Throughout his years as an Ohio State kicker, Aaron Pettrey has had mixed emotions about the twice-yearly kick scrimmages in Ohio Stadium.
“I love these things and hate them at the same time,” the senior said. “I’m glad I never have to do one again. I think I feel more pressure out here than in a game. I like them, but I’m glad this is my last one.”
But nearly three years to the day after earning the starting kicking job in 2006 with a flawless performance in the Horseshoe (and four months after hitting the winning field goal in the spring event), Pettrey may have sewn up the starting job for the ’09 Buckeyes on Wednesday afternoon in the stadium.
The Raceland, Ky., native made 9 of 12 field goals, including a game-winning 48-yarder in the rain, to lead his Gray squad to a 27-24 win against Scarlet.
“Somehow, it always ends up like that,” he said. “I’m just glad to get out here and get a chance with a pressure kick. I love it. With the guys not wanting to walk home, big linemen that have been practicing the whole day, I like having pressure on me.”
Pettrey was the best kicker on a day the Buckeye specialists showed potential while also leaving some key areas that will need addressing.
Ben Buchanan and Devin Barclay, Pettrey’s fellow competitors for the starting placekicking job that he shared with Ryan Pretorius a year ago, each went 4 for 7, with Barclay missing a possible game-winner moments before Pettrey’s kick.
When it came to the punting battle between Buchanan, the highly touted redshirt freshman who both kicks and punts, and senior Jon Thoma, the latter had a slight edge. Six of his eight kicks were 40 yards or longer, and he finished with a 40.1-yard average with a long of 52.
“It could have went a lot better,” he acknowledged. “We got the win so I can’t be to disappointed, but I’m not really happy with how I punted. I kicked some to the middle of the field, which makes it really hard on our cover guys, but it went OK.”
Buchanan, meanwhile, had seven tries for a 39.1-yard average, including a 50-yarder he boomed with a heavy rush bearing down when the snap came from his own 1-yard line.
Completing his busy day, Buchanan took a kickoff that went to the 3-yard line and also completed a pass on a fake punt that kept alive a scoring “drive” for his squad.
“The way I would describe it is there were a lot of points today that I was proud of,” the Westerville Central alum said. “I completed a pass for our first down, I was able to pin a few punts deep, I got a hold of a good one out of the end zone, made a couple of good field goals in the end. There were some you’d obviously like to have back that I’m going to take a look at in the film room to see what happened there, but overall it was a good day.”
When it came to returns, Lamaar Thomas, Anderson Russell, Dan Herron and Brandon Saine lined up for kickoffs, while Ray Small, DeVier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher and Devon Torrence went back for punts.
The kick scrimmage starts with a kickoff, after which every play is fourth down. Teams try to win field position through punts, returns and fakes. Periods of field goals are interspersed, and the game ends with a series of punts from the 1-yard line, after which the receiving team is allowed to try to advance the ball down the field or try a field goal.
This year’s event started with a bang when Thomas took Pettrey’s opening boot about 5 yards deep in the end zone, faked a reverse with a teammate and then found a huge hole on the right side of the field, blazing all the way to the opposing 8 before being brought down by Torrence, who had the angle on “Flash.”
“That was a pretty impressive return,” said special teams assistant Chad Rogosheske. “That’s something we’ve been wanting to see from our kick return unit the past couple of years.”
Unfortunately for Thomas, his work went for naught when Scarlet's Buchanan pulled the resulting 25-yard field goal wide of the left upright.
The rest of the punt period was largely uneventful, and Pettrey’s 5-for-5 performance in the first field-goal session gave Gray – which boasted presumed starters Pettrey, Thoma and long snapper Jake McQuaide – a 15-12 lead. Buchanan went 4 for 5 in his rotation for Scarlet, making a long of 49.
Gray increased that lead after recovering a punt that Small – who was otherwise impressive while averaging 10.0 yards on three returns – missed while trying to make a fair catch. On the next play, Thoma handed off to Kurt Coleman, who raced to the right and hit Corey Brown for a 20-yard gain, setting up a 38-yard field goal made by Pettrey that made the score 18-12.
Scarlet responded in kind, using a completed fake punt pass from Buchanan to Andre Amos to set up a 50-yarder that Barclay drilled to make the score 18-15.
Next up, Barclay was 3 for 5 in his field-goal rotation, then Pettrey was just 1 for 3 to give Scarlet a 24-21 lead.
Pettrey atoned and knotted the score, though, as the series of punts from the 1-yard line commenced. After Buchanan’s first, his clobbered 50-yarder, was returned 10 yards by Sanzenbacher, Pettrey set up for a 58-yard field goal that just cleared the crossbar.
However, the play had been whistled dead because opposing Scarlet had too many men on the field. Nonplussed, Pettrey stepped up and made the 53-yarder as well to tie the score at 24.
Buchanan (43 yards), Pettrey (50) and Barclay (49) all missed field goals wide left after three more punts. Finally, Buchanan could only muster a 30-yard punt from his own end zone, setting up a second chance for Pettrey from 48 that the senior coolly nailed.
“I guess I didn’t hurt myself,” he said of his day. “I just wanted to come out here and have a good day.”
For more on the kick scrimmage, including observations from the prescrimmage, full-team practice session, see the Ask The Insiders message board.