“It’s the last time I’m going to be here and I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better way to go out,” said Blankenship, who was among 23 seniors honored in pregame ceremonies before playing their last games at Sanford Stadium. “It was an amazing team win and we’re just going to enjoy it through the weekend.”
Not only was Blankenship perfect on all four of his field goal attempts (plus one extra point), he did it on a night where the field conditions were so bad due to all-day rains that they didn’t even allow the Redcoat Marching Band on the field for its halftime show.
And there was nothing resembling anything like a chip shot among Blankenship’s kicks. He was good on field goals of 31, 37, 41 and 49 yards.
The 49-yard kick broke a 3-3 tie with 11:36 remaining in the second quarter, which just so happened to be when the rain came down its hardest of the entire day. Georgia faced fourth-and-four at the Texas A&M 32-yard line and called timeout after trying to lure the Aggies offsides.
With the kick right on the edge of Blankenship’s range and the weather worsening, there was discussion of going for a first on fourth down and also of trying to pin A&M with a punt.
But coach Kirby Smart decided to go with Blankenship, a decision that has paid off for him continually these last four years.
“It was close to my range going that direction with the rain,” Blankenship said. “But I told (special teams) coach (Scott) Fountain and coach Smart in pregame I could make that. We were hoping the rain would clear up and maybe get a little more range later in the game. We did push the mark back later but, at the time, that was pretty close to the edge. But coach Smart had faith in me and trust in me to go out and come through for him. Sure enough, it went through and kept us going.”
Blankenship’s teammates weren’t at all surprised.
“Straight down the middle, man,” junior safety Richard LeCounte said. “That’s what Rod does. He’s special. We take Rod for granted because he’s so automatic. But he’s special and now he’s the leading scorer in school history. Incredible.”
Incredible indeed. With the 13-point night, Blankenship now owns the Georgia career scoring record with 418 points. He broke the previous record held by kicker Blair Walsh, who was at Sanford Stadium to witness the feat on Saturday.
“It was really nice to see him and talk to him real quick,” Blankenship said. “After that I just tried to focus back in on doing whatever I can to help the team.”
Smart made a point of acknowledging Blankenship’s accomplishment during his opening remarks of the postgame news conference. He said he also informed the team of Blankenship's career accomplishment in the locker room. The reaction, he said, was predictable.
“You know everybody loves Rod; it sounded like our student section,” Smart said. “Our players went nuts and Rod took a bow. Rod doesn't say much. He just smiles and does his job. That's all he does. 'Yes sir, coach.' ”
Smart also offered sincere thanks to the former walk-on from Marietta for continually bailing out the Bulldogs' sputtering offense.
“We certainly have helped him with it,” Smart said to the laughter of reporters. “We've taken a lot of field goals. What Rodrigo has done, and overcome, is just a story for the ages. To be a walk-on, to not get a scholarship, to continue to work, get a scholarship, and continue to grind, and be as consistent as he has been in some of the toughest conditions this year that could ask a kicker to kick in. He's just been tremendous. And he's really become a weapon for us. Thank goodness.”
Interestingly, Blankenship’s big day came a week after he did not have any field-goal attempts in a 21-14 win at Auburn. Unlike this afternoon, last week on the Plains featured perfect conditions.
Those were the same conditions Blankenship encountered in practice all week in Athens.
But the Bulldogs had seen the weather reports all week and knew what kind of day they were going to be in for.
“There was really no way to replicate the field conditions,” Blankenship said. “It was really nice weather all week, about 65 and sunny. So, we couldn’t replicate the ground or the field. That’s something we just had to get accustomed to in pregame, get a feel for the treading and do your best not to fall on your butt.”
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Not only did Blankenship not fall on his butt, he lifted the team on his shoulders. He was pretty much perfect on the afternoon, recording four touchbacks on kickoffs, seeing the Aggies get dropped at the 21 on their only kickoff return and executing an onsides kick perfectly, though teammate Tyson Campbell overran the recovery and the Aggies retained possession.
With at least three games remaining in the season, it’s unlikely Blankenship will be able to kick down the SEC scoring record of Auburn’s Daniel Carlson, who is 62 points ahead at 480. But for a while at least, and maybe forever, his name will be atop Georgia’s list of all-time scorers.
“It’s incredible,” Blankenship said. “It’s an honor just to be considered among the ranks of some of the greats we’ve had around here. The list goes on and on for all the special kickers who have come through the University of Georgia. It’s an honor to be a part of that group, some elite company. And it’s a testament to the team that’s gone through these last four years, the field-goal team protecting for me, all the holders holding for me, the snappers, just a group effort coming to fruition here.”