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Novak takes his final kicks

November 25, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - He's the Atlantic Coast Conference's career points leader and has a chance at finishing in the top five on the NCAA list, but for Maryland kicker Nick Novak, those accomplishments have often been overshadowed by the Terps' failures this season.

Novak - like most of the Terps' seniors - believed his college career would come to an end in a bowl game.

Instead, Maryland (4-6, 2-5) will close out its disappointing season Saturday at home against Wake Forest (4-6, 1-6).

"The most important thing now is ending with a win and leaving on a strong note," Novak said during Maryland's media day Tuesday. "Nobody's happy things are ending this way."

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Looking through the gloom of 2004, Novak can reflect on plenty of good times. There's the three 10-win seasons, complete with three bowl appearances and victories in the Peach Bowl and Gator Bowl the previous two seasons.

And, of course, there's the points. Lots and lots of points.

"I've had four great years," Novak said. "Not many kickers start for four years. I've done everything to contribute to the three great years we had."

Novak's 386 career points put him seventh on the NCAA list. He needs three points Saturday to pass Nebraska's Kris Brown for sixth, and there are others to shoot for. Florida State's Derek Schmidt (393 points), Hawaii's Jason Elam (395) and Miami's Carlos Huerta (397) are all within range, meaning Novak could move as high as third all-time.

"I'd love for my career to end on a high note," Novak said. "You're only as good as your last kick, and I'm kicking great right now. I'd love to kick three 50-yarders. I've never done that in a game before."

Novak became the ACC's career points leader in Maryland's opener against Northern Illinois. The NCAA record of 423 points, held by Houston's Roman Anderson, seemed possible though improbable.

However, with Maryland's offense sputtering badly in five of the last six games, Novak never had a realistic chance at approaching the mark.

"If it's meant to be, it's meant to be," Novak said. "I haven't had enough opportunities to kick this year."

After Saturday, Novak's attention will turn toward the NFL Draft and what he can do through college showcase games, combines and workouts to make an impression.

"I'm not real sure what's in store for me," Novak said. "I just have to work my butt off and see what happens."

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