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Rogers, a different player

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Admit it: after junior place-kicker Jake Rogers missed an easy 31-yard field goal against Oregon State that would have given the Bearcats a 13-point lead late in the fourth quarter, you had to wonder.

 

How will Rogers respond to an error like that? Will he go in the tank? Will he recover and continue to play to a high standard? What will happen next?

 

The past two years, Rogers had proven that when, after missing an extra point attempt or a short field goal, he allowed that miscue to play mind games with him. He let the doubts creep into his brain and into his leg. He had a hard time forgetting the mistake.

 

This year, through, has been different. He missed the short field goal against Oregon State, but the next week against Fresno State, he averaged 44.7 yards on three punts. He missed an extra point vs. Miami, but he nailed a 42-yarder later in the game and punted three times for 46.7 yards.

 

He's not letting the mistakes affect his psyche any more, and to a Bearcats squad that has watched him struggle with his emotions during his freshman and sophomore seasons - and a team that will need to count on him to help defend the Big East title - that must be a relief.

 

"After the Oregon State game, I was pretty upset with myself because it was a missed field goal I felt like I should have made," Rogers said. "I hold myself to a high standard. I want to perform well, and I don't like letting the team down."

 

Yet, he's also learned to relax.

 

"As the Miami game goes, definitely," he said. "The first kick, I missed the PAT. But you're only as good as your next kick, and that's the mindset I had. I came out for the kickoff and hit it well. I had a 42-yard field goal, and I ended up punting well as well. That's the mindset you have to have."

 

To me, Rogers carries himself a little differently this year. It's hard to describe exactly what that means. But Tuesday was the first time I've interviewed him this season, and he just seemed ... I don't know ... a little different. Maybe a little more sure of himself.

 

"I roomed with Jake his true freshman year, and I've seen the same changes," senior center Chris Jurek said. "With Kevin Huber doing so well, Kevin took him under his wing and taught him some of the ropes and how he should carry himself. Jake has matured as a player and as a person."

 

All while taking over more responsibilities for the Bearcats. Namely, he's won the punting job, as well, and he's performed well. He's averaging 41.3 yards per kick, and he's dropped five punts inside the 20-yard line (against only one touchback). Before this season, Rogers had never punted in a game before, but he's taken to it surprisingly well.

 

"It's technique," Rogers said. "All summer long, I worked with my kicking coach and worked with (backup punter Michael) Cooke and (long snapper) Mike Windt probably three or four times a week. We all knew there was a huge hole there without Huber, and we needed to bound in and buck up. I feel comfortable out there. It doesn't feel foreign to me anymore. That's another thing to add - kickoff, punt, and field goal. I feel great doing them all."

 

And honestly, he just looks like a different player.

 

"The way I've carried myself this season as opposed to the last two seasons, I know I'm here for a reason," he said. "There's no point in being nervous anymore. You're out there to kick field goals and you're out there to make them. Everyone misses one. Even the pros miss. Nobody is perfect. That's the mindset you have to have."

 

--Demetrius Jones sat out much of Tuesday's practice with a huge ice pack on his lower left leg, and Brian Kelly said he's going to be limited for practice this week and the Louisville game on Saturday.

 

Jones - who didn't practice at all last week and sat out the South Florida game - has an inflamed tendon/nerve in his lower leg. Jones has taken a steroid shot, but for now, it's still too sore for him to get much time on the field.

 

"It's just cranky," Kelly said. "He's better. He can probably play a little bit. This week, he's practicing a little bit, and I think he'll get in some emergency work. But it's been tough on him. We're OK now because we've got Curtis Young back. It gives us the flexibility. We're OK, but I'd like to get him back. He helps us, because he's a more athletic kid."

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