When it comes to field goals and PATs for the Wildcats this fall, Matt Ruffolo will be the man on the job. The graduate student is running it back with UK one last season thanks to the extra covid year granted to all players.
This will be Ruffolo’s sixth season with the Kentucky Wildcats.
- Position: Kicker
- Class: Super senior
- Measurements: 5-foot-11, 211 lbs.
- Hometown: Centerville, Ohio
- School: Archbishop Alter
- Recruiting Rankings: Unranked
Ruffolo was born in Dayton, choosing UK over offers from Ball State, Dayton, and Toledo. He made 103 consecutive PATs in high school for the Archbishop Alter Knights and in 2015 and 2016 didn’t miss a single extra point, per UK Athletics.
The impressive numbers have been put to the test in the SEC the last three years. Ruffolo was 18/20 on PATs in 2019, spotless except for two misses in the same win against Missouri, and 4/5 in field goals. The biggest contribution from him in 2019 was a career-long 50 yarder that played a key part in Kentucky’s win over Arkansas.
2020 started off as a nightmare for Ruffolo. In the second game of the year against Ole Miss, he missed a field goal in the 3rd quarter that could’ve been the deciding factor. Instead, the game went to overtime a little while later and UK got the ball first. After scoring, Ruffolo got ready to kick the PAT...and missed. Nothing is worse for a starting kicker than losing a game on your missed PAT.
The devastating miss marked a turnaround for him, however. He didn’t miss anymore PATs for the rest of the year and finished the season 12/14 in field goals, including three chip shots in the Gator Bowl against NC State that obviously made a difference in the two-point win.
2021 was another big season as he was kicker #1 all year long, going 10/13 in field goals and 54/55 in extra points for 84 points on the year. On top of that, all but one of those misses were blocked kicks, not just whiffs or shanks. His 54 extra points are a single-season school record, previously held by Lones Seiber (51 in 2007) per UK Athletics. He has a streak of five consecutive field goals, dating back to Nov. 13 at Vanderbilt (2/2 vs. Vandy, 1/1 at Louisville, 2/2 vs. Iowa)
Ruffolo’s 2021 campaign also got him on the Lou Groza Award Watch List for the nation’s top place kicker. His biggest moment by far came in the Citrus Bowl against Iowa, where his two field goals and two extra points made all the difference in the narrow 20-17 win. He only had one blemish on his 2021 campaign though—he missed a 50-yarder against Tennessee at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. An excusable miss due to the distance sure, but we all remember the final score of that one—45-42 Vols. Being a kicker is so hard and so haunting sometimes. It definitely wasn’t his fault the Cats lost, but you have to wonder what could’ve been if he hadn’t missed.
Without Ruffolo’s leg Kentucky might not have won the Arkansas game and I think definitely would not have won the Gator Bowl or the Citrus Bowl. The bowl performances really make up for the disastrous wide right kick against Ole Miss, and his consistency and big-moment experience is a huge boost for UK going into 2022, as they haven’t had a knock-em-out kicker since Austin MacGinnis.
One thing I’m a little concerned about is distance. Matt Ruffolo’s longest makes have been from 50 yards out—good but not great. That means UK has to get the ball to the 33 in order to be in his range.
I’m excited about Matt and was really proud of how he put the Ole Miss game behind him to put up stellar numbers in every other game in 2020 and put up great 2021 numbers as well to establish reliability in all games big and small. Hopefully he carries the momentum of 2021 and the Citrus Bowl into the opener against Miami-Ohio and beyond.