Football is a three phased game with each component sharing equal importance. The third phase (Special Teams) is often overlooked but can be a critical factor in a team’s win/loss record. Kicker Matt Ruffolo decided to return to Lexington for an additional year of eligibility. The super-senior finished 2020 as the SEC’s third most accurate kicker and is slated to handle the Wildcat’s field goals and extra points in 2021.
Matt Ruffolo is a 5’11, 205-pound kicker from Centerville, Ohio. He was a two-year starter for Archbishop Alter High School where he went 79/79 on extra points and hit 4/5 field goals while averaging 40 yards per punt. Ruffolo walked on at Kentucky and practiced with the team during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He hit 4/5 field goals and was 18/20 on PATs in 2019, including a 50-yard, game-winner against Arkansas.
Ruffolo nailed 12/14 field goals last season and connected on 22 of 23 extra points. He has converted on his last six field goal attempts. The kicker set a UK bowl record with three field goals in its victory over the Wolfpack in the Gator Bowl.
Kickers aren’t perfect. Heck, nobody is. Ruffolo was close in 2020. 22/23 extra points and 12/14 in field goal attempts constructed a successful season. His 58 total points were good enough to rank second on the team. Additionally, Ruffolo finished the 2020 season ranked third in the SEC after converting 85.7% of his field goals. Poised for a strong 2021, UK’s kicker must be considered a team strength.
What Does All This Mean?
Matt Ruffolo earned Dean’s List honors and has been named as an All-SEC Academic team member for multiple seasons. He often visits UK Children’s Hospital and is active in community engagement. Ruffolo’s on-field performance in 2020 was a pleasant surprise for Coach Mark Stoops.
Athletes cannot be judged on a single game performance. Ruffolo missed a field goal and extra point against Ole Miss in 2020. While regrettable, there were multiple occasions when the Cats left points on the field in its week two matchup. In other words, the loss against Ole Miss can’t be solely laid at the toe of Matt Ruffolo. The Kentucky kicker bounced back and performed at a high level for the remainder of the season.
It’s no secret that the Wildcats’ offense struggled in 2020. Hopes are high that it will surpass its 21.8 points per game average from last season. A significant factor in an increase in points will come from a higher number of attempted field goals. UK averaged 1.4 attempts per contest in 2020. That should increase.
Kentucky kicker Matt Ruffolo is a consistent and steady performer. But, field goals and extra points are an operation that relies on the snapper, holder, and kicker. Two of the three return for the Wildcats in 2021. Long-snapper Cade Degraw and Ruffolo are back. Max Duffy was the holder last season, which means that role could be filled by punters Wilson Berry or Colin Goodfellow.
Most talk surrounding Kentucky football is focused on the quarterback situation, replacing Jamin Davis, and its new offensive scheme. But, it’s imperative to not forget about special teams. There will come a time when Matt Ruffolo will be called upon to make a game-winner in 2021. The Wildcats are in good hands with one of the SEC’s most accurate kickers.