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The Most Under-The-Radar Storyline of The Past and Present

Syracuse’s special teams weren’t exactly special last season. The Orange were last in the ACC in yards per punt and had the second-worst field goal percentage in the conference. The field goal number is especially jarring considering former Lou Groza Award winner Andre Szmyt was Syracuse’s kicker. Szmyt is entering his sixth year in the 315, and his journey has seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

2017

Szmyt spent 2017 on the sidelines redshirting, studying then-senior Cole Murphy. Murphy set a good example, making all of his kicks under 40 yards, leaving big shoes to fill for Szmyt to fill the following year.

2018

And boy, did he fill them. Szmyt’s 2018 season was a renaissance. He made 30 field goals, one shy of an FBS record. Szmyt was a unanimous first-team All-American, the first SU player to do that since Dwight Freeney. He had the third-most points in a single season by a kicker in FBS history. Oh, and he became just the third freshman to win the Groza Award, which is given annually to the top kicker in college football. The sun was shining brightly for Szmyt and Syracuse.

2019

The 2019 campaign was a bit of a step back for Szmyt, but that was largely thanks to a lack of opportunities. He had only 20 FG attempts compared to 34 the year before. Still, 17 of the attempts were successful, and two of the misses hit the uprights. Even in a regression, Szmyt still made the All-ACC third team. He didn’t have the Groza season he did as a freshman, but he was still clearly one of the best kickers in the ACC.

2020

It’s difficult to evaluate Szmyt’s 2020 season because, well, there wasn’t a whole lot for him to do. Szmyt attempted just 35 total PATs and field goals in 2020. His 2018 total nearly tripled that. Still, he only missed three kicks on the season and was 5th in the ACC in kicking percentage. But the opportunities to make his mark just didn’t pop up for Szmyt on that dreadful 1-10 SU team.

2021

That being said, Szmyt had plenty of opportunities to make his mark in 2021, and the results were very mixed. He got off to a solid start, capping off a 6-for-8 start in the team’s first four games with a walk-off FG against Liberty. But from there, well… it wasn’t great. Szmyt ended the season just 3-for-6, which included missing a tying kick late against Clemson and doinking a 20 yard (!!!!!) field goal against Virginia Tech. It’s hard to imagine Syracuse fans thought Szmyt would have such a tough stretch when he won the Groza Award. Oh, how the mighty had fallen.

This is what makes Szmyt so fascinating to assess leading up to the season. We really don’t know what to expect. If he reverts to his 2018 form when he was the best kicker in the nation, it adds an element to this team that it didn’t have last season. That being said, his reliability was left in serious doubt after last year. The version of Szmyt Syracuse gets this season could determine the down-to-the-wire games SU will need to win should it want to go Bowl-ing.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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