TEMPE, Ariz. — Ryan Mueller isn’t the only Kansas State defensive lineman chasing a record tonight against Michigan.
Travis Britz, who’s anchored the Wildcats’ interior this season, needs one more blocked kick in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl — kicking off at 9:15 (CST) on ESPN — to tie the school record for blocks in a single season.
The sophomore has a nation-leading four blocked kicks this season — two field goals and two extra points — against UMass, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas Tech. Britz’ blocked kick against the Cowboys was returned 65 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Kip Daily.
“We never take a play off, even on an extra point,” Britz said. “It takes points off the board and is a good way to change the momentum.”
The 6-foot-4, 293-pound Britz needs one more block to tie the mark of five set by Raphael Guidry in 2011.
Though Britz and Guidry have yet to exchange notes on the art of blocking kicks, the Harrisonvile, Mo., native said he’s spent a lot of time watching film on Guidry.
“I’ve studied Guidry and have a deep appreciate for what he did,” Britz said. “I’ve tried to take what he did and build from it, find something that fits my style and what I’m capable of.
“Someday, we’ll have to sit down and talk, though.”
There’s far more involved in blocking a kick than one might think. There’s a lot of skill and homework involved to be as good as Britz.
Just like a quarterback studies the defense, Britz is busy every week studying the kicking unit, learning its tendencies, the speed of the snap, what the personnel likes to do and when and how fast.
“You have to study the opponent, study the guards, the longsnapper, the kicker and the operation time of the kick,” he said this week. “It’s a lot more complex than people think. You have to know how long it takes the snapper to snap the ball, how high the kicker kicks the ball, how low they sometimes kick it. You need to know how aggressive the guards on the sides are.”
That’s just the technical aspect of blocking kicks. But there’s a certain degree of determination and heart that goes into swatting the football as well.
“If you want to block it, you will,” Britz said. “It’s all an attitude when you get down in there. Some guys like to take a play off, but you have to have the mentality that its just another play and you have an opportunity to make a big play for your team.”
Though Britz gets the credit for the blocked kicks, he said he wouldn’t be able to do it without senior defensive tackle Chaquil Reed, who lines up next to him on the field goal blocking unit.
“Chaq is just as big a reason we block those kicks as I am,” said Britz, who also has 33 tackles and three sacks this season. “Without his push, I couldn’t do it.”
Reed gets the first push inside, acting sort of like a lead blocker for Britz, who then has to fight through the offensive line to get a shot a blocking the kick. Britz said it’s a balance — knowing when to go vertical after getting through the line.
“He’s the reason I’m getting all these blocked kicks — that push of his opens it up for me,” he said. “He does everything he can to get an opening in there and just like me, he’s not giving up on a field goal or a PAT.
“Getting a block can change a game. It can win a game.”