Go ahead and admit it.
You didn’t think he was going to make it.
When Levi Lewis tossed a pass deep into the end zone for freshman Kyren Lacy on the second to last play of the game, the incomplete pass only left two seconds on the clock.
The Cajuns were down 18-17 and on Georgia Southern's 36-yard line. UL coach Billy Napier’s only choice was to attempt a 53-yard field goal with graduate transfer placekicker Nate Snyder.
There’s just no figuring sports sometimes.
Earlier in the game, Napier passed on a 32-yard field goal on third-and-eight. Two drives later, Snyder missed a 34-yarder to make him 1-for-5 on the season at that point.
Truthfully, the court of public opinion didn't give the Cajuns much of a chance to win this one.
But Snyder made it look easy.
Not only did he make the 53-yarder, he split the uprights and then calmly and coolly gestured to his sideline like he knew he had it all along.
“The second I hit it, I knew it was good,” Snyder said. “I think I was half way to the sidelines before the ball was even to the end zone.”
Snyder’s heroic effort ended a game filled with what-ifs and UL enjoying its first 3-0 start in 32 years.
Napier said in the postseason news conference the moment began with the timeout right before the game-winning kick. UL curiously called a timeout as Snyder was lining up for the 53-yarder the first time.
No, the staff wasn’t trying to ice its own kicker. The play clock was running down and several of Napier’s heads-up assistants called for the timeout. Napier admitted he had just taken his head set off for the game’s final two seconds.
“It was almost a 58-yard field goal,” Napier said.
Just add that to a long line of crazy plays and situations that led to that final moment of Cajuns' jubilation.
Working our way back, on the play before the field goal, Lewis had room to scramble to make the field goal shorter and passed up that opportunity to throw it into the end zone.
Snyder admitted in the postgame interview that much of his trouble has been “aiming” his field goal tries, instead of just plowing into the ball. Having to unload on the ball helped his accuracy.
What if the attempt was 40 yards instead of 53?
Moments before that, it appeared UL defensive end Zi’Yon Hill had Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts in trouble in the backfield when the Eagles went for the two points after scoring a touchdown with 54 seconds to play.
Instead, Werts escaped to convert make the pass and gain the 18-17 lead.
On the Eagles’ previous possession, it appeared Werts had connected with freshman tight end Beau Johnson on a potential game-tying touchdown catch.
Only, with Percy Butler on his hip, Johnson fumbled the ball at the 2 before lunging into the end zone for a touchback.
What if that touchdown had happened? Would the Eagles have gone for two with 2:48 left as well?
On UL’s two possessions before the game-winner, they played conservative and punted twice. On the second third-down play, though, Lewis threw an incomplete pass to stop the clock with 1:34 left. If they had run it again, would the Cajuns have had enough time to launch a comeback?
Backup kicker Kenny Almendares was one of the reserves not available for Saturday’s game. One has to wonder if Snyder would have even been the kicker of choice for the 53-yarder after his poor start to the season had Almendares been available.
So many potential outcomes had to be going through Napier’s head throughout the course of this bizarre contest.
No, we won’t go through the entire game like this. The point is there were so many strange scenarios in this game.
In the entire first half, the two offenses marched up and down the field, only to come up with no points most of the time. Frankly, neither defense deserved a 0-0 score after the first quarter or 7-7 at the half.
But the Cajuns turned it over on downs at the Eagles’ 15 and missed a 34-yard field goal.
“I know Nate has had an up-and-down couple games here with us and certainly missed one today,” Napier said. “But you’ve got to him a lot of credit to have the mental toughness to overcome obstacles and go out there and execute for his team and be ready to do his job when it mattered the most. What an unbelievable kick.”
Meanwhile, Georgia Southern turned it over on downs at the UL 6 and wasted a 13-play drive right before intermission.
“I think our defense did a really good job of making critical stops when it mattered the most,” Napier said. “Certainly you don’t like the last possession there with the touchdown and the two-point conversion, but in general, throughout the day — to have a fourth-down stand early and to get a number of third and fourth-down stops throughout the day.”
Both teams were playing without a full roster. Georgia Southern listed eight inactives. The Cajuns played without eight starters and several key reserves.
No one knows what would have happened if there was no such thing as COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
We all know, however, what would have happened if the fans’ confidence in Snyder before the final kick would have determined the game’s outcome.