By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- With 0:07 left in regulation and the score tied at 28, Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro stepped onto the field in front of a hushed Clemson crowd preparing to kick the winning field goal from 42 yards out. Catanzaro had yet to prove himself in his career that he could come through in clutch situations; however Saturday was a different story. As soon as Catanzaro’s foot connected with the ball, Tiger Nation erupted knowing that he had won the game for the Tigers, giving them the Atlantic Division Title.
“I’m really excited right now,” Catanzaro said after the game. “I’m just so blessed for the opportunity. I thank the offense and defense, Dawson Zimmerman and Michael Sobeski; I just couldn’t be more proud right now of myself and the team.”
Before the kick, Wake Forest took two timeouts trying to ice Catanzaro and get him psyched out. It didn’t work however, because Catanzaro had prepared for a situation like this during the off season.
“I just took a couple of deep breaths, took a couple of dry swings, looked at my target and visualized my kick,” Catanzaro said. “The feeling was unbelievable, being able to win the division for my team, I think I said it all off season, I had a lot of doubters but I had a strong belief in myself, and so did my teammates and coaches. Last season was a learning experience for me, I faced a lot of adversity but I rose above it. I got stronger and worked my butt off during the off season so that I could have an opportunity like this again.”
Catanzaro missed a 30 yard field goal earlier in the game and he knew right when his foot hit the ball that it wouldn’t be good.
“Yeah I was very disappointed in myself in that one,” Catanzaro said. “But I thank the whole team for giving me the opportunity to go back out there and kick for the win. I’m so glad I nailed that. I knew when my foot hit the ball on the second kick that it was the best kick of my career.”
What did Coach Swinney tell Catanzaro during the two timeouts?
“He just told me that he believes in me,” Catanzaro said. “He said that the whole team believes in me, said even if I miss it we’ve got overtime. But I knew in my mind that I was going to end it right there for my team, I didn’t want it to have to go to overtime. I’m just so blessed right now.”
After the winning kick, Catanzaro got swallowed up by fans and teammates in celebration.
“I think someone actually grabbed my neck, I was chocking a little bit,” Catanzaro said. “But it was a surreal feeling, such a blessing. I just thank my teammates so much for their love and support and for always believing in me.”
Catanzaro’s mother was also at the game tonight and Chandler believes that she was probably the most nervous person when he was about to kick the last field goal.
“I feel bad for them, my mom and dad I’m so happy I could do this for them,” Catanzaro said. “She was definitely nervous; my family has always been there for me though I’m so blessed to have all that support.”
Tonight’s kick was the first game winning field goal that Catanzaro has made in his career, and he hopes it’s not the last one.
“The game ball tonight went to Chandler Catanzaro,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said after the game. “Before he made that kick I had a lot of time to talk to him with those time outs and I told him, Cat look we’re going to win this game whether it’s in overtime or with this kick, I’m still going to love you whatever happens, but told him he did have permission to make that kick right now. I’m very proud of him and how he was able to win it for us like that.”