CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Dan Kelly is 50-for-50 on PATs this season.
UH kicker eyes a special goal
Like other college football players, kickers and holders watch NFL games, too -- not just for entertainment, but for tips on what to do and not do.
Hawaii junior punter/holder Tim Grasso wants to make sure he doesn't emulate a certain Dallas Cowboy.
"I think everyone takes (holding for kicks) for granted until someone pulls a Tony Romo," said Grasso, referring to Romo's botched play that probably knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs last year.
As for UH kicker Dan Kelly, he wouldn't mind being more like former Rainbow Jason Elam, who continues a lengthy and stellar career with the Denver Broncos.
"I haven't met him yet, but I'd love to pick his brain," Kelly said. "It's about consistency, and kicking winning field goals, and he's got three this year. That's MVP of the team."
In the Warriors' last game, a 42-35 overtime victory at San Jose State on Nov. 12, Kelly -- with the help of Grasso, snapper Jake Ingram and the rest of the PAT team -- broke one of Elam's many UH records. Kelly has now made good on his first 50 conversion attempts of the season, breaking the old mark of 46 set by Elam in 1989, when he converted all 46 tries.
"I had no idea. That's sweet though," Grasso said.
Kelly can reach Justin Ayat's school single-season record of 55 (in 56 attempts) in 2001 on Saturday at Aloha Stadium against New Mexico State.
Kelly -- a junior in his third year as UH's starting kicker -- has always been talented. But some problems with short kicks got him benched on PATs toward the end of last season. Now he's added consistency, and his chemistry with Grasso and Ingram has made the routine, well, routine.
"We just get along, good teammates, good friends," said Kelly, who is Grasso's roommate at home and on the road. "We hang out at Jake's (family house in Mililani). He has a pool.
"All three of us have the desire to be better than what we are. That alone is probably the best thing for our chemistry."
Kelly has also improved distance and placement on his kickoffs, and has made field goals of 49 yards (to tie LaTech late in the fourth quarter) and 54 yards (against Utah State, fifth-longest in UH history).
"He's been a solid player for us," coach June Jones said. "He's more confident and he's got an NFL leg."
Grasso said he had some doubts about the most recent PAT, which could've been a very important point if the Spartans had managed to score during their turn in overtime.
"I haven't been worried about it, but I know in that San Jose State game, that last PAT in overtime was really shaky," said Grasso. "Every ball, no matter if it was dry when they gave it to us, it got wet."
Ingram has been Kelly's snapper most of the past three years. He got a brief break when botched kicks led to Boise State's victory over Hawaii last year for one of UH's three losses.
But Jones reinstalled Ingram, whom the coach said has NFL snapping skill.
"Jake can snap it with the best of them, including the pros," Jones said.
Ingram said Kelly has matured, and that he has confidence in Grasso.
He's more relaxed. We just go out there and do our job. Everything's flowing smooth and when it's smooth it just carries on week after week," Ingram said. "Tim was an athlete in high school, and you can tell. He has great hands."
Going back to last season, Kelly has 69 consecutive made PATs. The school record is 91, by Elam.
Arthur Carmody of Louisville holds the national mark for most consecutive made extra points to start a season with 77 in 2004; a mark in reach for Kelly, considering UH leads the nation with 51.2 points per game.
Special teams coordinator Dennis McKnight said the Warriors take PATs as seriously as any other phase of the game.
"We block hard, we talk about our protection before we go out on the field," McKnight said. "And I just think with Tim's great hands, Jake's been consistent with the snaps and Dan's developed trust in them. Those three guys are operating at a good level."
Kelly said his mental approach is the same regardless how long the kick.
"It's all circumstantial," he said. "I don't feel the pressure when I step on the field. I feel it off the field. Kicking a 60-yard field goal, kicking a PAT, they're both my job.
"Basically it's just technique, not trying to do too much, not think about things too much, just go out there and do my job."
The family of backup kicker Briton Forester had to evacuate its home in the San Diego area because of the wildfires there. The house was not reached by the fires, and they expected to be allowed to return soon, Forester told UH spokesman Derek Inouchi.
Safety Dane Kealoha Porlas said his family's home in San Diego nearly had to be evacuated.
"If the fire reached the next freeway, they were going to have to leave," he said.
Kelly's family lives in Temecula, which is between San Diego and Los Angeles.
"The fire's a few miles away, but it's not threatening. They evacuated Fallbrook and we're the next town over," he said.