The Third Phase: Looking For the Bright Side

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It’s time for another edition of the Third Phase, America’s favorite column about college punting. We’re very confident about that declarative statement (okay maybe not). You can check out previous columns here.

There was so much punting content this weekend, that it was difficult keeping track of everything. However, it is the duty of this column to give it a try.

Unfortunately, some of that punting content isn’t necessarily the best, as much as we’d (well I’d) like it to be.

Punting Backwards

In Friday night’s Duke-Miami game, we, unfortunately, saw a punt that went for negative yards. Roll that beautiful Dr. Saturday footage…

As you can see, Miami punter Zach Feagles, son of former Hurricanes and NFL punter Jeff Feagles, kicked a ball in hopes of trying to pin Duke inside the 20.

Unfortunately, it went off the side of his foot, or the wind caught it (that’s my go-to excuse) and instead of going forward, it went sideways and backward.

It’s worth pointing out that Miami was already at the Duke 40. So while the punt did put Duke at the 41, it could have been much worse. What if that happened at the Miami 20? The Hurricanes would’ve been in serious trouble at that point.

Now, you might be thinking there is no benefit to punting the ball -1 yard. HOWEVER…I think this is a handy thing to do if you’re in the red zone and you’re too proud to turn the ball over on downs.

If you’re at the one-yard-line, just punt it sideways so it lands at the 2. This is a perfectly logical and rational thing to do. I swear I’m not crazy.

Just wait, by 2030 this will be the big thing to do in punting. The other team will have to prepare for the possibility that you’ll have to punt backward. The future is looking awfully bright.

When Punts…Hit Your Teammate

Saturday’s action featured not one, but two punters kicking the ball into a teammate, specifically an upback.

With as close as these upbacks can get sometimes, you had to figure one would bounce off of them at some point.

Our first example happened during the East Carolina/USF game.

East Carolina punter Austin Barnes punted the ball, which hit teammate Shaun James in the back of the head. This happened during the third quarter when South Florida already had a two touchdown lead. It officially went five yards, according to the stats. So in a way, it was much worse than the Feagles punt.

It set up a nice scoring opportunity for South Florida as they got a field goal to put them up 48-31 at the time.

The second one happened during the debacle known as the Tennessee-Georgia game. I should note that it was debacle mostly because of the team doing all the “debacling” (I have no idea if that is an actual word, but hey I’m running with it).

As you can see, this Trevor Daniel punt went off a teammate. This happened in the third quarter and amazing it still went 23 yards.

Of course, it did set Georgia up at their 45 and led to another touchdown drive, but that’s for the defense to worry about.

In terms of disasters for Tennesee on Saturday, it was bad, but it also wasn’t the worst thing to happen to them. Case in point!

I don’t know that I can add anything to the punts that wouldn’t be obvious. I think it was just one of those “things go wrong” type of deals.

When you have upbacks serve as blockers, you have to be extra cautious when you’re punting. That goes without saying, though. In that type of situation, it’s inevitable that you’ll see something like that happen. It’s up to everyone to do their job.

When Should You Punt on Fourth And Goal?

I never thought I’d have to write this section, but it’s a punting column, so I should be expecting anything at this point.

In the Temple-Houston game, the Owls had a goal to go type of situation on their opening drive.

On third and goal at the Houston 12, Temple quarterback Logan Marchi scrambled backward. He tried to throw the ball away, but the refs ruled him down for the sack. Suddenly, it became fourth and goal at the Houston 36. What do you do?

Temple decided the safe thing to do was send out the punter Alex Starzyk, who punted it and pinned Houston inside its own five. Nevermind the punt for a moment. Some people question is if it was a good idea to punt that deep into the opponent’s territory, especially on goal-to-go.

Obviously, the ideal situation on something like that would be to kick a field goal. In Temple’s instance, that’s a 50-plus yard field goal. Aaron Boumerhi, Temple’s kicker, does have a 52-yard field goal made on the season. I would think you could trust your kicker.

At the end of the day, Temple felt more comfortable punting it away. They weren’t obviously going for it on fourth down. If you’re within 35 yards of the end zone, you should really think about a field goal.

That said, if you face this kind of scenario, you don’t really have much choice but to punt the ball.

When A Fake Play Works

You all are familiar with how I feel about fake punts, but what about fake field goals? I should have the same viewpoint on that, right? Well…

If it works, it works. Iowa performed a fake field goal play on fourth down during the second half of Saturday’s game against Michigan State.

Hawkeyes punter Colten Rastetter completed the pass. It’s pretty impressive and it’s not something you see every day from a Kirk Ferentz-coached team.

As helpful as the play was, it didn’t lead to any points for the Hawkeyes. Instead, it led to this moment.

We’re not saying make Rastetter the starting quarterback, but it’s nice to have another option available.

Most/Fewest Punts

The most punts award belongs to San Diego State’s Brandon Heicklen. He had 10 punts in the game, averaging just a shade under 40 yards per punt against Northern Illinois.

We had several candidates for fewest punts, but this honor will be given to Louisville’s Mason King. Against Murray State, King needed to punt just once. He had a 45-yarder, which also led to a fumble and a recovery for the Cardinals.

And he even made it work despite colliding with his teammate. It was an excellent job by King. He’s a worthy Punter of the Week candidate.

Weekly Awards

The Third Phase Punter of the Week award goes to Wake Forest’s Dom Maggio. In Saturday’s game versus Florida State, Maggio punted the ball seven times, averaging 39 yards. He had a really beautiful one that pinned Florida State deep.

It would have been nice to see Wake Forest win the game, but what can you do. At least the punting was on point.

Meanwhile, the Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week goes to Michael Dickson of Texas.

In the win over Iowa State, Dickson punted the ball seven times, averaging 46.9 yards. Congratulations goes out to Dickson on the award. He’s an excellent candidate and somebody you really need to keep an eye on as the season continues on.