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Football: Artigue overcomes trying times with a smooth swing

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Dec. 11, 2016

It was 2011, and all was on the line for the UL football team.

The Ragin’ Cajuns were playing their first postseason game in what seemed like forever, and time was about to expire as kicker Brett Baer lined up from 50 yards out – up from 55 after an illegal stemming penalty – for a field goal to perhaps beat San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl at the Superdome.

To that point, Stevie Artigue – a Lafayette High freshman at the time – had not seen a second of what led up to what’s become a memorable moment in Cajun lore.

As best he can recall, Artigue was probably working out instead.

Go figure.

But he picked a fortuitous time to wander toward a television.

“I was walking into the living room,” Artigue said, “and my mom (Carlyn) was like, ‘UL’s about to kick a field goal to maybe win it.’

“That’s the only part of the game I saw.”

On Saturday night, Artigue could very well find himself in the same position as Baer – who nailed the 50-yarder, then ran wild – was against the Aztecs in the first of what wound up to be four straight New Orleans Bowl wins for the Cajuns.

Now a sophomore in his second season as UL’s starting kicker, he hit 3-of-3 field goals and was 3-of-3 on extra points in a 30-3 win at UL Monroe back on Dec. 3 that made the 6-6 Cajuns bowl-eligible for the fifth time in six seasons.

When UL faces 6-6 Southern Mississippi on Saturday night at the Superdome, it could very be him whom teammates are chasing at the end.

But it hasn’t been without some trying times Artigue had to face, and ultimately overcome, that he’ll trot out with confidence should the circumstance present itself against the Golden Eagles.

After a Sept. 17 win over South Alabama in which Artigue missed two PATs and 1-of-2 field goals, Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth brought up the necessity to “clean that up.”

Artigue bounced back to hit 4-of-4 field goals and both of his PATs in a quadruple-overtime loss at Tulane.

One week later, he hit his first three field goals in a double-overtime loss at New Mexico State – but missed from 22 yards after hitting the left upright in the second session of OT.

UL’s next outing was a shutout loss to Appalachian State in which Artigue missed from 49 and 40 yards in the second quarter, and it wasn’t long after that one that Hudspeth again was talking about his kicker.

Since, then, however, Artigue has been money – going 9-on-9 on field goals, including the three at ULM, and converting all of his PATs to make him 26-of-28 on the year.

“He’s done an incredible job of rebounding, and really had a strong second half of the season,” Hudspeth said. “I’ve just been really proud of him.”

How Artigue he do it?

“I just stayed focused and stayed working hard,” he said, “and pushed through it to start kicking good again.”

Artigue said his adjustments were “mainly mental,” and that he “changed my whole outlook on kicking.”

“I was just trying to kick it too hard,” he said, “and now I tell myself to ‘stay chilled’ before I kick.

“I’m just really relaxed, and hope to follow through to where I get good power and height and accuracy and better consistency overall.”

In golf-analogy terms, Artigue simply stopped trying to kill the ball.

“He’s got a very strong leg, and he’s an aggressive guy,” said Hudspeth, who doubles as UL’s special-teams coach. “He loves the weight room. Loves to train. He’s probably one of the strongest kickers in the country.

“But I think once he realized it didn’t matter how far past the goal it went – it only mattered if it went through – it sort of helped him.

“He stopped striking it quite as hard, and he’s just kept a smooth swing,” Hudspeth said. “We like keeping the same swing from 42 yards and in.”

It’s fine to add a little extra oomph when the attempt is from 43 yards or farther.

But inside of 43, and for all PATs, Hudspeth wants Artigue to loosen his grip on the club, so to speak.

“Coach Hud,” UL snapper Stephen Morella said, “kind instilled that into him about not trying to kill it.”

“That’s really helped him in his approach and his accuracy,” Hudspeth added. “He’s just been spot-on.”

There was more than all that, however, that Artigue had to figure out.

He also needed to come up with a way to tune out the loud outside noise, including calls from some for a change in kickers.

Hudspeth, in fact, brought out Artigue’s backup, Dylan Scheurich, for one key PAT against South Alabama.

He ultimately stuck with Artigue.

For a while right around mid-season and mid-October, though, times really were tough.

“The spotlight is always on the kicker as far as media and social media,” said Morella, a senior who also is a Lafayette High product. When they’re not doing good, it’s like everybody just hates him.

“(Artigue) is young. Having that kind of negative attention, I’m sure it does get to you. But I think he’s handled it very well.”

As it turns out, doing so was not nearly as difficult as one might suspect.

Artigue studied video of his own kicks. He watched NFL kickers on YouTube. And for a  while he even enacted a self-imposed social media ban, just to mute the naysayers.

“I didn’t really listen to anyone,” Artigue said. “I just listened to myself, and focused on how to get better.”

Morella, meanwhile, stayed in his kicker’s ear, especially during one game at Cajun Field – he doesn’t remember precisely which – in which the opponent tried to ice Artigue before a field goal attempt.

“While we were waiting,” Morella said, “I was just like, ‘Look, whatever, it don’t matter.’ I was like, ‘If you make it, you make it. If not, you ain’t got nothing to lose.’ ”

Yet Morella knows full well it does matter, and that from games to jobs much is at stake.

“But I just tried to get him more relaxed, not so uptight about it,” he said.

“I think he tried to keep that mindset of ‘I’m gonna go out there and do my best, and whatever happens happens. It is what it is.’ ”

Whatever it was, it worked.

By the time December and the ULM game rolled around, with UL having to beat with its in-state rival in order to avoid a losing season for certain and get back to New Orleans once again, Artigue was quite sure he could get done what he did.

But he had help, including that from a holder – starting punter Steven Coutts, who took over after Sterling Miller was suspended prior to a Nov. 19 loss at Georgia – who was rather new on the job.

“Coutts held the ball really well; Morella had good snaps for every snap,” Artigue said.

Morella called the effort “awesome,” especially in “a win of that magnitude.”

Artigue, however, had a little trouble absorbing the meaning of it all.

“It was too cold to think about it. … I was just trying to do my job,” he said of a game played in a driving rainstorm.

Now, come Saturday at the Superdome, Artigue is likely to get another shot at doing that job.

Whether or not it’s as dramatic as Baer’s in 2011 remains to be seen.

Imaging anything even close to that seems like a stretch. Which is fine with Artigue, because for him circumstances don’t matter nearly as much as the outcome.

“As long as we win, that’s all I care about. I don’t care if I get the game-winning field goal,” he said. “I mean, if I do that would be really cool. But I just want to win.”


WHO: UL vs. Southern Mississippi

WHERE: Superdome, New Orleans

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday