ATHENS -- Marshall Morgans phone got so many messages, it froze.
My family, my friends. People I hadnt talked to since elementary school, he said.
Most of the time, the Georgia freshman place-kicker was being congratulated following his first big night at the college level, including 52-yard field goal he made, the first points in Georgias eventual 41-20 win at Mssouri.
But his friends also were giving him a hard time about a missed extra point and a second extra point that only made it through after hitting the upright.
All my friends will joke with me, Gosh if they back you up 40 yards on the extra, point youll be fine, Morgan said with a laugh. Thanks a lot.
So much attention has been on Morgan, the new kicker at Georgia, occupying a spot that was unexpectedly a worry last year. And yet the man Morgan is replacing, Blair Walsh, was just named the NFC rookie of the week after booting four field goals in his Minnesota Vikings debut, including the eventual game-winner.
Indeed, its a strange position for Morgan. The expectations are not high compared to what Walsh did his first three years and what he did his first week in the NFL. But the expectations were lowered a bit by Walsh in 2011, such that if Morgan can hit more than 60 percent of his attempts and not cost the team a couple of games, hes an improvement over last year.
Im glad hes making his kicks, head coach Mark Richt said, appearing to choose his words carefully. I think hes gaining confidence as he goes.
Confidence doesnt actually seem to be much of a problem so far for Morgan.
When he walked on the field at Missouri to try the 52-yarder, Georgia was trailing 3-0. The week before, in Morgans college debut, he had missed a 45-yard kick. His only make was a 35-yarder.
Another player -- I think it was (safety) Shawn Williams -- he kept getting in my ear, Morgan said. He was saying, They got three. This is gonna be you. I promise you its gonna be 3-3. He kept coming up to me and put it in my ear. Then when I went out there, and I hit it, I said, He was right.
But just minutes later, Morgan made his way out for what should have been a game-tying extra point. He shanked it.
It wasnt the last time Morgan had trouble. In the second half one of his extra points bounced off the left upright before going in.
A little hook shot. Or a bank shot, Richt said.
Senior Jamie Lindley, who is Morgans backup, said Morgan didnt seem that bothered. And in postgame interviews, Morgan almost rolled his eyes at reporters.
Lindley said that wasnt a sign of arrogance but the kind of confidence necessary in a kicker, who must forget the previous kick and move on.
I think theres a big difference between confidence and arrogance, Lindley said. Hes more the confident type. Hes a humble guy.
I wouldnt say arrogance, Morgan said. But you do have to be confident in yourself. Because kicking is a mental game, obviously. In your head, you have to tell yourself youre gonna make it, because any disbelief in your head, youre gonna miss it. Its a mind game.
Morgan also nailed a 41-yarder at Missouri, making him 3-for-4 so far in his Georgia career. It bears noting that Walsh was 15-for-22 as a freshman in 2008.
Walsh also hit the very first field goal attempt of his career -- from 52 yards, the same distance as Morgans kick at Missouri. Of course, Morgans came in a pressure situation, while Walshs came against Georgia Southern.
So at this very early point in his career, Morgan has a leg up on his predecessor -- even if he has had a little trouble with the easier ones.