It’s time for another edition of the Third Phase. It’s a column for the punting enthusiasts. This also assumes you’re a punting enthusiast, in which case WELCOME! You can find previous columns here.
At long last, another college football week has come and gone. And it seems like there is always some sort of punt content for me to fill this post, most of it unfortunately not good. But hey, we try to make the best of things here.
The Mystery of the Smoke Ring
Saturday night’s Pac-12 match-up between Utah and Stanford wasn’t the best night to showcase the best of special teams.
One of those moments occurred late in the game when on an extra point, Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky bobbled the snap but saved it in time for placekicker Matt Gay to get the point.
— Ben Murphy (@BenMurphyTV) October 8, 2017
Everything went wrong, yet the specialists for Utah saved the opportunity and turned it into the most awkward PAT in the history of football.
Of course, this wasn’t the only bad snap of the night. It seemed like Utah had a rough time at the long snapper position. Wishnowsky had a rough time trying to punt on Saturday night.
How bad was the long snapping for Wishnowsky on Saturday night? This happened!
Utah tries to punt, but Whittingham skips it to Wishnowsky. Never gets the punt off. Stanford takes over at the 15 yd line.
— Kareem Copeland (@kareemcopeland) October 8, 2017
It was that kind of night for the Utah specials teams unit. Did it cost Utah a chance to win? I can’t say it did, not when Stanford has Bryce Love running through the Utes defense.
For what it’s worth, the Whittingham mentioned in this tweet refers to Alex Whittingham, long snapper and son of coach Kyle Whittingham.
Should Whittingham field the blame for the special teams’ woes for Utah? A simple Twitter search shows that not everyone is happy with Whittingham at the long snapper position. We here at the Third Phase refuse to advocate for someone to start or
We here at the Third Phase refuse to advocate seriously for something like replacing a position player. It’s completely up to the coaching staff.
Of course, the special teams’ woes also happened to Stanford. Punter Jake Bailey had a beautiful punt in the second half, one that went out of bounds at the Utah one-yard-line. It was an amazing coffin corner punt. And as friend of the program Matt Zemek pointed out, it would have been the perfect punt of the night.
— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek) October 8, 2017
HOWEVER…Stanford got penalized for illegal procedure. This forced the Cardinal to punt the ball again. Bailey didn’t pin them at the one. We’re always disappointed when a penalty negates a good punt. Punters should be rewarded for good punts. When will the world learn!
Most people seem to write off these special teams problems as #Pac12AfterDark debauchery. And that’s fine, I guess. However, I have another theory.
Utah apparently has a vape cannon pic.twitter.com/VQtxQrKyEC
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 8, 2017
What the hell is this!? I feel like this culprit led to bad special teams on both sides. We need to be more careful before releasing giant smoke rings into the sky. I’m just saying.
Bad Punts by “Smart” Schools
Unfortunately, we had a couple of bad punts that are worth mentioning in this column. They both happened in early games. I had a feeling those early games would lead to bad punting somewhere.
The first bad punt happened during the Vanderbilt-Georgia game.
Not ideal, Vandy pic.twitter.com/E7eW5bI8tM
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) October 7, 2017
Vanderbilt punter Sam Loy shanked a punt that went 15-yards, going of bounds at their 45-yard line. This set up a Georgia touchdown to put them up 14-0. They’d eventually win 45-14.
Meanwhile, in Evanston, Northwestern punter Hunter Niswander also had a less than ideal punt.
Here's a 13-yard punt by Northwestern pic.twitter.com/haKIsPIPLE
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 7, 2017
Niswander’s punt, which happened in the second quarter, went just 13-yards, going out of bounds at the Northwestern 34-yard line. This would set up a touchdown drive for Penn State.
Both punts were pitiful enough that Sports Illustrated asked the world to compare which punt was worse?
Who had the more pitiful punt: Vanderbilt or Northwestern? https://t.co/uXsihGAccd
— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) October 7, 2017
Please don’t make me compare the two. Please!
Fake Punts Galore
Saturday saw a couple of successful fake punt plays. One of those fake punts happened during the Iowa game and no it wasn’t the opponent (Illinois).
This is not fake news, it's a fake punt.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 7, 2017
It wasn’t pretty and it was indeed risky. However, it worked for Iowa. I’m curious to know if they’re just going to try to run fake punt plays all the time. You all know I have my doubts. But it’s not like I have the power to force teams to not run a fake punt.
The other play occurred during the Clemson-Wake Forest game.
As you can see, both of those plays proved to be successful. However, it’s ridiculous to believe that it will work all the time. There will be times when it all goes wrong and just completely backfires. I can only warn you all so many times.
Michael Dickson was recently picked as the Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week recipient and there’s a good reason why: He’s damn good. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself with this punt from the Texas game against Kansas State.
Here's the "All-American Australian" Michael Dickson's insane punt. Don't get to post punter highlights every day. pic.twitter.com/F8KO37EIIk
— Ezra Siegel (@SiegelEzra) October 8, 2017
That punt went 67 yards, to be exact. I fully expect Dickson to have at least one awesome punt in this week’s game against Oklahoma.
Most Punts/Fewest Punts
The player with the most punts on Saturday happens to be Michigan State punter Jake Hartbarger, who had 11 in the win against Michigan. Yes, he had 11 punts. And a lot of those punts came during a downpour. Hartbarger averaged 39.1 yards per punt.
Meanwhile, we’re giving the fewest punts to Cameron Nizialek of Georgia, who punted just once against Vanderbilt for 59 yards. Nizialek used the punt to pin the Commodores inside the 20.
Punter of the Week
Once again, different punters received the important punter of the week awards.
The Third Phase Punter of the Week award goes to Lester Coleman of Virginia. In Saturday’s win over Duke, Coleman punted the ball eight times, averaging 50.8 yards. Coleman had a beautiful 62-yard punt that went out of bounds at the Duke 10-yard line.
Meanwhile, the Ray Guy Award gave its Punter of the Week honors to Johnny Townsend of Florida.
— Ray Guy Award (@RayGuyAward) October 9, 2017
In Saturday’s game against LSU, Townsend punted the ball five times, averaging 49.2 yards. Townsend punted a 62-yarder early in the second quarter, pinning LSU inside its 10-yard line. All but one of those punts went inside the opposing 20-yard line.
Congratulations to both men on the honors. Now is a chance to get set up for a new week of punting.