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Football freshman kickers contribute to Arizona win with season’s 1st field goals

Redshirt freshman kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira (right) has made both of his field goal attempts this season for UCLA football. Freshman kicker Luke Akers (left) has handled the punting duties as well as serving as the field goal unit’s holder. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jon Christon

Dec. 2, 2020 8:31 p.m.

It took more than three hours of on-field football, but the Bruins finally kicked a field goal in 2020.

Despite scoring 111 points over its first three games, UCLA football (2-2) never sent out kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira for three points until midway through the first quarter of its 27-10 victory over Arizona (0-3).

The redshirt freshman sailed the ball through the uprights on his 31-yard attempt and then did it again at the end of the first half to give him six points from field goals in his young career.

Barr-Mira said he’s always available when coach Chip Kelly needs him, and kicking and making the first field goal of his collegiate career was a special moment for him.

“It definitely felt good to get out there and hit the first one on Saturday against Arizona,” Barr-Mira said. “I’m confident in myself, and I feel ready whenever (Kelly’s) going to call me.”

Not only were the three points a first for Barr-Mira, but they were also a bit of a first for the Bruins as a whole. After kicker JJ Molson started four straight years for UCLA from 2016-2019, Saturday’s field goal marked the first field goal of the post-Molson era.

Kelly said the lack of field goals is partly because he’d rather score touchdowns, but said he has the utmost confidence in the field goal team whenever he needs to call on them.

“We’ve got a good unit – I think we have a really good snapper, we have a really good holder, I really like our protection – so if the opportunity presents itself, we’ll kick field goals,” Kelly said. “We’d rather score seven than three because we’re greedy, but if we have to kick, we’ll kick and I think (Barr-Mira’s) done a really nice job.”

(Tanmay Shankar/Daily Bruin senior staff)
(Tanmay Shankar/Daily Bruin senior staff)

A walk-on, Barr-Mira was one of many kickers battling for the starting spot in camp, but with redshirt sophomore punter Collin Flintoft – the only punter on the roster – electing to have surgery before the season, the punter spot was also up for grabs.

Freshman kicker Luke Akers, who battled with Barr-Mira for the starting kicker spot and was named one of the two possible starters at kicker out of camp, has settled in as the team’s punter through the first four games.

As UCLA’s punter, Akers has averaged over 44 yards a kick – even with one blocked in the Nov. 15 game against California – and has placed the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line on seven of his 16 punts this season, including four times in Saturday’s win over the Wildcats.

With just under five minutes left in a two-score game, Akers was able to pin Arizona within its own 1-yard line, stalling the drive before it even began and ending any chance of a Wildcat comeback.

“You definitely have to celebrate a lot with your teammates when you get something like that,” Akers said. “That was pretty special, especially when it’s at a time in a game where it’s pretty crucial. It feels good to be able to help out the team any way I can, and I’m just going to continue to try to do that.”

While both Barr-Mira and Akers are listed as the starting kicker on the depth chart, neither handle kickoff duties. Freshman kicker RJ Lopez is the team’s kickoff specialist, and so far this year he has had six kickoffs in each of the four games, with more than half of them being touchbacks.

Barr-Mira said despite battling against one another in training camp before the season, the trio of freshman kickers has been effective for UCLA.

“At the end of the camp, they watched all the film and they decided that I was going to be doing field goals, (Lopez) would be doing kickoff and (Akers) would be doing punt,” Barr-Mira said. “So far, we’ve all done a great job.”

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Jon Christon | Sports editor
Christon is currently the Sports editor and a reporter on the men's basketball and football beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a reporter on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently the Sports editor and a reporter on the men's basketball and football beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a reporter on the women's basketball and softball beats.
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