Two seasons ago in 2019, LSU placekicker Cade York had a tough, tough act to follow.
Because in his one season in an LSU uniform in 2018, as a graduate transfer from Division II Assumption College, Cole Tracey became a Tigers’ legend. He made 25-of-29 field goals, including a 42-yard walk-off winner against Auburn and left incoming freshman York with a sage piece of advice.
“Cole said when you miss a kick that the next kick is the most important,” York recalled last season. “He said not to worry when you miss a kick. Everyone’s not perfect.”
That hasn’t stopped York, a junior on his quest from perfection. He has opened his Tigers’ career by kicking 39 of 48 field goals with 10 from 50 yards and beyond, which no placekicker in LSU history can even come close to approaching.
Already, York is shooting up LSU career lists and littering his name through the record book heading in his third season when the No. 16 Tigers open the 2021 season on FOX TV Saturday against UCLA (1-0) at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. at 7:30 p.m.
York ranks No. 5 in LSU history in career field goals (39), No. 8 in field goal attempts (48), No. 4 in total points scored kicking (242) and No. 4 in career PATS (125).
He’s the LSU record holder for 50-yard field goals in a career (10), in a season (6) and the only player in school history to kick two 50-yard field goals in a game (vs. Texas A&M, 2019).
For his career, York is 14-of-16 in field goals in Tiger Stadium, 22-of-26 in road games and 3-of-6 in neutral site games.
As good as York was as a freshman in the Tigers’ 2019 national championship season – he led the nation in extra points (89) also a single season SEC record and finished second in the country in scoring (152), also a league record – he upped his game last year.
While his numbers of 18 of 21 field goals and 36 of 26 extra points were considerably less on a 5-5 team that struggled offensively, his contribution was doubly important for that very reason.
York, even with a record setting freshman year, felt he had to improve going into last season.
“I was known for going up and down (in 2019), I had a lot of learning curves,” York said. “I’ve always been working on not being a rollercoaster and being more of a steady ride.
“I went into the year with the mindset of me having the job with a little bit of a transition phase in the summer when I got back,” York said. “I don’t want to peak in the summer. I usually have a little bit of a rough patch and work things out and start to peak once I go through the season. There were times where I was struggling during the season. I can understand why that conversation (of possibly being replaced by Preston Stafford) was being held.”
York’s performance last season shut down any further rumblings about his job security. He opened 2020 making his first six field goals, including a pair of 50-plus yarders, before a 45-yard miss at Missouri. He followed by making 4 of his next 6 during a span that included a 34-yard miss at Texas A&M in the rain Nov. 28.
Then, he closed the year making eight straight field goals, including a school-record tying four vs. Ole Miss in the season finale.
But his legendary game-winning school-record 57-yard field goal through a thick fog at Florida for a 37-34 win might be the greatest kick in LSU history.
“It’s not like it was completely, like, white, and I couldn’t see the uprights,” York said afterwards. “I could see them (goal posts) faintly. It was more I just couldn’t see the ball flying the whole way, but I just picked a spot and trusted it and it worked out. It went down the middle, right?”
Before the kick, York was extremely confident.
“All I think about is what happens when I make the kick,” he said. “What I was thinking about before the kick was running down the field doing the Gator Chomp. I got to do that.”
York certainly wasn’t intimidated by the length of the kick or the enormity of the moment. He kicked a 59-yarder in high school and has made field goals in practice beyond 60 yards.
“I have a strong leg,” York said. “One of the things I’ve really been focusing on it target lines. I feel like when I have a short field goal, I may play it a little too cautious and have a bigger target to aim at. When I’m in the long range, I have a smaller target and I’ve kind of let loose. That’s what shows (in) the long range and how I’ve been successful there. It’s something I need to with all of my field goals and not just the long ones.”
As far as knowing the game was on the line, he faced similar pressure two games into his career as a freshman. York was in the middle of his first high stakes encounter when No. 6 LSU visited No. 9 Texas which for the native of McKinney, Texas was about 3 ½ hours from his Dallas-area home.
York promptly drilled field goals of 36, 33 and 40 yards into the teeth of a Darrell K. Royal Stadium crowd of 98,763, helping the Tigers repel the Longhorns in a memorable 45-38 victory.
“That was definitely a confidence booster,” he said. “I was on cloud nine after that.”
He’s still floating, especially after last season when he was named All-SEC first-team by the league’s coaches and a second-team All-American by the AP and the FWAA.
But he also knows he’s only as good as his last kick.
“For me, everything’s about helping the team win,” York said. “Every kick’s important to me. If I miss a PAT or a field goal, I’m going to be just as upset. I don’t want to go out there and not show well because I have a lot of pride in myself, a little bit of a perfectionist.
“There may have been added pressure in a game that’s close and there’s 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter,” York said. “But for me in the moment it fades away and I don’t think about that stuff.”
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