LANDOVER, MD. – Roughly a week ago, Mike Nugent was hoping his kicking skills would land him a job with the Washington Redskins.
On Sunday evening, as the newest member of the Dallas Cowboys, those skills helped lift him over them.
"It was kind of weird. I was kicking with those guys last Monday or Tuesday," Nugent said. "Then I looked at the schedule once I had this workout and thought, 'OK, I get to go back to Washington.'"
Nugent made his Cowboys debut at FedEx Field on Sunday, just five days after he was signed to replace the injured Dan Bailey. On a night where rain fail consistently from beginning to end, he connected on four-of-five field goals and all three of his extra point attempts, accounting for 15 of the team's 33 points.
It was a solid night for a veteran kicker who has been out of a job since the start of the regular season.
"It is satisfying, especially because I've had about five or six workouts the first eight weeks. And I felt like I hit the ball really solid in training camp," Nugent said. "So, yeah it's good to be able to get out on the field and it's a positive feeling to feel like you contributed to a win today."
The overall performance was fantastic, even for a veteran kicker with more than 200 career field goals to his name.
But the night didn't start strong for Nugent. His first opportunity came early in the game, when Dak Prescott maneuvered the Dallas offense into a scoring opportunity from the Dallas 31-yard line – only for Nugent to miss the 49-yard kick.
"You know what, it was actually my better hit of the day," he said. "It was one of those kicks where -- 99 out of 100 times, I can tell you that I hit it or I missed it. But that was one of those ones where it felt like it was dead center."
That miss came with 13:05 to play before halftime, and Nugent wouldn't have another chance before the break. But given the rainy conditions, he was confident the chances would come – and they certainly did.
The Cowboys had five possessions in the second half, and four of them ended in field goal attempts – all of which he converted. Starting with the first possession after halftime, Nugent connected on kicks of 36, 48, 27 and 37.
Up until Byron Jones' pick-six with just seconds to play, those kicks were the difference, pushing a 14-13 lead into a 26-13 scoreline in the waning minutes of the game.
"I'm glad to get the opportunity to get some more points on the board," Nugent said. "I knew after missing that kick that there was going to be a lot of kicking left. I was definitely ready."
None of this will prompt the Cowboys to forget about Bailey. They'll certainly be glad to have their Pro Bowl kicker back when he is fully healthy. But in a year when teams are being reminded of the value of kickers, it was an important performance – both for the Cowboys, and for Nugent's prospects going forward.
"It's been a funny year," Nugent said. "Guys have been getting hurt and a lot of changeover for certain reasons. But it's one of those things that basically you have to be ready to go."