Indiana vs. Maryland
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM
BLOOMINGTON – For redshirt junior kicker Logan Justus, kicking is a simple process – ball, foot, uprights.
Thus, when he trotted out for his first career kick, a 36-yarder with just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter at Florida International, the butterflies held at bay.
“I was waiting for that kick for probably three days to happen,” Justus quipped. “I was ready.”
Justus has been a picture of efficiency in 2018. Through nine games, he's made 11 of 13 attempts and notched 23 of 24 extra point tries. Justus has also been named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award honoring college football's top placekicker.
“You can't really think about it a lot,” Justus said of how he maintains his focus. “The more you think, you could overthink.”
Justus boasts a reserved but confident personality. His words are short and slight – never one to ramble. His beady eyes are laser focused, piercing and sharp.
Despite not attempting any game-winning kicks this season, he's endeared himself to the pressure-packed moments.
“I like being in pressure situations like that because I know I'm able to stay calm and relaxed 'cause you just have to see it as another kick,” Justus said.
Entering the year, the kicking position appeared destined for a drastic decline. With the departure of two-time Big Ten Kicker of the Year Griffin Oakes, Justus competed with prep phenom Charles Campbell and Rutgers transfer Jared Smolar for the starting spot.
Campbell positioned himself as the front-runner throughout the offseason, and given his U.S. Army All-American pedigree this was no surprise. But when decision time arrived, IU head coach Tom Allen sided with experience over his flashy new toy.
“Went down with the older, mature guy,” Allen said at the time. “Just the way we charted everything, I feel like he's earned the right to be the starting field goal kicker going into Week 1.”
It's also worth noting how Justus' familiarity with redshirt sophomore holder Drew Conrad has expedited his comfort as the No. 1 guy. Conrad, a former walk-on, has served as IU's backup punter since last fall. In 2017 he held for every extra point and field goal attempt.
“He helps a lot,” Justus said. “He still helps. In games he'll always make sure I'm relaxed and staying smooth.”
Thus far, Justus has topped out at 44 yards – a half-ending kick against Rutgers in Week 5. But don't let the numbers fool you, the bluntly confident, one-time walk-on is more than capable of stretching his boundaries.
“I'd say most games I feel comfortable in the 55-yard range,” Justus said. “And if necessary we can move back.”
The Hoosiers need two wins in their final three games to reach bowl eligibility. Saturday's date with Maryland is step one. Michigan and Purdue follow.
If called upon against the Terrapins, Justus will be ready – just as he was for his first career boot against FIU.