By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Devon Bell is finally putting it together.
His technique is sharp, his nerves are calmed, and he’s looking like the kicker Mississippi State recruited out of Warren Central High School in Vicksburg. After missing his first three field goal attempts this season, the freshman has made four in a row, including three in Saturday’s 30-10 win over South Alabama.
Bell hit a pair of 42-yarders in the second quarter and added a 31-yarder in the fourth.
“I’ve said from the beginning, all of his misses were little easy misses,” head coach Dan Mullen said. “It wasn’t like he shanked one into the student body. … You can see tonight, his kicks were pretty solid all night long.”
Bell started feeling better about things the previous week, when he nailed a 37-yard field goal at Troy. He also missed a point-after kick that game, but he was good on those Saturday.
“PATs and kickoffs there wasn’t much nerves going on right there,” Bell said. “But when I actually had to go out there and put three points on the board, it’s like, all right, it’s time to go now. Tonight (I was) a lot more relaxed and ready to go.”
Better technique is one thing, but the calmer nerves have also helped Bell settle in. All three of his field goals Saturday were good with plenty of room to spare.
“When I hit a good ball, it’s a good ball,” he said. “But when I start thinking about it too much, that’s where you mess up, and that’s where it goes wrong with a lot of people.”
Mullen has been working with several kickers this season, including Brian Egan and Charlie Grandfield. But he’s been patient with Bell, who was named a first-team All-American by Sports Illustrated last season.
“He’s told me after every single kick, ‘I know you can make that,’” Bell said. “In practice I make them all the time. He knew that a true freshman coming in kicking, I’m going to struggle a little bit, but now I’m good.”