Junior kicker Jake Verity has established himself as a great weapon for East Carolina University’s (2-2, 0-1 AAC) football team after converting on four field goals in a 19-7 Pirate victory on Saturday.
For football teams across the nation, on the big stage or in small towns, place-kickers play a vital role in the success of a program. While some may not think of kickers as big, physical football players, it’s often the man with the big leg on the field when the game is on the line.
ECU is one of the programs frequently reminded of the importance of having a reliable kicker on its roster. Just this past Saturday, in a non-conference match-up with the College of William & Mary, Verity managed to bang home four field goals and an extra point, accounting for 13 of his team’s 19 total points in a 19-7 win.
“It keeps the momentum, now we got to stick the ball in the endzone. We kicked too many field goals tonight,” head coach Mike Houston said. “It made the game way too competitive, way too long so we got to do a better job of getting the ball in the endzone.”
Sticking the ball in the endzone has been a problem for the Pirates through the first four games of the season. While ECU’s offense has converted 15 of its 18 red-zone chances, seven of those scores have been with field goals. For that reason, it’s no shock that Verity is the Pirates’ top point producer, scoring 35 total points through four games or an average of 8.8 per contest.
That puts Verity on pace to score 105 points for the Pirates this season, setting him up to shatter his previous career-best of 84 set last season. In his fourth season with the Pirates program, Verity is beginning to climb his way up the leaderboard for most points scored in a career. Currently, he is eighth on the Pirates’ all-time list with 210 points, and is the ninth player in ECU history with at least 200 points scored.
Verity is the sixth kicker on ECU’s all-time scoring list and needs 91 more points to eclipse Warren Harvey for the top spot in that statistical category. Even if he never accomplishes that feat, Verity still has his name etched in the ECU record books.
Last season, in his second full year as the Pirates’ kicker, Verity posted a 90.5% accuracy mark on field goals, besting Robert Lee (89.5%) for the best figure in ECU history. That mark was achieved after Verity missed only two field goals (19-for-21) and tied his career long score at 52 yards.
For his career, Verity is the third most accurate kicker in program history (76.3%), ranking just below Chuck Berleth (76.7%) and Michael Barbour (80%).
Throughout the preseason, Houston and his coaching staff have sang the praises for Verity and his big leg. So much of the time, having a reliable kicker can take the pressure of an offense to feel like it has to punch the ball into the endzone every possession.
On Saturday, ECU was unable to break through offensively multiple times after getting into the red-zone. Luckily for them, Verity was true from 31, 33, 22 and 45 yards out, tying a career best for most made field goals in one game. His lone miss was a 55-yarder as the clock expired in the second quarter for what would have been a career long for the junior.
For his efforts, Verity was named the American Athletic Conference Special Team Player-of-the Week, winning the award for the third time in his career.
“Definitely be able to see off drives. I’m grateful for the opportunity like that to help the team out anytime I can, anytime I’m called on, so that’s what I went out there and did,” Verity said following Saturday’s game.
On the season, Verity is 9-for-11 (81.8%) on field goals and a perfect 8-for-8 on extra point attempts. He is perfect on everything from 20 yards to 47 yards but 0-for-2 on attempts longer than 50 yards as his career high watermark remains a 52-yard field goal against the University of Memphis on Nov. 3, 2018, a span of nine games.
During the early portion of this season, ECU’s offense has yet to fully gel behind sophomore quarterback Holton Ahlers. Ahlers added a 20-yard passing touchdown on Saturday, giving him just two on the year, versus three interceptions. While he has added three additional scores with his legs, two of those came in a blowout of Gardner-Webb University while the other came in a beat-down at the hands of the United States Naval Academy.
Verity’s ability to cap-off drives with field goals on a consistent basis has allowed the Pirates’ offense to survive long scoring droughts, and even propel them to victory, with Saturday serving as a perfect example.
“He’s a great weapon, glad he plays for us,” Houston said.
Verity and the Pirates will be back in action on Saturday in Norfolk, Virginia when they take on Old Dominion University (1-2, 0-0 C-USA). Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. inside S.B. Ballard Stadium.