The Third Phase: Friday the (Not) 13th

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Ahhh yes, it is time for another edition of the Third Phase. If you feel some sort of nostalgia for this column, then I strongly urge you to see a licensed medical practitioner. You can also just check out the archives here.

Let’s get the show moving!

The weirdness of Friday the 13th

Friday night saw not one, but two top 10 upsets. Syracuse and Cal both pulled off the respective upsets at home against their conference counterparts. And naturally, in both upsets, we experienced less-than-stellar punting moments.

We start with the Clemson-Syracuse game. It was obviously tight throughout. However, a key point came in the fourth quarter when Clemson faced a 4th and 6 at the Syracuse 41 with under four minutes left. The Tigers brought out their punt unit, led by punter Will Spiers. Instead of punting, Spiers went for a fake and this is how it went. (GIF via Dr. Saturday)

For what it’s worth, yes this is pretty bad.

Ultimately, it set up Syracuse to run out the clock and pull off the 27-24 upset. And it led to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney chewing out his punter. I can understand if you wanted him to punt, but why give him the option? (Assuming there is an option).

Why have Spiers and the punt team out there to begin with? Shouldn’t the offense be picking up the first down?

This is why I’m hesitant to do a fake punt in that situation. That’s a high expectation to have of your specialists. It might work, it might not. Either way, it’s a big risk in that situation, especially at that point in the game.

And I realize quarterback Kelly Bryant was out of the game at that point. Still, I would think you’d want to trust your offense to at the very least pick up the first down.

At that point in the game, you want your offense to have the ball for as long as possible. Look at how much Syracuse moved the ball on Friday night, 83 plays for 440 total yards. That is one tired defense.

The Tigers gave up 8.4 yards per attempt to Syracuse’s passing game.

While the punter made a mistake, let’s not do that. Enough went wrong for Clemson that you can’t blame it on one thing. Syracuse’s offense is awesome to watch and it’s clear that Clemson wasn’t very prepared.

It showed in the fourth quarter when Clemson had the ball for all of 3 1/2 minutes. When you’re in a close ball game, time is of the essence. Hopefully, the Tigers think hard before going for a fake punt situation that late.

The other noteworthy thing that happened on Friday night took place during the Cal-Washington State game. Late in the first half, Washington State came out to punt. It didn’t go very well, as you can probably imagine. (GIF via Deadspin)

Yes, pretty much went less than a yard. It was bad. I realize this. I don’t have much of a defense for this, unfortunately. Things go wrong, I guess.

However, we do have to consider the whole “Pac 12 After Dark” thing. It came into play last week, so it makes sense that it would come into play this week. Also, it was Friday the 13th. That has to account for something. Sure there was no guy in a hockey mask running around doing stuff.

This gives me an idea for a movie about a punter who wears a hockey mask and runs around chasing camp counselors by punting the ball at them. I think that would be a very good horror movie, perhaps the best. I hope management keeps this idea in mind. It could make a lot of money at the box office and probably win 12 Academy Awards.

Of course, I’ve said that about other projects that I’ve thought up (I don’t want you to think I’m crazier than I really am). I’ll probably save it for next week.

The weirdness of Saturday the 14th

You know who had a bad day Saturday? Lots of teams did, but I’ll go on the record to say that Arkansas’ was probably less than ideal.

Unfortunately, punter Blake Johnson had a faux pas on the Razorbacks first drive. The snap for the punt got away from him and instead of punting it away, Johnson opted to throw the ball down the field hoping that maybe, just maybe, somebody would be open and make a catch and keep the drive going.

This most likely wasn’t part of the Arkansas playbook. Why? Because the Razorbacks got penalized for an ineligible man downfield.

It’s the kind of thing you never want to have happened in punt scenarios. You’re practically giving up free yards to the opposing team when you improvise. It didn’t cost them the game. So much else went wrong.

Besides, I don’t think you lose to Alabama solely on a botched punt play.

Look How Far It Went

Before we get onto the awards and honors for the week, we’d like to make congratulations to one specific punter. in Saturday’s game against Old Dominion, Marshall Punter Kaare Vedvik kicked one of the longest punts in FBS history.

How far did it go? It went 92 yards, to be exact. See for yourself!

An incredible punt with quite the bounce! It’s too bad they couldn’t stop the ball from going into the end zone. But let’s not hold it against Vedvik. He did an awesome job. Seeing punts like this makes writing this column fun.

Most Punts/Fewest Punts

We have one big winner when it comes to the most punts from the weekend. That honor goes to Kansas’ Cole Moos. In Saturday’s game against Iowa State, Moos punted the ball 13 times, averaging 38.1 yards per punt. It is also the most punts by a punter in FBS this season.

Thus far this season, Moos has punted the ball 40 times, which ties him for 15th in FBS. The current leader for most punts is Boston College’s Mike Knoll, who has 52.

As for fewest punts, I could get really technical and give the honor to Ohio State. They didn’t punt once in Saturday’s blowout win over Nebraska. However, we like the idea of punting.

Instead, I’m going to go ahead and give the honor to Georgia punter Cameron Nizialek, who had one punt for 55 yards. Yes, technically, he is getting the honor for a second week in a row. These things happen.

Georgia is really good at not having to punt the ball too much.

Awards

For this week’s awards, we have a repeat winner. We’re giving the Third Phase Punter of the Week award to Texas’ Michael Dickson, who was also the choice for the Ray Guy Award. His was a surefire nomination.

Dickson is outstanding and not just one of the best punters in the Big 12, but also the nation. In Saturday’s game, Dickson punted the ball five times, averaging 55 yards.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Dickson get weekly honors again.