By TODD WILLS / Special To The Sun
Jace Ingram has made one field goal in a game in his life.
That is was a 30-yard, game-winning field goal with one second left to propel No. 18 Navarro to a 31-29 victory over No. 15 Georgia Military on Thursday night is almost hard to believe.
Especially considering the 18-year-old freshman had a 32-yard field goal attempt get blocked earlier in the fourth quarter.
“I was really speechless to be honest,” said Ingram of his season-opening heroics at Tiger Stadium.
Ingram expected to redshirt this season, but he beat out two other kickers for the job. He handled only kickoffs as a senior at Melissa High School because of an injury to his right leg. He never tried a field goal as a junior because his coach liked to go for it on fourth down.
He made made all four of his extra points against Georgia Military, but that doesn’t prepare a kicker for the pressure he faced with the Bulldogs trailing 29-28 after leading most of the game. Especially when your previous field goal attempt comes right back at you, like the one that was blocked with 11:41 left in the game.
“I was proud of him,” Navarro coach Jim Gush said. “Especially after getting that one blocked. That wasn’t his fault. He never had a chance.”
Ingram said he couldn’t help thinking about the blocked kick as he ran onto the field for the game-winning attempt.
“It was still on my mind,” Ingram admitted.
“In practice, we do pressure kicks where the team gets around and throws water and screams at you,” Ingram said. “I felt way, way less pressure at practice than I did the other night in the game. I thought something like that would come further into the season.”
The Bulldogs had led 21-20 at halftime and 28-20 late in the third quarter. Georgia Military rallied with Trey Patterson’s 20-yard TD pass to Kanore McKinnon with 5:43 left, only to miss the two-point conversion. But after a Bulldogs fumble — their sixth turnover of the game — Georgia Military’s Luis Martinez made a 37-yard field goal with 1:14 left for a 29-28 lead.
Parker McNeil, who passed for 323 yards, guided the Bulldogs 42 yards in eight plays down to the Georgia Military 13, setting up Ingram for the biggest moment yet in his football career.
Did he know the game-winning kick was true?
“Yes sir,” Ingram said. “It was right down the middle.”
NOTES: Gush was disappointed with the Bulldogs’ six turnovers, which included two interceptions plus four fumbles — two by the quarterback. “That’s going to be a point of emphasis this week,” Gush said. “Protecting the ball.” Gush said the coaches can run drills in practice to help, but it really comes down to attention to detail with everyone on the offensive unit executing his assignment….The Bulldogs had a 100-yard rusher (Travell Lumpkin, 20-104) and a 100-yard receiver (Jared Wyatt, 7-105) while gaining 472 yards. “I thought all three of the running backs brought something to it,” Gush said of Lumpkin, Kylan Herrera and Kiante Stoker. During the winning drive, Lumpkin converted a fourth-down run and Herrera’s final three-yard run put the ball into the middle of the field. Stoker, earlier, had rushed for a two-yard touchdown….Former SMU coach Phil Bennett was on the Navarro sideline for Thursday’s game. Gush and Bennett were a part of Art Briles’ staff at Baylor and were also together at SMU and Kansas State….Bulldogs won their third straight over GMC and 12th in their last 13. NC leads the all-time series 15-5, but eight of the 20 contests have been decided by 5 points or less and two went to overtime.