During this past week, kicker Evan Price understood his number was going to be called.
Yet preparing for his first spotlight moment of the season and getting the job done when it happens often are two entirely different matters. Yet Price made his pinch-kicking role a memorable and roundly successful one on Saturday, as the third of his three field goals lifted Colorado to a 16-13 win at the buzzer against Stanford.
Filling in for the injured James Stefanou, Price went 3-for-3 on field goals and drilled a 37-yarder, his longest of the bunch, on the game’s final play to end CU’s five-game losing streak. The boot also ended an eight-game losing streak for CU in November dating back to 2017.
“That was my first game-winner,” Price said. “I just went out there and wanted to pretend it was just a practice kick, just do what I normally do — trust my holder, trust the snapper, trust the line and everything just went right.
Stefanou had been struggling with a hip injury lately, a nagging problem that culminated last week when he missed badly on a 27-yard attempt at UCLA.
Price substituted for Stefanou on the Buffs’ final PAT attempt at UCLA, but Saturday marked the first time since a two-game stretch last season that Price served as CU’s primary kicker. The Evergreen native didn’t buckle in the spotlight and even survived a sketchy snap on his first field goal attempt when he drilled a 34-yarder with 32 seconds left in the first half, giving the Buffs a 10-6 lead at the break.
Price’s final two field goals certainly qualified as clutch, as his 23-yarder with 7 minutes, 34 seconds remaining pulled CU into a 13-13 tie.
“As a kicker, you’ve just got to be ready because you never know when some something’s going to happen; injuries, missed kicks, whatever it may be,” Price said. “You’ve just got to be ready, whether you’re second string, third string, it doesn’t matter because you never know when you’re going to go in.
“The beginning of the week our starter James, he was having some injury problems and we were figuring out during the week whether he was going to play or not. And then we found out by I think Thursday that I was going to be starting and then I just tried to treat it like a normal game whether I was playing or not. Just didn’t want to overthink anything.”
As for Stefanou, the Buffs’ primary kicker since 2017, his status remains uncertain going forward, though the Buffs will have a bye week before completing the season against Washington and Utah. The native Australian dressed Saturday, and head coach Mel Tucker said he was available in an emergency setting.
“James has a hip, he’s banged up and he was available for maybe some shorter deals, but we have confidence in Evan,” Tucker said. “Anyone that we put on the field, we have confidence that they can get the job done and it’s been like that the entire season. Not necessarily in the kicking game, but on offense and defense we’ve had the next man has had to step up and get the job done. We have a tremendous amount of faith in our players, in our preparation, that when they’re called upon they can step up and make plays for us.”