RALEIGH Nik Sade cradled the game ball in his right arm after his right leg delivered N.C. State a 23-21 win over Richmond on Sept. 7.
It was a pure moment of elation for the junior kicker from Raleigh, via Germany. It was also a moment borne from Sade’s disappointment with himself for his performance during the 2012 season.
Even a 7-for-7 start on field goals this season, including the game-winner from 48 yards to beat the Spiders, can’t knock the chip off of Sade’s shoulder as the Wolfpack prepares to face No. 3 Clemson on Thursday at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“Last season for me was embarrassing,” Sade said. “It was a terrible season. I left too many points off the scoreboard.”
Sade (pronounced SAY-dee), who is big by kicker standards at 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, finished his sophomore season 56.5 percent (13 of 23) on field goals, a regression from the 68.8 percent (11 of 16) he made as a freshman in 2011.
Sade was particularly peeved at his percentage (45 percent, 8 of 18) on kicks longer than 30 yards last season.
“I want to be the best,” Sade said. “Coming out of high school, I felt like I was one of the best kickers in the country.
“I was decent as a freshman but I missed too many makeable kicks last season. To me, that percentage was way below my standards.”
Sade grew up in Dusseldorf before his father, Ron, moved the family to Raleigh in 2002. He played soccer growing up in Germany but switched to football in high school at Wakefield.
Since his sophomore year at Wakefield, he has been training with Dan Orner, a former kicker for North Carolina, out of Charlotte.
Orner has helped Sade refine his technique, while a new stretching regimen implemented by new coach Dave Doeren has helped Sade with his flexibility.
Doeren also hired a sports psychologist to work specifically with the special teams kickers. Doeren said Sade and the kickers take time each practice to work on the mental approach to the game. He thinks it has helped Sade improve.
“It’s a time mentally where they can shut their eyes and think about what’s coming that day and focus,” Doeren said.
Sade can be his own worst critic. He did make big kicks last season, including a career-best 50-yarder to tie the game in the fourth quarter at Miami and a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter at Maryland, which proved to be the game-winner.
After Sade was 4 for 4 in the season-opening win against Louisiana Tech, Doeren’s confidence in the kicker only grew.
Down 21-20 against Richmond in the final minute, Doeren had no qualms about playing for a field goal and turning the game over to Sade.
“I knew that he could do it,” Doeren said. “I think that kick would have been good from probably 55 (yards).”
Other than a slew of about 500 new followers on Twitter (@SuperSade32), Sade said his life hasn’t changed much since his clutch kick against Richmond.
Sade’s goal is to make 20 field goals this season, which seems in range after only two games, he also wants to make as many kicks from 40 yards and longer as possible — he already has five. He said there’s no worry about him getting complacent about his fast start.
“It’s like Dan (Orner) always says, you’re only as good as your next kick,” Sade said.
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