Louie Zervos can only control Ohio's field goal production. And through three games, he's kicked more field goals than anyone in the country.
But there is a problem: Ohio doesn't want to kick field goals.
It is nothing personal against Zervos, coach Frank Solich just wants to score more points. And for every field goal Zervos has kicked — he is 13-of-14 through three games — those three points could have been replaced by touchdowns.
“You don’t want to kick field goals,” Solich said Saturday, after Zervos made four first-half attempts at No. 15 Tennessee. “I don’t think there’s anybody in the business that wants to kick field goals.”
The problem for Solich, though, is that his team keeps lining up for field goals. A lot.
For as efficient as the Bobcats have been offensively — they’re averaging more than 481 total yards per game — they’ve struggled to find the endzone. Thus, Zervos is called upon.
With 14 attempts in three games, Ohio has already attempted as many field goals as it had through 11 games last season.
In the first three games last year, Ohio had only three attempts.
“On a kicker’s part, it’s great that I’m hitting field goals and making them,” Zervos said in practice last week. “From the team, yeah, we want to punch those in the endzone.”
But even if Ohio has failed to do so this point, Zervos’ production recently has been more frequent than the best kickers in college football. That level of success is surprising, especially for a redshirt freshman.
After kicking for Tarpon Springs High School in Tarpon Springs, Florida, Zervos was named the ninth best kicker in the country by ESPN in 2014.
Deciding to graduate high school a semester early, Zervos enrolled at Ohio University during the spring semester at 17 years old.
“That’s a big stage jumping straight from high school,” Zervos, now 19, said. “You’ve just got to stay humbled and do what you’ve been doing and stay focused.”
Staying focused meant staying off the field last season. In 2015, Josiah Yazdani was Ohio’s kicker for his third and final season, and Zervos became his shadow.
Despite not playing, he went with Michael Farkas, a redshirt freshman punter, on road games and practiced in pre-game as if he was going to kick.
“They went through the game mentally,” special teams coordinator Brian Haines said. “They’re freshman on the field but they’re not. …This is nothing new.”
Zervos looks and plays confidently. Other than the missed field goal against Texas State in the season opener, he has kicks like clockwork.
The only Zervos miss was a 41-yard kick. His longest kick so far is 46 yards, but he has made a 65 yard kick in practice without pads.
“He’s got a personality that lets him be himself,” Haines said. “Really, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
For Solich and Ohio, at least, hopefully Zervos’ playing time drops down primarily to extra points and kickoffs. But if not, the Bobcats have found a dependable scoring option in his first three games of his college career.
“We’re scoring points,” Haines said. “Louie can’t control if it’s a touchdown or a field goal attempt. All he can control is when he’s called on to make a field goal and he’s done a good job at that.”