Kicker Matt Coghlin ensures Spartans' sixth victory carries a footnote

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — If not for Matt Coghlin, Michigan State might not be preparing for a bowl game.

That statement would have been hard to believe earlier in the season, especially has the junior was experiencing a miserable 4-for-11 stretch on field goals. However, he certainly found some redemption on Senior Day.

Coghlin booted four field goals on Saturday, including a 33-yarder with 2:14 to play to give Michigan State a 19-16 victory over Maryland and make the Spartans bowl eligible for the 12th time in coach Mark Dantonio’s 13 seasons.

Michigan State's Matt Coghlin kicks a field goal against Maryland during the fourth quarter.

“That's a big kick, obviously, one I should have made, so I was happy to see that go in,” Coghlin said of the winner. “It was more along the lines of the seniors and the whole team, getting to a bowl game, giving us some more practices, some more time with the seniors. It was a big team win, I was just happy to kind of be the one to kind of put it through at the end.”

It’s been a tough season for Coghlin when it comes to putting it through.

After earning first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2018 by going 18-for-22 on field goals and perfect on extra points, plenty was expected of Coghlin entering the season. And things were going well as Coghlin was a perfect 7-for-7 through the first two games, including four field goals in the season-opening win over Tulsa and three more the next week in a blowout win over Western Michigan.

It was in week three against Arizona State when things unraveled for Coghlin. He missed all three of his field goals in a 10-7 loss, a fact made even tougher by the fact his 42-yarder in the final seconds to tie the game was negated by too many men on the field and he missed the next kick from 47 yards.

It was that game that began the stretch that saw Coghlin miss at least one field goal in five straight games.

“I'd have to say after the Arizona State game I felt like definitely I could have done something to change the outcome of that game,” Coghlin admitted. “I only try to think about it for about a day, and then just go onto the next one. I think during the whole time, I had a couple of misses, I think I tried to stay positive, just go into the next week trying to not let it affect me. Trust that I was a good kicker, trust that I could make them all. Just kept chugging along and finally seen it go through a little more.”

Things started to turn around when Coghlin was 2-for-2 against Illinois, made his only kick at Michigan and went 2-for-3 last week at Maryland.

Through it all, Dantonio remained committed to Coghlin.

“I've got as much confidence in him as he does in himself and he has tremendous confidence in himself,” Dantonio said. “Just because he misses one, he doesn't get shaken; he stays the course and he comes with it the next kick. He believes in himself very, very much and I appreciate that and I want to echo that sentiment every time.

“If you don't believe in your players, that's at any point you stop believing in your players, then I don't think you have any chance, to be quite honest with you. You have to instill belief in them and you have to raise them to a higher standard and help them overachieve. Matt did an outstanding job.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau