BLOOMINGTON – Mitch Ewald has limits. Let's get that out there. Indiana's record-setting senior kicker doesn't have Paul Bunyan moments where people watch him work in awe.
OK, awe and kicking don't normally exist in the same sphere, but work with us here.
Ewald is to kicking what Victor Oladipo is to basketball defense -- as good as you're likely to see. He has a school-record 120 extra points, and with at least 10 games to go in his career, who knows how far he'll push that mark.
He is the most accurate kicker in school history, making 45 of 56 attempts (80.4 percent), with two of those missed being blocked, which suggests the breakdown wasn't from him.
In IU's first two games, Ewald has 15 extra points, a 26-yard field goal and 10 touchbacks on kickoffs. Those touchbacks lead the Big Ten. The extra points rank second nationally.
Oh, he also had a pair of good on-side kicks against Navy last Saturday that the Hoosiers nearly recovered.
Yes, coach Kevin Wilson has noticed.
“He's been outstanding,” Wilson says. “You can take it for granted. He's a good leader, a good player. He interacts well with the team. He does a lot of things with the guys. He works at his craft very, very hard. He sets a good standard. He has a lot of personal pride.”
Take the extra point record. Granted, Ewald has benefited from some good offensive teams at IU, but still, he's missed one in three-plus seasons.
Indiana has had some good kickers over the years, including Pete Stoyanovich, Scott Bonnell and Austin Star. Ewald already has passed them in extra points. He'll soon pass them in field goals. Bonnell has the school record with 48. Stoyanovich is next with 47. Ewald has 45.
“To have this record is a humbling experience,” Ewald says. “Coming to IU, I looked up to guys like Austin Starr, Pete Stoyanovich and Scott Bonnell. The record means I worked hard. I was fortunate to have a great team around me and had some opportunities.”
Ewald set the record in the Navy loss, which blunted some of the enthusiasm.
“It wasn't enough because we still lost,” he says. “That's the biggest thing. We have to keep working hard.”
Ewald's field goal range is 55 yards and in depending on the wind and weather.
“Once we cross the 50-yard line,” he says, “I start getting ready. Anything around the 35-yard line, I want to get out there, but it's Coach Wilson's decision.”
Wilson says he asks Ewald, but generally, “He's around 50 yards based on elements and wind and whatnot.”
Almost as important as Ewald's scoring is his ability to hit kickoffs that can't be turned into big returns. He says on a good day in good conditions he can hit a kickoff 80 or so yards.
“Sometimes if we can't pin them deep and put our defense out there, the coaches will say, let's kick it out of the end zone and put them on the 25-yard line,” Ewald says. “Or, if we want to pin them deeper, I'll try to put more hang time on it so it lands on the goal line and they're forced to return it. Hopefully we get them before they get to the 25.
“That's something I've put a big emphasis on the last couple of years to get stronger and more consistent. I'm still not doing a good enough job. I've miss-hit a lot of kickoffs.”
Ewald will get a chance to hone his kickoffs even more on Saturday when Bowling Green (2-0) comes to Memorial Stadium. The Falcons have beaten Tulsa and Kent State. Matt Johnson has emerged as the quarterback (508 passing yards, two touchdowns, one interception) while tailback Travis Greene (233 rushing yards, one touchdown) handles the ground game.
The Hoosiers (1-1) are focused on bouncing back from the Navy loss.
“I wouldn't say we have a sense of urgency to get this win,” Ewald says. “I'd say more of a sense of urgency to get the Navy game behind us. It didn't go the way we wanted. We got off to a slow start, battled back. Flush it, moving toward Bowling Green and beat those guys. It will be a tough challenge, but we've got a great team and a great chance.”