MORGANTOWN -West Virginia University place-kicker Tyler Bitancurt earned his way into football folklore last season, splitting the uprights from 43 yards out as time expired to give his team a 19-16 victory over arch-rival Pittsburgh.
That field goal capped an evening in Morgantown in which he kicked four field goals, the second time he had accomplished that feat in his freshman season.
It earned him not only the Big East Conference's Special Teams Player of the Year honor, but a hallowed spot in the hearts of Mountaineer fans.
But the sophomore, who missed spring practice to allow for his recovery from off-season ankle surgery, has struggled at times this year, having missed three of his eight field goal attempts. He has had two blocked this season.
"Both of the kicks that were blocked this season have been low from what I saw," said WVU coach Bill Stewart. "Any time you miss one, you worry. But I don't see a pattern here."
Stewart said he would address the issue with his young kicker, but said he still has complete confidence that Bitancurt will come through.
"Right now, he is still the incumbent," Stewart said. "I don't want to put a bad seed in his head.
I am sure that he will get it worked out and make some big kicks before the year is out."
Bitancurt, a first-team All-Big East selection as a red-shirt freshman last year, made 13 of his 15 field goal attempts last year and 41 of his 42 extra-point kicks. He hit several field goals of more than 40 yards, including his longest of 45 yards. This season, he has missed both tries from 40 yards or more, and his longest field goal has been 34 yards through the first four games.
"He has made so many big ones in the past that missing a few now is not worrying me so much," Stewart said.
The Mountaineers, 3-1, are idle this weekend and will return to action Oct. 9 when they host Nevada-Las Vegas at 3:30 p.m.
The game will be televised on the Big East Conference Network.