Is cade York set to be the Tigers hero in Tuscaloosa?
On Saturday night in Tuscaloosa it’s likely that one half of the SEC Championship Game will be decided. It’s not set in stone, of course, but the winner of LSU and Alabama will be the firm favourite to win the west. It’s the game of the year. A shootout between Heisman hopefuls Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. However, an unlikely hero could be lurking outside the Louisiana limelight in LSU kicker, Cade York.
It may seem ludicrous to suggest that a game containing such offensive mastery as Burrow, Tagovailoa, and the quintet of Alabama receivers, could come down to a freshman kicker out of McKinney, Texas.
Cade York is no ordinary freshman kicker
He was one of the nation’s top kicking prospects coming out of high school. He was a 3* recruit, and ranked 2nd in the nation by ESPN.
His star continued to shine in the 2019 Under Armour All American game where he nailed a 59 yard field goal, breaking the field goal record for the game.
York came to an LSU team this spring that was having a resurgence in the kicking department. In 2017, their special teams unit had ranked 38th in the nation in Football Outsiders special teams efficiency.
After being historically bad for a number of years, Cole Tracy had turned the program around. The transfer from Assumption College had become a cult hero after kicking a field goal winner against Auburn in 2018. By the end of 2018, the special teams unit had moved up to 2nd in special teams efficiency.
However, Tracy would leave at the end of 2018. Someone would have to replace his high standard.
Replacing Cole Tracy
That would be Cade York.
The freshman came in to the 2019 campaign with a resounding endorsement from his predecessor. Cole Tracy told journalists prior to the season:
“I love him. I think he’s going to be excellent for LSU. He’s going to bring a lot of leg strength and consistency, and I think he’s going to score a lot of points for LSU.”
Tigers head coach, Ed Orgeron seemed to concur and even went as far as to compare the two, whilst remaining cautiously optimistic:
“Cole had that magic about him. I think Cade will too. Cade is a more polished kicker at a younger age, but obviously he has to prove it in front of the crowd.”
When the crowd came, York proceeded to prove it. On opening day in Death Valley, York nailed all seven of his extra points and added field goals of 39 yards and 48 yards.
In doing so he became the first ever freshman kicker in LSU history to make a field goal during a season opener.
Triumphant in Texas
However, it was his performance in Week 2 that saw his profile rise.
In an early must win game for LSU, York was magnificent. In the heart of Texas, he twice gave LSU the lead. He went 3 of 3 for field goals (36, 33, 40) and once again was 100% on PAT completion.
It was enough to draw effusive praise from the voice of kickers around the nation, Pat McAfee.
“This LSU kicker is a stud” tweeted out the former Indianapolis Colts punter.
It also earned him SEC Special Teams player of the week honours.
York continued apace through the next two games. In easy wins over Northwestern State and Vanderbilt he contributed 2 more field goals, whilst notching 17 successful PATs.
A kick to Cade's confidence?
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the kid from Texas.
York missed a 53 yard field goal attempt in the in over Utah State, then followed up with another missed field goal in a big game against Florida.
Although he went 3 for 3 on field goals against Mississippi State, he added a missed PAT in the 36-13 win.
There have been whispers about Cade’s confidence, and even the confidence that the program has in him following these missed kicks.
It would be easy to be unsettled.
However, York showed his composure in the big game against Auburn last time out. He put a 20 yard field goal through the uprights late in the 2nd quarter to draw LSU level before the half. A miss could have seen a very different outcome.
Cade York: Freshman frontrunner
Despite the misses York still figures in the Top 25 college kickers for field goal percentage. There are only 4 freshman kickers with a better percentage than him, and they have all missed two as well.
The only freshman kicker to have missed less is Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic who is 100% on the season.
His record is better than more established kickers such as Andre Szmyt of Sryacuse or Texas kicker, Cameron Dicker.
In short, Cade York can get the job done.
Kicking LSU to glory
He may need to on Saturday night.
Eleven of the games between Alabama and LSU have been decided by a margin of a field goal or less, not including tie games.
Alabama hold an overwhelming advantage, 53-25-5, over the Tigers.
The Crimson Tide have rolled over LSU in the last 8 matchups stretching back to 2012.
LSU have perhaps their best ever chance of clinching a victory since 2011.
Their last win was a tight fought, 9-6, overtime victory in Tuscaloosa. The hero on that day was kicker Drew Alleman, who kicked 3 field goals, including a 25 yarder for the win.
In an interview in 2015, Alleman stated he still gets calls and interviews in the run up to the Alabama and LSU game.
If LSU, and Cade York, have their way, then this might be the last year that Alleman gets those calls.
Louisiana will have a new kicking hero.
Feature Image Credit: The Livingston Parish News
College Football Writer
Oliver Hodgkinson is a college football writer for The Touchdown. He also writes on the NFL for the Pro Football Network. You can hear his opinions on all things college football as one third of the college chaps podcast.