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Georgia place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (98) kicks a field goal. The Georgia Bulldogs ended the first half against the Florida Gators with a score of 13-3 on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo/Ryan Cameron, rcameron@randb.com)

Rodrigo Blankenship called his missed field goal at the end of Georgia’s loss to South Carolina an “unfortunate incident.”

When he returned to the football facility the next day, he was greeted by the team’s clocks that countdown to the next game. There wasn’t any time to dwell on the miss that cemented the Bulldogs’ loss.

“It stings. It bothers me,” Blankenship said. “At the same time, you have to move on because your team needs you. You can’t just sit around and mope about it.”

Three weeks later against Florida, Blankenship returned to his usual self by knocking in all three of his field goals. After the game, he was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for the fourth time this season.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said Blankenship has a regimented routine that allows him to recover from a big miss like the one he had against the Gamecocks.

“He’s got a great mental disposition,” Smart said. “He's got a preparation mode that he goes through, and he handles the mental conditioning part really well, and he puts himself in a good place. I think he's bounced back really well.”

This summer, Smart remembers being in his office and watching Blankenship kicking the ball through the uprights of an empty practice field. Smart said there is no telling how much he practices at home with his dad.

Blankenship has been Smart’s kicker since he arrived as the Bulldogs’ coach in 2016. In his first two seasons, Blankenship took inspiration from assistant coach Kevin Butler, who finished his career at Georgia as the SEC’s all-time scoring leader.

“He was a great resource, not just for me but for all the specialists,” Blankenship said. “He kicked in the NFL for so many years. [I was] able to pick his brain and learn about how he handled things from a mental standpoint. He really helped with processing things in the immediate aftermath of a kick.”

Now Butler doesn’t even hold the Georgia football record for most career points. In the Notre Dame win on Sept. 21, Blankenship passed Butler to move to No. 4 on the all-time list.

The three players above Blankenship? Blair Walsh, Billy Bennett and Marshall Morgan — three kickers who Blankenship considers to be mentors since he met them at kicking camps in middle and high school.

Walsh gave Blankenship advice on how to move on from the missed 42-yard field goal against the Gamecocks.

Maybe once he graduates, Blankenship can do the same for another Georgia kicker.

“He’s really an inspiration for people in the room,” Smart said. “If you ask a question, Rod spits out the answer [first]. He’d be hell on Jeopardy.”

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