talk to our guys about having a hard-edge mentality and being mentally tough. We don't want our kickers running scared. If the return man breaks a long one, our kickers are going to try to tackle him."
Fitzpatrick ended last season by connecting on 4-of-4 field goals including the game-winner in overtime against Memphis. Last weekend, he again converted 4-of-4 field goals and also booted three extra points. His 15 points proved to be the difference in the win.
Fitzpatrick had first-half field goals of 23 and 27 yards, and second-half field goals covering 34 and 46 yards.
Fitzpatrick, who was chosen by the league's coaches as the preseason first-team all-conference placekicker, has knocked down 5-of-6 field goals and 7-of-7 PATs for a team-high 23 points on the season.