Welcome to The Third Phase, a new weekly column that dedicated to punting in college football. This column is specifically about punting, not special teams in general, although that still is significant in certain instances. We feel that punters aren’t getting respect. It’s time to show love to the punter!
We did it! We finally made it through week one of the college football season. And we made it through without anything bad happening to punters looking ridiculou…ohhh…
Oh no, Wyoming. pic.twitter.com/OucfC1ZKbo
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 2, 2017
A Landeta Moment..if that’s what you feel it needs to be called
Sean Landeta is arguably one of the best punters in NFL History. He’s second all-time in punts and third in punting yards. He won two Super Bowls with the Giants, twice made the Pro Bowl and three times was named an All-Pro.
With punters, people don’t remember how many times you pinned an opponent inside the 20. They don’t remember the hang time of your punts. They don’t even remember your touchbacks. But they will remember if you messed up.
Unfortunately for Landeta, people will remember one moment more than the rest. And that would be the NFC Divisional playoff game in January ’86 against the Super Bowl Shuffling Chicago Bears.
Early in the first quarter, Landeta whiffed on a punt near his end zone. Shaun Gayle picked it up and took it in for a touchdown. The Giants would go on to lose that game 21-0.
It’s not fair to suggest it affected the outcome of the game. The offense didn’t do much, with quarterback Phil Simms getting sacked six times and the running game being held to 32 yards. If that’s not enough, Soldier Field is right by the lake and those winds can get bad.
However, people still remember the Landeta moment. It’s certainly something Landeta was asked about immediately after it happened and it continues on to this day.
Meanwhile, everyone, or at least those who get the Big Ten Network, witnessed another whiffed punt courtesy of Wyoming specialist Tim Zaleski during Saturday’s game against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
ICYMI: This is your Week 1 blooper. It has to be. pic.twitter.com/VKJzYvmai1
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 2, 2017
It obviously was a tough spot for the Cowboys to be in by that point. They were still in a close game with the Hawkeyes. Iowa gets the ball and quarterback Nathan Stanley throws a 27-yard touchdown pass to Noah Fant and the tide turns from there. It went all downhill from there for Wyoming.
So…what happened? If we go based off of this wonderful Sean Landeta punting tutorial on YouTube, a lot likely happened.
He appeared to be rushed. (UPDATE: He confirmed what happened) When you’re rushed, you go through your fundamentals more quickly than you should. Zaleski is a freshman. Mistakes happen! He’ll be fine. I bet he’s hitting punts inside the 20 by the time of the Boise State game.
Because of Zaleski’s miss, people will likely forget that Cowboys quarterback and popular NFL Draft prospect Josh Allen threw two interceptions and had just 174 yards passing. The offense did no favors for Zaleski — or for the defense. Zaleski punted seven times in that game.
Wyoming had a bad showing on Saturday all around; it’s unfortunate that Zaleski is the one who gets the most attention. I don’t think anyone is blaming him (or at least I hope people aren’t blaming him). One person doesn’t lose a game for a team.
To Zaleski’s credit, he’s rolling with the moment. You can either hide under a rock for an eternity or embrace the moment. Truth be told, if it was me, I’d probably pay Robert Forster to hide me in New Hampshire, or somewhere that isn’t in the public eye.
The “Best Opener Ever” had bad punting
The hype going into this week one focused on Alabama against Florida State. Both sides battled hard, but the punting didn’t go as well for both sides, especially in this instance.
Florida State’s Logan Tyler and Alabama’s J.K. Scott had less than stellar games. Both players averaged 35 yards or less per punt and neither could pin their opponents inside the 20.
Scott had one punt that went nine yards. Tyler didn’t do better. One of his punts went 12-yards.
Both players have experience with punting. Scott is a senior, while Tyler is a sophomore. I don’t understand why these top-tier teams don’t put more emphasis on the punting itself. Don’t these teams want to win the “field position battle?”
An epic night (of punting)
Chances are, we’ll all be talking about Sunday night’s UCLA-Texas A&M game for a long time. Yeah, it was fun and terrific to see an epic comeback. However, lost in that shuffle was all the great punting that occurred during the game.
UCLA’s Stefan Flintoft and Texas A&M’s Shane Tripucka both had excellent nights of punting for their respective teams. Flintoft averaged 46.8 yards on five punts and had a beautiful 63-yarder late in the first quarter. Additionally, Flintoft recorded a 57-yard punt that landed on the A&M one-yard line.
Tripucka meanwhile had six punts in the game, averaging 48.2 yards. Unfortunately for Tripucka, four of his six punts happened in the second half. It’s hard to imagine why that is the case.
In addition, Tripucka punted one that traveled 58 yards. However, that resulted in a touchback. He did hit a 54-yarder that downed UCLA at their own 15. Unfortunately for the Aggies, that led to a Bruins touchdown drive.
Obviously, Tripucka was not at fault for the Aggies losing that one. Of course, why would anyone want to blame him? He didn’t give up nearly 500 yards of passing to Josh Rosen.
Our award for the most punts of the week goes to three players. Derek Adams of Kent State, Nick Gasser of Akron and Matt Flynn of Georgia Southern all punted the ball 11 times on Saturday.
Of the three, Adams averaged 46.5 yards per punt, doing so against the defending national champion Clemson Tigers. Nice to see these guys getting a workout.
Few punts, yet still effective
A bunch of teams had only one punt the entire game. It’s almost too many to list here. So the most notable of the one punt teams was Utah. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky had one punt in last Thursday’s win against Utah. The punt itself went 52 yards. Well done! Sometimes, you just have to make the most out of what you have available.
Punter of the Week
Let’s go ahead and give the punter of the week award to UCLA’s Stefan Flintoft. He had a very solid game and the Bruins won. He probably won’t get the credit, not with Josh Rosen’s performance.
We don’t have a Bad Punter of the Week. There are no bad punters, only bad snaps. That might be my new conclusion. Either that, or it will be the opener for my impending column on long snappers and how they’re important.