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Washington State’s Blake Mazza nails first game-winning field goal of career in win over Stanford

October 28, 2018 GMT

STANFORD, Calif. – Max Borghi spoke with a scratchy voice Saturday night as he responded to reporters after No. 14 Washington State’s 41-38 win over No. 24 Stanford.

The freshman running back and his teammates had plenty of reason to empty their lungs in the wake of a come-from-behind victory on The Farm, but that isn’t necessarily why Borghi had trouble getting words to come out during Saturday’s postgame interviews.

“I’ve been screaming all week, preparing Mazza – Blake Mazza – in practice,” Borghi explained. “We were actually screaming at the kickers to give them that pressure feeling and I was going at it there.”

Anticipating Mazza’s right leg would probably determine WSU’s fate at some point this year, the Cougars began their screaming ritual just last week. Their timing, suffice it to say, was fortuitous.

WSU and Stanford were tied at 38-38 when the Cougars sent out Mazza for a 42-yard field goal with 19 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Stanford Stadium isn’t reputed as the noisiest venue in the Pac-12 Conference, but the home fans that did stick around to witness Saturday’s finish were collectively roaring by the time Mazza walked out to the center of the field and lined up behind holder Trey Tinsley.

The Arkansas transfer took a deep breath before he struck the center of the ball and watched it soar over Stanford’s defensive line, through the uprights and into the back netting. Mazza pumped his fist three times in celebration before being hoisted up by his offensive line.

“I was pretty happy, I was excited,” Mazza said. “This was actually my first experience at a game-winner in my life, so I prayed about it for a long time. As it rose, I got excited and the juices started pumping and I was happy to be out there.”

Mazza, who redshirted for the Razorbacks in 2017-18 before transferring to the Cougars as a walk-on, made 17-of-23 field goals during his three-year varsity career at Plano High School in Texas. But none of those were attempted with the game on the line, which made Saturday’s kick the most pressure-packed of his young career.

He approached it without hesitation.

“I think as a kicker, if you’re in that situation, you’ve got to want that mentality and that confidence,” Mazza said. “Especially going out there, you can’t leave any doubt on the sidelines, so when we got in that situation I was excited and I was happy. I wanted it.”

Mazza, who redshirted for the Razorbacks in 2017-18 before transferring to the Cougars as a walk-on, made 17-of-23 field goals during his time at Plano High School in Texas. But none of those were attempted with the game on the line, which made Saturday’s kick the most pressure-packed of his young career.

He approached it without hesitation.

“I think as a kicker, if you’re in that situation, you’ve got to want that mentality and that confidence,” Mazza said. “Especially going out there, you can’t leave any doubt on the sidelines, so when we got in that situation I was excited and I was happy. I wanted it.”

“As I hit it, it felt pretty good. Toed it a little bit, but as I saw it in the air, I knew it was going in.”

Mazza’s been mostly reliable for the Cougars this season, making 7-of-10 field goals and 40 of his 41 point-after-attempts. But he’s stumbled into some adversity, too, and had kicks blocked in consecutive games, against USC and Utah.

Had his late field goal at SC not been stuffed, the Cougars could’ve taken the Trojans into overtime and perhaps avoided their only loss of the year.

“I think it never really got to me,” Mazza said. “I’ve done work helping myself out just with my lift on the ball, because that 52-yarder versus Utah, that was me. So these past couple weeks I’ve been on it with (special teams) coach (Matt) Brock and coach (Shane) Gallant, so that’s been my main focus these past couple days.”

It paid dividends. Mazza, seated between Borghi and linebacker Peyton Pelluer in the press conference room, got a round of applause from both teammates as he was dismissed from interviews.

“We had complete faith in him,” Pelluer said. “… Blake’s the man for that. He’s got the golden leg.”

“The golden leg, for sure,” Borghi added.