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This is how FIU Panthers kicker Jose Borregales got his groove back – a kicker’s story

This week’s FIU opponent, Middle Tennessee, brings back great memories for FIU kicker Jose Borregales.

It was against the Blue Raiders last year that Borregales crushed a school-record 53-yard field goal. He totaled 11 points — including two other field goals over 40 yards — in a 24-21 FIU win.

“When you hit that ‘A ball’, you don’t even have to look up,” Borregales said in reference to making his best possible contact. “As soon as I hit the ball on that 53-yarder, I started celebrating.”

Earlier this season, however, Borregales wasn’t doing much celebrating.

Quite the opposite, actually.

After making 80.6 percent of his field goals (29-for-36) in his first two seasons at FIU, the redshirt junior from Miami’s Booker T. Washington slumped to start this season at 33.3 percent (2-of-6).

His confidence started to waver,

“It’s the worst feeling ever,” Borregales said of missing field goals. “You think to yourself, ‘Damn, do I suck now? What am I going to do?’”

Fortunately for Borregales, FIU’s bye week — which began after a loss at Louisiana Tech on Sept. 20 — came at the perfect time.

Borregales sent videos of his 2019 form to two of the biggest kicking camps — Kohl’s and Kornblue — and he awaited their notes.

Among the feedback was a suggestion that Borregales needed to “keep my shoulders up instead of crunching.”

Armed with that information, Borregales took to the practice field, working with his snapper and roommate Tommy Zozus and holder Alec Hallman, who is new to the operation as of this year.

Ordinarily, Borregales is wary of kicking too much in practice, which he likens to a pitcher throwing too many pitches and actually doing damage to his arm. But this was different.

“That week was ‘work week’,” Borregales said. “I told myself, ‘You can’t be in a slump.’ I had to step back, look at my technique and get back to basics. I did whatever I could to figure out what was wrong.”

Since the bye week, Borregales seems to have deciphered the problem, going 6 for 6 on field goals.

Part of Borregales’ return to glory can be attributed to finally clicking with Hallman, his holder.

“You have to have a relationship with your holder — that’s your best friend, him and the snapper,” Borregales said. “This offseason [after Wilson graduated], I knew I was going to get somebody new, and I had to get comfortable with whoever it was.

“The trust — sometimes there were kicks that I didn’t know if he was going to put it down. That’s on me. But now that I trust him and I know he will put it down, I have to do what I do.”

Borregales also said he appreciates the faith that FIU coach Butch Davis and the rest of the staff have placed in him.

“They push me to be the best I can be,” Borregales said, “and I think I’ve shown that I have what it takes.”

THIS AND THAT

Middle Tennessee’s record (2-5, 1-2 Conference USA) isn’t impressive. But FIU is 0-2 on the road this season, and Middle Tennessee is 2-1 at home with its only loss to Duke.

With four league games remaining, FIU sits in fourth place in C-USA’s East Division, and the Panthers trail leader Western Kentucky (4-0) by two games.

In addition, WKU owns the tiebreaker with a head-to-head win over FIU.

FIU senior running back Anthony Jones, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in three straight games, ranks fourth in the league in scoring (54 points). He is also sixth in the league in rushing (512 yards).

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