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In Chris Hazley, Hokies find another reliable senior foot

Chris Hazley had waited almost three years for this moment, lining up for his first field goal as Virginia Tech's starting place kicker in front of a sold-out Fedex Field crowd and millions more watching on television. But instead of some fairy tale game winner, Hazley missed badly on a 34-yard chip shot, beginning his career with a thud he never imagined.

Hazley rebounded to make another 34-yard field goal later in the game but it could not remedy the situation. His 1-for-2 showing was part of a disastrous evening for the Hokies' special teams, which proved to be the deciding factor in the team's season-opening loss to Boise State.

But from that inauspicious start, Hazley, like Virginia Tech as a whole, has rebounded nicely. That one missed kick against the Broncos has turned out to be his only one this season, and he's now 8 of 9 after hitting four field goals against Boston College this past weekend.

"Honestly, that first one hurt a little bit," admitted Hazley, who is also perfect on extra points thus far. "But my coaches and teammates just kept telling me to forget about it and move on. When you're a kicker, you've got to have a short memory."

Earlier this week, Hazley's four-field goal performance earned him ACC specialist of the week honors. Against the Eagles he was good from 29, 29, 32, and 45 yards. That 45-yard field goal was a career long and looked as if it would have been good from another five yards out.

Hazley, a fifth-year senior from West Chester, Pa., walked on to the Virginia Tech football team back in the second semester of 2007 but didn't get a chance to kick in a real game until this year. He's become part of a recent pattern for the Hokies' special teams.

While Coach Frank Beamer has had dynamic place kickers who see the field early in their careers like Shayne Graham, the past four seasons he's gone with fifth-year seniors getting a first taste of collegiate action in their final year of eligibility. Before Hazley, fifth-year seniors Matt Waldron, Dustin Keys and Jud Dunleavy were Virginia Tech's place kickers.

Hazley "is a good kicker," Beamer said after the victory over Boston College. "This is the fourth year in a row we’ve had a senior step in there and be our kicker and all of them have done well. They’re all smart kids, they’ve been around the program, they’ve been in competition a lot, have some maturity to them. I’m proud of the guy. He stood in there and kicked 'em right through.”

Lately, Hazley has been seeing a lot more action than even he'd prefer. The Hokies have struggled offensively at times this season, especially in the red zone, where they've converted just nine of their scoring chances there into touchdowns.

But considering how this season started and how long he's had to wait for this chance, Hazley will take whatever work comes his way.

"Obviously, I'd much rather see us score touchdowns. I'll kick extra points all day," Hazley said. "For me, confidence is the biggest thing, I feel a lot more confident out there. Each game that goes by, I feel better and better.”

By Mark Giannotto  | September 29, 2010; 3:36 PM ET
 
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