SALT LAKE CITY — Determined Joe Phillips is making history. The University of Utah kicker is in the midst of a school-record roll with an active streak of 17 consecutive successful field goals.
Phillips is tied with David Ruffer of Notre Dame for the longest current run in the nation.
"Joe Phillips has been huge for our football team," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "We had our kicking problems early last season, and we called on him. He answered the bell and exceeded everybody's expectations."
The senior, a transfer from Snow College, was the Mountain West Conference's most accurate kicker in 2009. He made 20-of-22 attempts and started his current streak by making his last nine.
"He has just been lights out, and we are very fortunate to have had him on the team," Whittingham said.
Phillips came to Utah as a walk-on and has since earned a scholarship.
"Joe's done an unbelievable job. All he did last year was step in and save our butt. He did an unbelievable job of just coming in, being confident," said special teams coach Jay Hill. "We put him in some real pressure situations. That's probably his strong point. He's mentally tough as nails."
On and off the field.
Just before fall camp opened, the baby girl he and wife Ashley were expecting in October was stillborn — 25 weeks into the pregnancy.
The pain still lingers for the couple, especially now that her expected birth month has arrived.
"I'm dedicating this season to her, and that's been something that's really strengthened me," Phillips said while noting that his wife, family and "brothers on the team" have been supportive throughout the tragedy and the tough times that followed.
Phillips is 8-for-8 kicking field goals this season and 35-of-36 on PATs. His 59 points lead the team.
"He's just meant so much to our team and given us such a lift in the placekicking game," Whittingham said.
Phillips has made 28-of-30 kicks since becoming Utah's primary kicker in the second game last season. He's also an impressive 72-of-74 on extra points.
"We're extremely grateful and happy for what he's done," Hill said. "Did I foresee him getting this good? Not necessarily. But it's a tribute to him and how hard he's worked, just the kind of kid he is."
Hill noted that Phillips' mechanics were a bit off when he joined the Utes. He credits the Lone Peak High School alum for coming in and working hard.
The preparation paid off as he eventually stepped into some very big shoes — those of All-American kicker Louie Sakoda.
Fortunately for Phillips, Sakoda was around to help.
"Louie's obviously a great mentor because he knew how to do it better than anybody," Hill said.
Phillips readily acknowledges how beneficial Sakoda's coaching was to his development.
"Louie was very key in my success. His coaching last year has just been a key element in my success up to now," Phillips said. "I don't think that Louie will ever be forgotten. He was a great, great kicker here, and it's just been an honor to be able to follow someone that good and to be able to uphold that precedence that he made here."
Utes on the air
Colorado State (2-5, 1-2 MWC) at No. 9 Utah (6-0, 3-0)10 comments on this story
Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV: The mtn. Radio: 700 AM