LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- There would be enough pressure on young, walk-on placekicker Ryan Chalifoux under any circumstances. But several factors put the redshirt Louisville sophomore in an even more stressful situation for the Cardinals' game against Miami Saturday afternoon.
For starters, he is replacing an elite kicker, Blanton Creque, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against Virginia in the Cardinals' last outing on Oct. 26, ending his stellar collegiate career.
One of the top kickers in school history, all Creque did for UofL in his nearly four seasons was produce a school record success rate of 82.3% on field goals while making 51, which ranks third all-time in the program.
Chalifoux won't have the luxury of a friendly crowd on his side, either. He'll be kicking in enemy territory, in front of about 45,000 Miami fans in Hard Rock Stadium.
As if that weren't enough, there's this: Given the way UofL's season has unfolded, there is a very real possibility that a Chalifoux field goal make or miss could be decisive against the host Hurricanes. That's because two of the three victories by the Cards in ACC games have been decided by a total of five points and the other also came down to the final possession.
Creque was the hero in a 41-39 win over Boston College with a 41-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining. And UofL edged Wake Forest 62-59 with the help of two Creque field goals and eight extra points.
Chalifoux hasn't been made available for interviews this week, but UofL coach Scott Satterfield says he has faith in the Champaign, Ill., native and won't be hesitant to use him, even for long field goals if necessary. Satterfield tabbed Chalifoux's range at up to 50 yards. (Creque's career long was 48 yards). Satterfield also said Chalifoux has kicked well in practice since Creque went down, but acknowledged that there's no way to tell how he will perform under game conditions.
"It's obviously different in practice than when you get into a game," Satterfield said. "When it's time to play, with the lights on, we will see how he performs. But he has done well and we have all the confidence in the world in him. He feels good about his ability.
"So much of kicking is mental. I think as long as he has the confidence to know he can knock them down, he'll be okay. He's very solid. He's made a bunch of his kicks in practice. He's prepared for this opportunity and I think he will have a good month of November for us."
Although Chalifoux kicked the final extra point in UofL's 28-21 win over Virginia, the Miami game can be considered his UofL debut for all intents and purposes.
In high school at Champaign Central, Chalifoux was a three-sport athlete. He played soccer in the fall and kicked for the football team, then ran track in the spring.
His prep coach, Tim Turner, nicknamed him "Chalifoot." Turner told the Courier-Journal that Chalifoux had a strong enough leg to boot the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs for Central and believes he will be reliable on field goals for Louisville.
Chalifoux won't have to worry about kickoffs because Satterfield said he plans to use freshman James Turner from Saline, Mich. for that duty.
Chalifoux originally intended to play soccer in college instead of football, but changed his mind as a senior, applied to UofL and walked on when Bobby Petrino was the head coach.
Now, after being mentored by Creque for nearly two years, Chalifoux is finally getting a chance to showcase his ability. . .and possibly earn a scholarship down the road.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.