Matthew McCrane came to K-State partly because of its history of successful kickers — All-Big 12 performers like Martin Gramatica, Jamie and Joe Rheem, to name a few.
When McCrane first stepped on campus in the spring of 2013, however, he never thought about becoming the next great K-State kicker. The idea of earning all-conference accolades or breaking school records was far from his mind.
Now, both are a reality for the senior.
McCrane broke K-State’s all-time career mark for made field goals when he converted a 43-yard attempt in Saturday’s 28-23 loss to No. 23 West Virginia. It was part of a 3-for-4 day for McCrane, whose 56 career makes put him ahead of Gramatica, a First-Team All-American in 1997 and member of K-State’s Ring of Honor.
“It’s an honor,” said McCrane, who still has five less career attempts than Gramatica. “It really is to be up there with Martin.”
In the first quarter, McCrane knocked in a 21-yard chip shot to tie Gramatica’s all-time mark. A few minutes later, he was jogging back out onto the field with the first nerves he said he’s felt since his freshman season.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nervous. That obviously was in the back of my head,” he said of his second field goal against West Virginia. “When it went through, it was a pretty good feeling.”
The honor was hard for McCrane to fully embrace after the game for two reasons: the final score and his lone miss on the day from 32 yards out.
McCrane initially thought the miss, which sailed above the right post, was good, as did head coach Bill Snyder. Because the kick went over the post, it was not reviewable, however.
“I’d never heard of the rule, but I trust the ref’s judgment. He was right underneath it,” McCrane, who later hit a 39-yard field goal, said. “When I did hit it, I thought it went in. It was close. I shouldn’t have made it that close. I should have put it right down the middle, but kickers miss and they’re not 100 percent, as much as I wish I could be. I kind of hit it off the right side of my foot and sprayed it right. I could have made it easier on the ref if I had put it down the middle.”
For most of McCrane’s career, he has been right down the middle. And with two regular season games left on the schedule, he will likely leave K-State with a few more records.
A semifinalist for the 2017 Lou Groza Award, McCrane currently ranks first in school history in field goal percentage (86.2), with Jamie Rheem in second at 79.6, and extra-point percentage (99.2).
“Matt has been exceptional. He’s a very fine young man, a good person, and hits the ball well with poise and under pressure,” Snyder said. “He can do it when he’s under that kind of pressure just as well as when it’s a 40-point ballgame. I’m very proud of him.”
With three more made field goals this season, McCrane would also break the single-season record (22) currently shared by Brooks Rossman and Gramatica. With one more make at 50 yards or longer, McCrane would break a tie to hold K-State’s all-time and single-season records for that category as well.
“He deserves it. That guy works really hard, but not in the weight room at all,” said junior running back Dalvin Warmack, giving a fun jab at his teammate. “But he’s always getting up field goals and just perfecting his craft. I have a lot of respect for that guy.”
Added senior linebacker Trent Tanking: “He’s just a great kicker.”
McCrane’s record-breaking ability did not develop overnight, and it definitely did not come easy. The Texas native overcame injuries and reconstructing his kicking swing with the help of K-State associate head coach/special teams coordinator Sean Snyder.
“Coach Snyder has been extremely helpful. I crunched a lot when I first came in, not staying up tall when I kick the ball, and Coach Sean Snyder has helped a lot with that. I give him all the credit,” McCrane said of Snyder, a candidate for the 2017 Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach. “He was hard on me at first to kind of change my swing and technique. I’m pretty grateful for that, but it’s changed a lot. We go back and watch the film from when I first came in that spring and if you compare it from now to then, it’s quite a big difference.”
K-State’s kicking records look quite a bit different as well.