By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – In Derek DePasquale’s perfect little world, he has his red-tinted contact lenses, a Tom Selleck mustache, and neon green shoes.
Unfortunately for DePasquale, Nike no longer makes his preferred contacts, and his mother isn’t too fond of the mustache. Not that he really needs them for the job he does – well, except maybe the shoes, and he’s got those.
Mississippi State’s 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior placekicker is easy to spot in those bright green cleats, which he began wearing this season. No special reason.
“I like those shoes,” DePasquale said. “They’re comfortable.”
For a man who uses his feet so often, comfort is important. Regardless of shoe color, DePasquale has continued to be one of MSU’s most consistent producers. He’s made eight of nine field goal attempts this season, making him 28 of 33 for his career.
At 84.9 percent, DePasquale is the most accurate kicker in school history. He’s not missed a beat despite having a new snapper (Reed Gordon) and new holder (Baker Swedenburg) this season.
The group was having trouble during the preseason getting in sync, but all is well now.
“It’s a lot more comfortable than I thought it would be,” DePasquale said.
‘Gotta be the shoes’
In a season that’s threatening to go sideways, the kicking game is one area coach Dan Mullen doesn’t have to worry too much about.
“He’s done a good job this year, and I’m sure he’ll tell you how good he’s doing, too. Derek is a confident guy,” Mullen said.
Mullen, who coaches special teams, then couldn’t help but tease DePasquale a little bit.
“It’s gotta be the shoes. Stopped making his red contacts, used to come out with these red contacts and he’d have bright red eyes and stuff. Or maybe it’s that big ‘stache he wears sometimes. It could be any number of those things that keep him in his groove.”
Perhaps aiding DePasquale’s accuracy this season is the fact that, to use his words, he’s not been “challenged.” Six of his eight field goal makes are from 36 yards in, and he has a pair of 42-yarders. His lone miss was from 47.
“Just basic kicks,” he said.
DePasquale was 20 of 24 through his first two seasons at State, and he tied a school record with five in one game last season, helping the Bulldogs to a 29-24 win over UAB. MSU faces the Blazers again on Saturday in Birmingham.
DePasquale said he’s thought of last year’s meeting quite a bit.
“I really wouldn’t like that again,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind it, but I hope we can really put it on them this year.”
This will be the second of three consecutive day games for MSU, which makes it tough for DePasquale. The contacts helped against the sun, although he never actually wore them during a game.
Last year, however, most of MSU’s games were at night.
“These pretty blue eyes are sensitive to light,” DePasquale said, noting that he’d love to wear a visor on the field, but Mullen might not go for that (nor would the SEC).
As for the mustache, DePasquale said “it’s in the vault.” Perhaps he’s saving it for the day he needs an extra edge.
For now, the shoes will suffice.