The most prolific placekicker in San Jose State University football history, Austin Lopez plans on making a comeback in 2015. After becoming the Spartans' all-time scoring leader, tying a school record for converting 100 percent of his point-after touchdown kicks and establishing other new school marks for kicking, he would be the first person to tell you he had a bad year in 2014.
"At the beginning of the year, it was a true struggle. The ball wasn't going straight. I was hitting the ball and it would have a big draw (the ball moving right to left) on them. That was the struggle. I couldn't fix it," recalls the senior from Euless, Texas.
"After the Minnesota game last year, I started fixing it, but when I stepped on the field during games, it was mental. The mental part of the game got to me. It was the first time in my career I had to deal with the mental side of the game."
During the latter stages of the second quarter of the Minnesota game, Lopez took the field attempting a 58-yard field goal. With a favoring wind, his kick definitely had the distance, but the draw he described came into play and the kick sailed past the upright wide left.
Two weeks later, he rebounded as the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week making four consecutive field goals and setting the San Jose State career scoring record in a 33-10 win over UNLV. His 50-yarder in final minute of the fourth quarter of the overtime triumph at Wyoming was crucial for the extra period.
After that field goal to become the first Spartan with three field goals of 50 or more yards in a career, Lopez was good on only 3-of-9 tries in the final six games.
The fourth-year Spartan spent time the summer working with his personal kicking coach, former NFL kicker Scott Blanton, improving his fitness level and getting stronger in preparation for the season. Blanton has been with Lopez every step of the way since his junior year in high school.
"Confidence cures it all. Going out there every day, making my kicks and seeing them go through the uprights every day. After a month of kicking great, you're going to have confidence. You're going to feel better about yourself. That's all it is. The mental part is confidence."
"Last year, Bradbury was here and I think he taught Chris the necessities (to hold). It's not a complicated job. You catch the ball and put it down. He's doing great. He's awesome. You can't ask for anyone better," is Lopez's endorsement.
As one of 17 seniors on the 2015 Spartans, he likes what he sees in training camp and makes a comparison to the 2012 team that finished 11-2 and won the Military Bowl over Bowling Green in Washington, D.C.
"I feel like the bond we have with each other from freshmen to seniors really reminds me of my freshman year when I first got here (in 2012). They accepted all of us. We bonded great. This team has the same qualities," says the hospitality, tourism and event management major who plans to graduate in the spring.
"I would say the leadership is awesome. Christian Tago, he holds the team accountable for its actions. Wes (Schweitzer), `Swerve' (Tyler Ervin), and Jimmy (Pruitt), too, they're great leaders of this team."
Spartan fans can watch Lopez kick the ball through the uprights at the annual Spartan Football Fan Fest, Saturday, August 22. The public is invited to the 4:00 p.m. scrimmage and can meet the San Jose State kicker and more Spartans afterwards.
Season, group and individual tickets to six home games are available by calling the Spartan Athletics Ticket Office at (408) 924-SJTX or by visiting sjsuspartans.com.