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Husker Football Practice

Nebraska's Zack Darlington holds the ball for Drew Brown during an August practice.

Not to jinx him, but Drew Brown is working on a nice little streak.

The Nebraska junior kicker has made 11 straight field goals dating to last season, nine of those from between 40-49 yards. He hasn't missed since the Huskers' trip to Minneapolis.

Yet Brown entered the offseason with one focal point. Consistency.

"My goal this offseason was not necessarily to get range," said the two-year starter who is on pace to set NU career field-goal and scoring records. "It was to be consistent and just gain explosiveness, because that ultimately translates into range."

Yes, Nebraska's consistent kicker and Lou Groza Award watch list nominee wants to kick it up a notch. And that doesn't surprise anyone in Husker camp.

"I can't make up anything about Drew's increased work ethic or anything," NU coach Mike Riley said. "Because he was already at a high level, very proud of his craft and worked at it very hard. I may see a little bit more intensity day-to-day with Drew."

It was almost a year ago when Brown missed two crucial field goals in the Huskers' 33-28 season-opening loss to BYU. One of the first players to face the media following the loss, Brown vowed to improve.

He made his next eight field goals, including five — in one half — against Southern Miss. After missing in the first half at Minnesota, Brown ended the season connecting from 45, 41, 43, 48, 41, 44, 43, 44, 39, 42 and 20 yards. When the season was complete, the Southlake, Texas, native had made 21 of 27 field goals. His 21 field goals for a season were second-most in school history (Alex Henery kicked 24 through the uprights in 2009).

The approach is kept simple.

"I try to keep all my kicks the same, whether it's an extra point or a 50-yard kick," said Brown, who also handles kickoffs.

Brown's biggest adjustment entering 2016 comes at holder. For two seasons, those snaps landed in the hands of Sam Foltz. But following Foltz's tragic death in July, Nebraska had a key special-teams position to fill. Stepping up was sophomore Zack Darlington, the quarterback-turned-wide receiver.

"He's been enthusiastic about it," Brown said of Darlington. "He's been wanting to do it and I couldn't appreciate it more. It's been tough to have to find someone to do it, but he approached me about it, and he's been working hard at it."

The two players, along with long snapper Jordan Ober, have been working together during fall camp on chemistry and flow. Snap, kick, repeat.

"That's all kicking really is, is just getting in a groove and doing the best you can," Brown said. "I couldn't have asked for a better camp."

Though Darlington has transitioned well into the holder role, there will always be a void for Brown and his teammates. The kicker still thinks about his best friend.

"I didn't expect to have Sam gone this year," Brown said. "I expected him gone next year, and it's going to be weird."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsCG.

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