Confident Cooper

Confident Cooper

Jim Cooper was the first player out of the locker room to meet the media on Saturday afternoon in South Bend. For a freshman kicker who missed two field goals and had an extra point blocked in front of a national TV audience at Notre Dame, it would have been easy to delay coming out to face the music or decine interview requests. Head coach Matt Rhule noticed how well Cooper handled the situation.

Jim Cooper was the first player out of the locker room to meet the media on Saturday afternoon in South Bend.

For a freshman kicker who missed two field goals and had an extra point blocked in front of a national TV audience at Notre Dame, it would have been easy to delay coming out to face the music or decine interview requests.

Head coach Matt Rhule noticed how well Cooper handled a tough situation.

"The one thing about Cooper he owned it," said Rhule. "He went right in, took responsibilty, wanted to talk to the media.

"We're going to stick by him, we believe in him. It was a way to start. ... He has to be tough enough to not let it bother him."

Cooper exuded confidence after the game. He repeatedly assured that his problems were mechanical and not a matter of nerves, even if he acknowledged playing at Notre Dame was different than playing in the Cape-Atlantic League.

"Obviously, you want to get off to the best start possible," said Cooper, who said he didn't close his hips off on his kicks. "But a bad game happens. You try to move on from it. The snap was perfect, the hold was perfect, the blocking was impeccable. It came down to me and I didn't hit it right."

The Owls were spoiled the last four years with Brandon McManus taking over the kicking duties midway through his first game as a true freshman and becoming one of the best kickers in the country. He also assumed punting duties the last two years.

The Temple coaches hope Cooper can handle the placekicking duties for the next four years, but for now they would accept having him bounce back to have a good game in this week's American Athletic Conference opener against Houston.

"You can fold and let it get to you, or you have a week of practice you can try to make it a good week and learn from it," said Cooper.

Nick Visco and Tyler Mayes challenged Cooper for the starting position all the way up until a few days before the opener. If Cooper continues to struggle, Temple has other options, but the freshman U.S. Army All-American is going to have every chance to settle into this position.

"I hate it for him that he missed those kicks because he's going to be a great kicker for a long time," said Rhule. "He's going to bounce back and be a good kicker. It's unfair for a freshman to deal with that in that environment, but hopefully next week he'll get it righted up." A confident Cooper feels he'll do just that.

"It's always good to have competition that will push you. you will always be competing or you might be caught sleeping," said Cooper. "But I'm not really worried, because I know the coaches haven't lost faith in me."

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