Published October 25. 2012 4:00AM
New London - Tyler Henning never looked up.
He found out his game-winning 27-yard field goal in overtime last Saturday was in fact the game-winning field goal for the Coast Guard Academy football team by watching the reaction of holder Alex Oswald.
"I didn't think it would come to that, but it did," said Henning, a freshman from Cypress, Texas, whose kick clinched a 31-28 victory over Worcester State and perhaps a winning season for the Bears for the first time since 2007.
While Henning admitted a few nerves, senior quarterback Jon Resch said he thought the game was a cinch with it resting in the kicker's hands.
"When I scored that last touchdown to tie it up (with 33 seconds left), my first thought was 'We're going to overtime,'" said Resch, who never gave the extra point a second thought. "And when they missed that field goal (in overtime), my first thought was, 'We don't even need to gain a yard and we're going to win.' There was no doubt in my mind."
That's the confidence Henning has generated this season.
Henning, who is 5-for-9 kicking field goals and 33-for-33 on extra points, is tied with running back Jake Wawrzyniak for most points scored by a member of the Bears. Both have 48 entering Saturday's home game against New England Football Conference Bogan Division-leading Framingham State.
Henning earned Special Teams Player of the Week from the NEFC and among ECAC Northeast Division III players following the game-winning field goal, as Resch swept the two Offensive Player of the Week honors. Coast Guard is 4-3 overall, 3-2 in the Bogan Division.
"He's focused on working on things," Coast Guard coach Bill George said of Henning. "I have a confidence in him. Tyler prepares himself."
George said that at the beginning of the season Henning had "Swab Summer legs," alluding to the summer regimen freshman cadets undergo. He said it's a compliment to Henning that the seniors on the team now take him for granted.
"When you look at a high school kid kicking, you know he's going to be a good college kicker, but not necessarily right away," George said.
Henning is also the punter and made a potential touchdown-saving play in the second quarter when he raced to pick up a snap that sailed over his head and still got a kick off. The punted netted just nine yards, but Worcester State did not score on the ensuing possession, allowing the Bears to hold on to a 14-7 lead at halftime.
Even better is the story of how Henning, who did not punt in high school, came to be the Bears' punter.
"'Henning! Can you punt? You're the punter,'" Resch said with a laugh Wednesday, imitating George's request of the freshman, which saved Resch from doubling as the punter.
Henning, who also played soccer in high school, a winter and spring sport in Texas, has now punted 28 times for an average of 33 yards with a long kick of 56 yards.
"I feel a little more comfortable now," said Henning of his overall freshman experience. "I know who I'm playing with. It was a little bit different (than kicking a game-winner in high school) because I knew the coaches were counting on me.
"This meant a little bit more."