The Third Phase: In Praise of Dickson

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It’s time for another edition of the Third Phase, which focuses on collegiate punting. You can check here to see previous columns.

“Their punter about won the game for them.” – Oklahoma State Head Coach Mike Gundy

The above quote, as told to ESPN’s Todd McShay, refers to none other than Michael Dickson. If you think the praise stopped right there on the game broadcast, you’re wrong.

The praise for Dickson continued after the game during Gundy’s press conference.

That is high praise from a coach who has a solid punter on his own team, Zac Sinor. It also says a lot about a punter when the opposing team’s coach acknowledges their effort. Gundy’s right to praise Dickson.

The reality is, I don’t know how close Dickson was to winning the game for Texas. It is a team game, after all. However, Dickson gave the Longhorns every opportunity to knock off the 10th ranked Cowboys at home. He had the type of game that all punters wish they could have every Saturday.

In last week’s column, I wrote that Dickson, who had received the Ray Guy Punter of the Week award, as well as Third Phase Punter of the Week, will likely win more awards as the season progresses. Maybe it’s an easy prediction, but who cares! Dickson is awesome and he’s someone you should pay attention to when it’s fourth down. And he proved it again on Saturday.

Texas found themselves in plus territory on their first two drives. Ultimately, they had to punt it away. Dickson had short yardage, yet on both punts, he pinned Oklahoma State inside their 10. The second punt went only 36 yards, but he got it to the Cowboys four-yard line.

Of the 11 punts for Dickson, five of them went inside the 20. Five! He also had a touchback, but that will happen sometimes. One of Dickson’s most amazing punts came midway through the fourth quarter when he pinned the Cowboys at their 14 with a 66-yard boot.

His last punt was just as good. In the final two minutes, Dickson kicked a 63-yarder, which was returned a couple of yards to Oklahoma State’s eight-yard line. The Cowboys picked up a first down, but it went to overtime.

It’s tough punting the ball away. You want your offense to hold onto the ball for as long as possible; you don’t want to surrender possession.

But a punter’s job is to give defense the best chance to stop the opposing offense, and Dickson did that. He gave the Longhorns defense a chance to limit Oklahoma State’s explosive offense. Granted, sometimes it didn’t work out for the defense. The punt downed at the four led to the Cowboys only touchdown of the game. What can you do? The punter doesn’t play safety.

Dickson did what he needed to do. He averaged 50 yards per punt and his total yardage (569) was more than the passing yards for Mason Rudolph and Sam Ehlinger.

It’s a shame the Longhorns couldn’t get the win. Part of me thinks/hopes he would’ve gotten a game ball had they won. It’s magic watching him punt, I’m telling you.

We’re more than halfway through the season, obviously. Less than a month from now, the Ray Guy Award committee will list its semifinalists and later, finalists.

I have little doubt in my mind about Dickson’s chances. He’s a surefire finalist. Honestly, I think he’s the favorite to win the Ray Guy Award.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a vote in this. I can give my thoughts and present my version of the award, but that’s it. I’m not an expert or a professional. I certainly never played football or punted. I’m pretty sure I’d be arrested for impersonating a punter. That’s a law, right?

I do know that Dickson is a special player. He’s talented and is worthy of all the attention. You can make a case for Dickson being one of, if not, the best player on the Longhorns. He’s the best punter in the conference and possibly the country. I might not have a vote for the Ray Guy Award, but if I did, Dickson would get it. He’s earned the opportunity and he’ll continue to prove it.

Gundy might not have the ability to go back in time to change the vote to Dickson. However, his comments Saturday show Dickson has more accolades waiting in his future.

When Punting Helps You Win

There wasn’t a lot of good things happening when Northwestern and Iowa faced off on Saturday. It was…well…a Big Ten game.

Northwestern punter Hunter Niswander had one of the better moments in the game for the Wildcats. You might remember Niswander was previously mentioned in this column for a less than stellar punt.

Well, Niswander moved on and totally redeemed himself. Early in the second half, Niswander booted an 80-yard punt as his teammates downed it at the Iowa three-yard line.

The Hawkeyes moved the ball for one first down before punting. This set up the game-tying touchdown for the Wildcats. Northwestern would go on to win 17-10 in overtime.

That was far and away the best punt of the game for Niswander. When you can do that, it helps your team, especially when they’re not having the best day.

Most Punts/Fewest Punts

You might think that Dickson would have the honor of most punts for the week. However, that isn’t the case. Yes, somebody got more than 11 punts. Rutgers punter Ryan Anderson had 12 punts in Saturday’s game against Purdue, averaging 43.6 yards.

Meanwhile, we had a couple of punters punt just once in their respective games. We’ll give the edge to Austin Seibert of Oklahoma, who had just one punt for 48 yards.

Awards

There were so many good performances from this past weekend to choose from. How do you pick one? It’s definitely tough. We do have recipients, though. The Third Phase Punter of the Week is Northwestern’s Hunter Niswander. It’s hard to deny the effectiveness of his 80-yard punt in the win over Iowa.

Meanwhile, the Ray Guy Award committee chose Corey Bojorquez of New Mexico as their National Punter of the Week.

In the game against Colorado State, Bojorquez punted the ball three times, averaging 57 yards per punt. He had a 78-yard boot that was downed at the Colorado State 11-yard line. The other two punts went for 50 and 45 yards. Congratulations to all!