STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Ben Grogan struggled early in the season, but when No. 20 Oklahoma State needed its kicker to come through in the clutch last Saturday, he delivered.
Grogan connected on field goals of 41 and 40 yards in the final 1:33 to lift the Cowboys (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) to a dramatic 30-27 comeback victory at Texas, and proved that his squad can depend on him when needed.
That hasn't always been the case.
"We've got a lot of confidence in Ben," coach Mike Gundy said. "I thought that his body language was really good. When I watched him on the sideline, and I watched him go out to kick, his demeanor was easy-going, low-key, and I think that's positive. We're very proud of him."
With OSU facing Kansas State (3-0, 0-0) next Saturday at home, Grogan's confidence level is high.
"Now that I've been in that situation, that's probably one of the highest-pressure situations I'll be in all season," said Grogan, who was named the Big 12's special teams player of the week on Monday. "Having that under my belt definitely helps going forward, and helps my confidence as well."
Grogan missed field goal attempts of 42 and 26 yards in Oklahoma State's season-opening 24-13 victory over Central Michigan, and in the next game, a 32-8 win over Central Arkansas, he had back-to-back PAT attempts blocked due to low trajectory.
He bounced back a week later, connecting on field goals of 24 and 43 yards, while kicking eight extra points in the Cowboys' dominating 69-14 triumph over UTSA.
Of course, none of those kicks had any pressure attached to them, with the outcome pretty much decided by the time Grogan's 24-yarder made it 17-0 with 2:25 left in the first quarter.
"I didn't really change a whole lot, I just worked on fine-tuning, like some strengthening and some technique fixes," Grogan said. "I was more comfortable, I was in a better rhythm after that, with everything that I worked on - on my own, and with my snapper and holder, as well."
Against Texas, the stakes were much higher. He actually had to kick the game-tying field goal twice. With Oklahoma State trailing 27-24, Grogan drilled a 36-yarder through the uprights, but the Cowboys were flagged for delay of game, as the play clock ran out just before the snap. So Grogan had to back up five yards and do it again, tying the contest with 1:33 remaining.
"I noticed I hit it well (the first time), and I treated it like a warm-up, I guess," Grogan said of the do-over. "And I knew (moving back) five yards wasn't going to make a difference."
Then, after the blunder by Texas punter Michael Dickson, who dropped a snap before managing a 10-yard punt out of bounds, Grogan unexpectedly got his shot at the game-winner from 40 yards out. He stepped up and calmly fluttered it through, giving the Cowboys the victory with six seconds left in front of a stunned crowd of 87,073 at Darrel K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium.
"Obviously, it's a great feeling," he said. "And being able to silence the crowd, was awesome."
Bouncing back from early-season struggles are nothing new to Grogan, though, as he endured a similar cycle last year. After converting on just 11 of 18 field goal attempts as a freshman in 2013, Grogan missed three of his first five field goal attempts last season, but he managed to turn it around and hit 12 in a row after that and 20 of 23 the rest of the year.
"I think his demeanor allows him to do that," Gundy said of Grogan's ability to rebound. "He doesn't get too worked up, he doesn't get too excited. When he makes it, he's okay with it, he doesn't run around and jump. I think that helps him, being a kicker."