The day after Louisiana Tech’s season-opening 21-20 loss at Arkansas, junior kicker Jonathan Barnes was all alone inside Joe Aillet Stadium. It was a Sunday afternoon when Barnes, a graduate of Baton Rouge’s Woodlawn High, tried making amends for a 2-of-4 performance — an effort that included misses from 54 and 39 yards. “It didn’t bother anyone more than it bothered him,” Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz said. “He’s a competitive player and a very proud player.”
Barnes’ miss from 39 yards happened in the first minute of the fourth quarter with Louisiana Tech trying to stretch its 20-14 lead into a two-score game. Instead, Arkansas answered with a go-ahead touchdown on its next possession, leaving Louisiana Tech — and in particular Barnes — with a sinking feeling of what might have been. Before any of his teammates arrived at Aillet Stadium for a workout, Barnes had already made 10 kicks each from 54 and 39. “It was something I needed to do and put away that bad feeling,” Barnes said. “You don’t ever want to miss a kick, especially in that situation. It was a way for me to go out there, put the Arkansas game behind me and look forward to the rest of the season.” Barnes responded by making 13 of his next 14 attempts en route to enjoying another impressive season, providing Louisiana Tech’s prolific offense with a valuable weapon heading into Saturday’s Conference USA championship game against Western Kentucky at 11 a.m. The 5-foot-9, 172-pound Barnes, a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, converted 17 of 22 field goals with a career long of 54 yards this season. He has also made 66 of 67 extra points and had 29 touchbacks on 82 kickoffs. “I felt really confident going into the year, hit the ball clean and felt ready to go,” Barnes said. “Every time I step on the field it’s not to attempt a field goal, it’s to make it.”
Three productive years as a complementary piece to Tech’s high-powered offense has positioned Barnes for the opportunity to leave as the school’s greatest kicker. Keep in mind, this program produced such NFL veterans as Matt Stover, Chris Boniol and Josh Scobee. “Just to be considered with some of the other guys, who’ve been here and had great careers in the NFL, is something that’s really special,” said Barnes, who was sure to credit holder Logan McPherson and deep-snapper Darrell Travis for his success.
Barnes’ season, which includes 117 points, has placed him in at least the top seven of all the school’s career kicking categories, including No. 2 in extra points attempted (169) and No. 3 in extra points (165) and points (318). Barnes opted for a scholarship offer from then-Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes over a preferred walk-on opportunity by former LSU coach Les Miles. Following a redshirt season and splitting time as a redshirt freshman, Barnes took over all place-kicking duties full time in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. Barnes was named second-team All-Conference USA after making 22 of 26 field goals, 60 of 60 extra points, scoring 126 points and registering 22 touchbacks on 88 kickoffs. His 126 points eclipsed the school’s single-season mark for points by a place-kicker, while the 22 field goals were the second most. Barnes, who has made 79 percent of his field goals (51 of 65) and 97.6 percent of his extra points (165 of 169), closed the season by making 11 of his last 15 field goal tries — including attempts from 48 and 51 yards at North Texas. “He went about seven weeks and didn’t miss a kick,” Holtz said. “He’s done some huge things for us and made a huge difference with our kicking game.”