Kicker has had his problems, but came up big against Trojans

A guy who for a time in August struggled kicking in front of a few hundred loyal fans casually watching a practice suddenly had no trouble making the biggest kick for the Huskies in years.

“It was basically a [point after touchdown],” said Erik Folk of the 22-yard field goal he kicked with three seconds remaining to lift Washington to a mammoth 16-13 upset of No. 3 USC on Saturday in front of a delirious 61,889. “I just went out there and imagined it was practice and just kicked it.”

It capped off an almost perfect day for Folk, who was 3 for 3 on field goals — making a career-long 46-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter to put UW ahead 13-10 — and also got better depth on his kickoffs.

And it punctuated a turnaround from the middle of fall camp when Folk admitted he was struggling with his confidence. As the only scholarship kicker on the roster, the sophomore from Woodland Hills, Calif., was never really in danger of losing his job. But some erratic days left lots of cause for worry.

“It was getting to my head a lot during camp, thinking about the kicks,” he said. “I stopped thinking about it, and now I’m just going out there and kicking it, and it’s helping a lot.”

He also said he made some technical adjustments, notably keeping his eyes back and not lifting to look to see where the ball was headed.

“I changed a couple of things technique-wise that really helped me,” he said.

In fact, Folk has been solid during games, making 6 of 7 field goals and all nine of his PATs.

“I think he’s just staying consistent,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian. “No kick has to be bigger than another one. That’s why we practice the way we practice. Why we try to put as much pressure as we can in practice to get him confident in the setting. He was great today for us.”

Folk was bothered by injuries his first two years at UW and unable to compete for the job, and said even into camp some of the aches sometimes lingered.

But he felt no pain Saturday in the celebration of the biggest kick for the Huskies since John Anderson kicked three overtime field goals to beat Washington State in 2002 — the last time UW beat a team ranked as high as No. 3 in the country (WSU was No. 3).

And Folk had never had a game-winner before at any level. He said the closest was a kick he made with about five minutes left in a high-school game that his team won by three.

As he watched the final drive, Folk said he knew it might come down to him.

“I would have rather had seven instead of three,” he said. “But I mean, once I saw they were letting the clock run down, I knew it was time for me to go do my stuff.”