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USF kicker Coby Weiss emerges as clutch ‘cast’ mate

Six days after suffering a broken finger at UMass, the walk-on booted a game-winning field goal at Tulsa
USF's Coby Weiss, center, celebrates with teammates Jacob Mathis (85) and Trent Schneider (39) after kicking the go-ahead field goal in a game against Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) OKSO111
USF's Coby Weiss, center, celebrates with teammates Jacob Mathis (85) and Trent Schneider (39) after kicking the go-ahead field goal in a game against Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) OKSO111
Published Oct. 19, 2018

TAMPA — There's no skirting the laws of physics and gravity. All kickers, regardless of the amount of horsepower harnessed in their respective quads and calves, have a ceiling.

For most, it's a sobering reality. For USF walk-on Coby Weiss, it was a jubilant one.

He encountered it Friday night, after a 22-yard field goal he had made hundreds of times in his sleep. Weiss' head smacked it repeatedly as euphoric Bulls teammates hoisted his 160-pound body upward in the congested visitors locker room at Tulsa.

Fortunately for him, it featured soft breakaway panels. Otherwise, his head might have throbbed as mightily as his right ring finger.

"It was fun," he said with a chuckle.

And so ended the most excruciating, exhilarating week of Weiss' brief collegiate career.

Only six days before at UMass, the sophomore transfer had been leveled by Blake High alumnus Isaiah Rodgers on a first-half PAT. Rodgers was ejected. Weiss finished the game, albeit in agony.

"Somewhere in the process of getting destroyed, my finger either got caught in his face mask or hit the ground, and I completely broke the top knuckle area of my finger," he said.

Surgery followed, and Weiss missed the early days of what already would be a short practice week.

"We didn't even know if he was gonna make the trip (to Tulsa), much less be the kicker," defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary said.

But even with a cumbersome cast shrouding his hand, Weiss did enough during his minimal practice window last week to convince Coach Charlie Strong to let him board the Bulls' charter flight.

On a cool Midwest evening, he booted an early 22-yarder, kicked a PAT, had another blocked, then nailed the 22-yard game-winner with two seconds remaining in USF's 25-24 triumph.

"That was awesome," Bulls quarterback Blake Barnett said. "Last week (at UMass), he was still playing after he broke his finger; people don't really realize that. But he's a tough kid and he did what it took to win the game, and we all appreciate that."

In a sense, Weiss' implausible week symbolizes the turbulent 2018 adventure of USF's place-kicking.

Mangled digit and all, Weiss' wincing didn't match that of Strong in the spring and preseason, when no one in his congested kicking derby distinguished themselves. In August, Strong had four kickers battling for the job vacated by three-year starter Emiio Nadelman, five counting punter Trent Schneider, who also took some reps.

"I don't know why, I just struggled during fall camp," said Weiss, who starred at Gainesville Buchholz and spent one year at Tennessee State, behind second-team All-American Lane Clark. "Accuracy has always been my stronghold, that's always been what I feel like I'm the best at. And I just had a bad camp."

When camp broke, senior walk-on Jake Vivonetto was named the starter. He shined in the opener against Elon (4-for-4 on PATs, field goals of 33 and 41 yards) but fell ill before the second game against Georgia Tech.

Weiss replaced him, connecting on all seven of his PATs in the 49-38 win against the Yellow Jackets. He remained the starter the following week at Illinois, but missed field-goal attempts of 44 and 40 yards before partially atoning with a 26-yarder in the fourth quarter as USF rallied for a 25-19 win.

Weiss hasn't missed a field goal since, entering tonight's homecoming game against Connecticut with a streak of six in a row. Granted, none have been longer than 38 yards, but it's clear he has found a bit of a rhythm.

Not to mention a ton of respect.

"I think coming into this season, he was second string," senior slot receiver Tyre McCants said. "And for him to rise up in that occasion, that was big. And that shows the guys on this team that we have: No matter what situation, they're ready to go."

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

Connecticut vs. No. 21 USF
Where/when: Raymond James Stadium, 7 p.m.
TV/radio: CBS Sports Network, 820-AM, 98.3-FM