Luke Strebel’s record-setting night began with a fine acting performance.
Before Air Force was going to trust the senior to return to his place-kicking role, special teams coach Ben Miller took him around to various spots to test his field-goal range and the swinging motion of the leg he hurt a week earlier at Boise State.
Strebel was convincing enough.
“Now that it’s over I can say it was hurting pretty bad,” Strebel said afterward. “I had a lot of Icy Hot on.”
By returning, Strebel was able to score eight points – a 32-yard field goal, five PATs – to finish with 254 points and pass Dee Dowis and Beau Morgan atop the program’s all-time scoring chart. The quarterbacks each scored 252 points.
Strebel also wrapped his career a perfect 131 of 131 on PATs, the most in program history.
“He’s been very, very consistent since he’s been here,” coach Troy Calhoun said. “He’s everything you want in a kicker. He’s level-headed, great competitor. ... Nobody takes more pride in their craft than Luke does. And I don’t think anybody’s really into records, but if there’s somebody that has to be sitting up there, he’s one of those guys you want to be in that spot.”
Strebel’s availability was in question after injuring his quad just before halftime at Boise State. The Broncos used three timeouts as Strebel lined up for a 45-yard field goal, leaving him to kick three times from the same spot. On the second attempt he felt a tweak in his leg. On the third it developed into a full-blown injury.
As Air Force’s faint bowl hopes were dashed before the game Saturday, Strebel knew his only chance at setting the scoring record was to return.
“You try not to think about it,” he said. “But you’re naive if you think you can get that completely out of your head.”
Strebel, whose father played club rugby at the academy, finishes his career 41 of 48 on field goal attempts, an 85.4 percent clip that ranks second only to his predecessor, Will Conant, who finished at 88.2.
After setting the scoring record, Strebel was surrounded by teammates, who offered congratulatory headbutts. One, from lineman Ernest McQuade, caused Strebel to bite down hard on his tonge.
He acted like it didn’t hurt. Just as he had all night.