He hadn't taken a kick in practice all season.
So when coach Al Bagnoli called on Derek Zoch to kick the extra point after the Quakers' final touchdown on Saturday, the senior kicker was more than a little surprised to hear his name.
"I was caught completely off guard," Zoch said. "I haven't taken a kick with a snapper or a holder all season, so it was just kind of going off basic instincts."
Zoch had lost his starting job after he hit on just four of ten field goal attempts in his junior year. So he was eager for a chance at redemption in his final game.
"I wasn't nervous like the game was 6-6 and this extra point would either win or lose the game, it was more like 'it comes down to this.'" Zoch said. "'This will make or break your entire career' type of a kick."
With Penn up 44-0 over Cornell, Bagnoli decided to give Zoch one last chance to end his career with the Quakers on a high note.
"I thought it was the right thing to do," Bagnoli said. "Obviously he's been front and center of a lot of controversy but . he's really been positive the entire year so I gave him an opportunity in his last game to get into the game and kick."
Though he knew he likely would not have a chance to get on the field, Zoch still went to every game, practice and team meeting this year.
He watched from the sidelines all year, helping out the three new freshmen kickers Bagnoli had recruited to start in his place.
"It was very, very hard for him to do that," Zoch's good friend and punter Anthony Melillo said. "It's tough to know that you won't play and still go through with everything when you could easily just say 'I want to quit and I want to continue with my life.'"
Despite the adversity, Zoch decided to stay put.
Even though he didn't play, his parents still came to every contest, including his final one.
"My parents, who have come to every single game knowing that I will not be going in the game still came and supported me," Zoch said. "It was pouring [rain], and it was really, really nice to have them see me go out there and take the final kick on my senior game."
After that extra point sailed through the uprights, Zoch couldn't have been happier that he stayed on the team and took the chance to attempt one last kick.
"I was very nervous, but at the same time I was confident that this was the one kick I had waited for over a year," Zoch said. "It really meant the world to me."Comments powered by Disqus
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