The Third Phase: Not Quite A Young Sheldon

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Welcome to The Third Phase, a new weekly column that dedicated to punting in college football. This column is specifically about punting. We feel that punters aren’t getting respect. It’s time to show love to the punter! You can read the previous column here.

I’m happy to report that we didn’t have any miscues for this week. Now maybe you’re worried I won’t have any good content here, but that is false. We can’t just be posting bad stuff from punters all the time. That would be evil and cruel.

We believe in positivity for punters. These specialists deserve our respect and admiration and that’s what I’m here to provide you.

Guys like Tom Sheldon of North Carolina deserve to be recognized because they’re great. But who is Tom Sheldon? And why are you focusing on North Carolina? This isn’t a Q&A session, folks.

In Saturday’s game against Louisville, Sheldon unleashed an incredible punt of 66-yards. It’s beautiful and arguably one of the best punts you’ll see all season.

We thrive on this kind of content. When a punter does a great thing, he should be celebrated and we’re taking this time to celebrate Tom Sheldon.

What makes this play work is not just the punt by Sheldon, but the coverage team did a good job to make sure they pinned Louisville at the one-yard line. That’s teamwork right there, folks.

When special teams work together, they can accomplish anything and everything.

But what about this man of mystery?

Sheldon is a “sophomore” for the program in his second full season. Now maybe you noticed I put sophomore in quotation marks. I’m too lazy to use the italic button, to be honest.

The reality is, Sheldon is older than your average sophomore. He’ll turn 29 next month. Tar Heels Head Coach Larry Fedora acknowledged he got married the same year that Sheldon was born. For what it’s worth, Fedora’s pop culture knowledge isn’t quite as strong as it is about football.

Sheldon is originally from Echuca, Victoria in Australia. The town of nearly 13,000 sits on two rivers: the Murray and the Campaspe.

For what it’s worth, the town is home to a number of Australian footballers, some who have made the move to the US to be punters for college and pro teams.

Obviously, UNC took a big risk bringing on a player who needed to search for information North Carolina on Google (oh like you haven’t done any research on North Carolina). But the risk has worked out. UNC has arguably one of the best punters in the ACC and possibly the country. Sheldon is on the Ray Guy award watch list.

He had an outstanding freshman season. Of his 50 punts last season, 16 of them pinned opponents inside the 20 and five of them went for 50-yards or more.

Thus far in two games this season, has had four punts go inside the 20 and two go for 50-yards more. Both of those 50-plus came in the Louisville game Saturday.

It goes without saying that Sheldon is indeed our punter of the week. He averaged 53.50 yards on his four punts on Saturday.

Regardless of what happens to UNC, they don’t need to worry about the punter position because they have a reliable specialist.

Tracking the CyHawk game

When I think Iowa, I think punting. And it’s not because they’re good at punting. It’s more so because they do a lot of it, or have in the past.

My plan this past weekend focused on counting all the punts in the Iowa State/Iowa game. This meant watching the entire game. I was more than willing to take one for the team. I don’t really recommend doing this. It’s like staring at the sun. If you’re gonna do it, make sure you wear the proper glasses.

You don’t need to damage your vision watching this monstrosity of a game. I’ve watched enough Iowa and Iowa State football to know that my vision will never be the same. Don’t be like me!

I did this to find out how many punts both teams would make. The most ever since 2000 was 14, which took place in the (in)famous 9-6 Iowa State victory in 2012.

The fewest since 2000 was actually in 2011 when both teams combined for six punts. Feel free to go over this Sports Reference list yourself.

Sadly, the game didn’t reach 14, but it got close. In total, there were 12 punts in the CyHawk game. Colten Rastetter of Iowa had seven of those punts, while Iowa State’s Colin Downing had five. Downing had the edge in terms of long punts. His longest was 61-yards, which occurred late in the game.

With all the good punting, the field position didn’t make much difference for either side. Both offenses had little trouble moving the ball up field against the respective defenses.

Interestingly enough, the game went to overtime and Iowa won 44-41. The Hawkeyes might not have had the best day punting, but they got out of Ames with a win. Of course, some might argue just getting out of Ames is a win within itself. I don’t consider it a win unless you get out of Iowa entirely.

Boston College and Wake Forest Punt Festival

I’m not sure whether I should admire those who watched the Boston College/Wake Forest game or run as far away from them as possible.

These two teams combined for 16 punts in the victory, which coincidentally was also the same number of punts that Indiana and Virginia had in their game. The winning team (Wake Forest) punted the ball nine times.

Both Boston College and Wake Forest barely got over the 300-mark in total yards. I shudder to think how many more punts there would have been if Boston College didn’t turn it over four times.

Most Punts/Fewest Punts

The most punts for week two belongs to Ryan Rickel of Florida Atlantic. In the 31-14 loss to Wisconsin Saturday, Rickel punted the ball 11 times. He averaged 40.2 yards per punt and his longest went 53 yards

Meanwhile, we have a tie for fewest punts between Oklahoma State’s Zach Sinor and Minnesota’s Ryan Santoso. Both players each had two punts in their respective wins. Santoso has the edge in the average punt with 43.5 yards.

Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week

We’re obviously big fans of the Ray Guy award. It’s a big deal for punters. As part of the column, we’ll keep track of the weekly award winners recognized.

There wasn’t an opportunity to do it last week but we can do it now. Week 1’s winner was Tennessee’s Trevor Daniel.

The week two winner also happens to be OUR punter of the week. Yes, that’s right, it’s Tom Sheldon.

Congratulations to Sheldon! It’s well-deserved! Hopefully, he continues to have incredible success punting for the Tar Heels this season.