Look at that, it’s time for another edition of The Third Phase. If you don’t know what this column is about, then you must be new. In which case, welcome! Check out previous posts here.
Your Ray Guy Finalists
And just like that, we’re down to three finalists for the Ray Guy Award. And if you look at this year’s list, it looks pretty similar to last year. Two of the three finalists this year were finalists last time around. I’m of course talking about Utah’s Mitch Wishnowksy and Texas’ Michael Dickson. The third guy in the finals is Alabama’s JK Scott. I thought he had a pretty good shot of making it this far, especially with all the solid punting he’s done in recent weeks.
These were pretty much the finalists I thought would get picked. They’re undoubtedly the best of the best, especially Wishnowsky and Dickson.
We’ll have a full breakdown of all the candidates next week. In addition, we’ll try and make the case for why each player is worthy of the award.
An overlooked candidate
It’s tough picking awards for college football. You can start out with a really good list, but narrowing it down is difficult. This year, 78 punters were nominated for the Ray Guy Award. Voters needed to narrow it down to 10 punters for the semifinals. That’s tough to go from 78 down to 10. You’re gonna overlook somebody when you narrow it down that much. In this case, I believe that overlooked player is Florida punter Johnny Townsend.
I respect the semifinalist list that the committee came up with. They’re the voters and I’m not. I’m fully aware of this reality. I’m not doing it “for the brand.” I just have a respect for punters and believe they should get more credit. And one of those punters is indeed Townsend.
Now, I could sit here and talk about this tweet about Townsend having the most punts in Florida history. It’s a weird thing to tweet, but hey, he should get a little credit. That’s a lot of punting.
Another record for @johnnytownsend1!
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) November 18, 2017
Townsend has been reliable for the Gators this season. He’s punted the ball 58 times this season. Of those, 25 have gone inside the 20. All four of Townsend’s punts on Saturday against UAB went inside the 20. Three of them were fair catches. And Townsend only punted the ball 50-yards or more once. If that’s not enough, Townsend hasn’t punted the ball for a touchback since the Georgia game.
He’s been towards the top all season nationally when it comes to average punting yards. He’s just a tenth of a yard behind Texas’ Michael Dickson. Obviously, we don’t know the vote totals of the semifinalists. We don’t know how close Townsend was to advancing further. It would be nice to know, but what can you do?
Wishnowsky the Magician
Is there anything Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky can’t do? The man was outstanding Saturday night against Washington and I’m not just talking about with punting.
First, he did this great thing on a kickoff. I’ll let this tweet speak for itself.
— Utah Athletics (@utahathletics) November 19, 2017
That’s right, HE DID AN ONSIDE KICK TO HIMSELF! That is so smooth and cool. He took advantage of a Washington team that totally didn’t expect it and he made it work. You gotta be really good to pull that off and I think it’s safe to say Wishnowsky is that damn good.
If you need more convincing that Wishnowsky is great, then you need to check out this fake punt play that led to the first down for Utah.
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) November 19, 2017
Just give him all the college football awards.
Wishnowsky the Magician Part 2: The Rod Gilmore thing
Of course, immediately after the fake fourth down play, Wishnowsky spiked the ball, which led to a referee tossing a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.
This for some reason pleased ESPN analyst Rod Gilmore, who has adopted a “No spiking the football” type of mantra. Gilmore believes in respecting the rules. So it bothered him that a punter felt the need to spike the football in celebration of picking up a tough first down. Did it bother him more than paying $15 for a bag of kettle corn, I can’t confirm or deny.
What I do know is that I have no problem with spiking of the football. It doesn’t bother me when any other college football player does it. You make a big play, why shouldn’t you spike it? The Pac 12 refs were out of order. The Pac 12 is out of order. Rod Gilmore is out of order! YOU’RE OUT OF ORDER! THE WHOLE DANG SYSTEM IS OUT OF ORDER! EVEN THIS VENDING MACHINE IS OUT OF ORDER!
That was a little too much, I know.
Another Good Fake Punt
Saturday night seemed to have a lot of interesting punting moments, mainly in Pac-12 games. In addition to Wishnowsky, we saw a great example during the Cal-Stanford game.
Punter Dylan Klumph took off on a fourth down play and picked up the first down.
— Cal Football (@CalFootball) November 19, 2017
That’s a tough play to make and Klumph pulled it off. Well done, friend!
When Your Punt Team Lets You Down
There was a nice story in the LA Times about UCLA punter Stefan Flintoft getting a scholarship this season. It’s a pleasant story and a good read.
What wasn’t nice, however, was the punt return touchdown by USC on Saturday night. Flintoft was let down by his team, as you can see in this footage here.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) November 19, 2017
As you can see, Flintoft punted right, however, most of his punt team traveled left. It’s like taking a fork in the road and going the wrong way. Because of this, Flintoft was on an island as Michael Pittman Jr. returned it for a touchdown.
You have to admit, it’s a very good trick by USC. UCLA bought it and because it’s a close game, you could suggest it made the difference. Please try to do better.
It Can Happen in D3
If you know me, you know how much I appreciate Division III collegiate sports. It’s always nice to remind you fine folks that it exists. It’s my duty as an alum of a D3 school, after all.
The first round of the D3 football playoffs kicked off last weekend. A lot obviously happened with teams winning and losing. That said, this play has to be the highlight of the weekend in the first round of the playoffs.
That is Frostburg State punter Dante Chinnery taking the snap and running it 93 yards for a touchdown. Keep in mind, he took that snap in the middle of the end zone, so he did a lot more running than 93 yards. But hey, the line of scrimmage is the line of scrimmage.
The play took place in the fourth quarter and it helped Frostburg State put the game out of reach. They went on the road and defeated Wittenburg 35-7.
As for Chinnery’s punting numbers, he booted the ball three times with his longest going 42 yards. Chinnery’s touchdown run made him the third leading rusher in the game for Frostburg State.
I wouldn’t expect that play to work a second time, but you never know.
Blake Hayes of Illinois receives the honor of most punts for the weekend. He booted the ball 11 times, averaging 42.6 yards. Quite a few punters had just one punt for the weekend, but the one with the most yardage goes to Duke’s Austin Parker, who booted it 45 yards.
The Third Phase Punter of the Week goes to LSU’s Zach Von Rosenberg. In last week’s game against Tennessee, Von Rosenberg punted the ball five times. Three of those punts landed inside the Tennessee 20.