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WESTMINSTER — Matt Stover wasn’t going to be unnerved by a case of the yips, a handful of shanks or teammates heckling him during training camp. Not with the knowledge that he would eventually get untracked.
The Baltimore Ravens’ veteran kicker booted a preseason career-high five field goals during a 29-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night at M&T Bank Stadium, including a pair of 50-yard kicks.
Fifteen points later, those missed kicks during practice at McDaniel College and linebacker Terrell Suggs’ good-natured taunts are behind Stover.
"The ball was flying nice, so I just try to keep the ball the same way," said Stover, who credited long snapper Matt Katula and holder Sam Koch. "Training camp, I missed a few field goals getting my swing together. The swing got together this past week."
Stover, 39, heads into this season as the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history with an 83.8 conversion rate, ranking sixth all-time in scoring with 1,715 points.
When asked about Stover’s reliability, Ravens coach Brian Billick replied: "I hardly watch anymore in the preseason."
The 50-yard kicks mark the second-longest for Stover during the preseason, the first time he’s ever connected on two of that length in the same preseason game and his longest since a 51-yarder in 1998 against the New York Jets.
Stover essentially has no competition for his job as British kicker Rhys Lloyd hasn’t even reported yet due to visa issues.
"You’re always competing for a job in the NFL," Stover said. "There’s always somebody out there to take your spot. My big thing is getting ready for the Cincinnati Bengals, and this was a good start.
"It helps me get my mind right, get my eyes focused and trained to be able to perform well. That’s where my key focus is.â€
PRUDE ON THE MOVE: Apparently, safety is the right spot for Ronnie Prude. In his first game at his new position, Prude led all defensive backs with four tackles.
He slammed Kelly Holcomb for a sack following a quick swim move on Eagles running back Ryan Moats. Later, Prude forced a fumble and recovered the loose football at the 50-yard line.
"It felt good to be out there flying around and making plays," Prude said.
"Normally, a little guy like me doesn’t get open. When I saw the quarterback sitting there, I knew I had to make the play. I tried to set him up outside and he didn’t block me too well."
MOVING FORWARD: Rookie quarterback Troy Smith is taking the longer view after a rough debut.
The Heisman Trophy winner completed just 3 of 11 passes for 34 yards, but did scramble for 13 yards. Meanwhile, Drew Olson, his competition for the third-string job, went 7 for 9 for 84 yards and a touchdown.
"As a professional, you have to get these things out of your system and understand that itâ€™s not always going to go your way," Smith said. "As a young quarterback, it’s all about how you bounce back from it."
TOUCHDOWN, CRIMSON TIDE: Rookie fullback Le’Ron McClain, a former Alabama football captain, was on the receiving end of Olson’s 4-yard touchdown pass.
"I woke up just dreaming about that, what if that happened?" McClain said. "When they called the play, I knew I was going to get the ball.â€
NO DANCING: Although introduced first at his request, new running back Willis McGahee didn’t follow through on his promise to dance for an enthusiastic crowd.
"I loved it," McGahee said. "I wished I had a dance for them. I didn’t know how to react. When the season comes, I’ll be ready for it."
QUICK HITS: Reserve running back Cory Ross took advantage of P.J. Daniels being out with a hamstring injury, rushing for 65 yards on 11 carries, including a 24-yard run. On the bubble to make the roster, performances like this one should only help Rossâ€™ cause. "I sure I hope I helped myself," he said. … Rookie return specialist Yamon Figurs returned three punts for 35 yards, including an 18-yard return. He returned one kickoff 28 yards. … B.J. Sams had one punt return for eight yards. … The 26-point win marked the Ravens’ third-largest margin of victory in preseason history, and their most lopsided win since 2003. … Rookie tight ends Marcus Freeman and Kendrick Ballantyne combined for three receptions for 74 yards, including a 33-yard catch from Ballantyne. … The Ravens committed only three penalties and didnâ€™t have a turnover. â€¦ The Ravens return to practice at 4 p.m. today in Westminster after a day off. Camp is scheduled to break Saturday morning.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.