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UO’s Schneider forced to play wait game

EUGENE — Aidan Schneider is as close to a sure thing as there is at his position.

The junior from Portland is the most accurate placekicker in Oregon history, having made 35-of-38 (92.1 percent) of his career field goal attempts.

Schneider has also made his last 74 extra points and 114 of 116 (98.3 percent) during his three seasons with the Ducks.

During Oregon’s 35-32 loss at Nebraska, Schneider watched helplessly as the visitors attempted two-point conversions after all five of their touchdowns, converting only one.

“We’re going for two trying to get an advantage,” Schneider said. “The coaches obviously see something they want to attack. My job is to go out there when they call me. Sometimes that doesn’t end up happening.”

Through three games, Schneider has only attempted two field goals, making a 31-yard try against UC Davis and a 20-yard try against Virginia.

The waiting is the hardest part for Schneider, especially since Matt Wogan handles the kickoff duties.

“That’s one of the toughest things as a kicker, whether it’s you haven’t been scoring touchdowns or getting field goal attempts or it’s by choice,” Schneider said. “It’s just a tough thing to do, really for anybody, to be on the sideline constantly warming yourself up and not knowing when you’re going to go in.”

Special teams coach Tom Osborne is confident Schneider can handle pressure situations, but settling for field goals is not something this coaching staff will ever be satisfied with.

“We’d like to attempt zero field goals and just score touchdowns,” Osborne said. “There’s a trade-off the day when he kicks four field goals. That sounds really good to the media and the fans to kick four field goals, but if you’re on offense and you coach on offense, that’s a disaster because you didn’t score any touchdowns.

“You can’t ever predict those or manipulate those in any way. The next week you could kick three, it just depends.”

After quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. ran for a 34-yard touchdown to give Nebraska the lead with 2 minutes, 29 seconds remaining, Schneider began to envision making a last-second field goal to silence the crowd of 90,414 and force overtime at Memorial Stadium.

“I was thinking maybe in the second half the game could come down to me with how it was going with the close back and forth, but you really never know,” Schneider said. “Whenever you’re in a situation like that and you’re driving down, I’ve got to prepare like I’m going to kick. I can’t think, ‘Oh, we might not get there.’

“I’ve just got to kind of prepare and be ready for everything.”

On second-and-20 from the 50-yard line, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich thought maybe Dakota Prukop was going to steal the victory with a deep touchdown to Charles Nelson.

The pass fell incomplete, and Prukop was tackled running the ball on the next two snaps to end the comeback attempt.

The end result led to Helfrich being roundly criticized for not kicking extra points.

Oregon and Nebraska each scored five touchdowns, but the Ducks lost by three points without ever allowing Schneider to swing his historically accurate leg.

“Anything that’s bad in this program is my responsibility, so any element of that that’s bad is my fault,” Helfrich said of the two-point conversion strategy. “We’ve done it for many years, a lot of teams do what we do in terms of trying to get an ideal look, and if it’s there run it, if it’s not, shift back in and kick it.

“I need to coach that better and get a total understanding of what we want done, and we will get that done.”

Schneider will be ready if called upon against Colorado on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

“It’s life as a kicker,” Osborne said. “He may not play at all, then all of a sudden you’ve got to go out there with 30 seconds left and kick a field goal or right before the half try to hurry up one. That’s just the life a kicker.”

Last season life was good for Schneider, who earned a scholarship and third-team All-America honors. The former walk-on is looking forward to trotting out on the field and to contributing his first point since making a PAT in the third quarter against Virginia.

“I don’t know when it’s going to come, so I’ve always got to be ready and control what I can control,” Schneider said.