In a season with low scoring matches and a 2-9 record heading into its final game, one distinct bright spot has emerged in the University of South Dakota football team — kicker Miles Bergner.
Bergner is currently perfect (16-16) on field goal attempts this year and 17-19 on extra point tries. He suffered a concussion in the Nov. 15 home game, but he expects to be available for rival South Dakota State Saturday in Brookings.
These numbers are what kickers strive for, but Bergner is not satisfied.
“I’m the type of person who’s never satisfied with my performance,” Bergner said. “I am always looking at ways to get better and improve.”
In his first season with the Coyotes, Bergner was 12-21 on field goals and 21-23 on extra points. Bergner said the reason for his improvement was his confidence.
“At first I didn’t believe I truly belonged on the field with these guys, but as the season progressed my confidence kept growing until I reached the point where I knew I belonged out here,” he said. “The fear that resided in me left, and ever since that point I have seen the results on the field.”
The difference in Bergner from year one to year two is clear, his coaches said.
“He’s worked incredibly hard to get where he is at now,” said head coach Joe Glenn. “As a freshman he struggled, which wasn’t entirely his fault. Our snapping last year wasn’t great and it impacted Miles’ performance. This year we have a great long snapper and a great field goal snapper, as well as a great kicker.”
Glenn said Bergner’s performance this year is not surprising to him — there’s reason for Bergner’s impressive numbers.
“He is one of the hardest workers on the team,” Glenn said. “He is at the Dome early and leaves late. He is always lifting in the gym and is always aiming to becoming a better football player. He is a theater major, so I think when the lights come on he knows it’s showtime.”
Bringing showtime to the Coyotes program was not easy, Glenn said. Bergner was considering other routes in life before deciding to come to USD.
“South Dakota and the Air Force Academy were my two biggest recruiters,” Bergner said. “I didn’t want to serve in the armed forces, so I came here. Coach Glenn has a way of convincing you when he is recruiting you. Plus, being able to play indoors is always nice as a kicker.”
Glenn laughed as he remembered enticing Bergner to choose South Dakota.
“He was a good get for us,” he said. “He played in one of the high school All-American games as a punter. Plus, having no wind played a huge role for him.”
While all of his accomplishments on the field are becoming known, Bergner said he is quite different off the field. He said he plays with some zen, but he enjoys off-the-field antics.
“I play with little emotion — at least now I do. Off the field, I would guess my teammates would describe me as being weird,” Bergner said. “I like to crack jokes and mess with people even at practice, but as soon as the helmet and pad get put on, I put on a so called ‘death glare’ as my teammates would describe it.”
His teammates are behind him and his antics — as long as the field goals keep scoring.
“It’s good to see this from Miles,”said junior Keyen Lage before the Illinois State game. “He’s a good guy to have in our locker room.”
Glenn echoed his players’ assessments, saying Bergner is the guy having fun. Glenn said Bergner is the guy always spewing facts on the road.
“Miles is a character. He’s got a great sense of humor and is extremely gregarious,” Glenn said. “He has a lot of general knowledge about all sorts of things.”
(Photo: Sophomore Miles Bergner punts the ball during the Coyote’s Nov. 15 game against Illinois State in the DakotaDome. Bergner is currently perfect (16-16) on field goal attempts this year. Emily Niebrugge / The Volante)