The Third Phase: Punt Side Story

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It’s that time of the week again: We have a new, fresh edition of the Third Phase, America’s most American column about punting. Aren’t you excited!

Best Pac-12 Punter

Saturday night once again featured a top-tier punter showdown. However, this time it took place on the West Coast, late at night, during some supposed Mixed Martial Arts show.

You might know the game better as Stanford versus Utah. However, I prefer to think of it as Jake Bailey versus Mitch Wishnowsky. These two could be the best especially in a conference loaded with punters. So this was probably an epic showdown, right? Well, not exactly!

The two punters on Saturday night combined for five punts total. I am just as shocked as you are. It’s that whole Pac-12 After Dark phenomenon again.

Mitch Wishnowsky punted twice during the entire game. His longest punt traveled 53-yards.

Technically, Wishnowsky did have a third punt, a 40-yarder that landed in the end zone for a touchback. However, Stanford got called for running into the punter (which should receive far more severe consequences than just a 5-yard penalty).

That kept the Utah drive alive, eventually leading to a Zack Moss seven-yard touchdown run. Meanwhile, Bailey punted the ball three times. Two of those punts went 50 or more yards, including his longest of 56. Two of Bailey’s punts also went in the end zone for touchbacks.

With the lack of punting, we never got a decisive answer to the question above. That said, these two aren’t the only punters in the discussion.

You can make a strong case for UCLA’s Stefan Flintoft. He’s a bright spot on a team that hasn’t seen much success this season. In Saturday’s loss to Washington, Flintoft booted the ball three times, averaging 55.3 yards. Two punts traveled 50 or more yards, including his longest of 60. One punt landed inside the 20.

Flintoft is well on pace to have his best season ever. Of his 29 punts, 13 of them have traveled 50 or more yards. Through five games, he’s had seven punts land inside the 20. And he’s already booted the longest punt of his career, a 70-yarder during the Fresno State game. Flintoft received Punter of the Week honors from the Ray Guy Award committee once already, joining Wishnowsky.

But how do the other compare with Flintoft? Bailey has 32 punts this season, with nine landing in the 20 and 10 going 50 or more yards. His longest punt this season went 66 yards. As for Wishnowsky, he’s punted the ball just 21 times in five games. Nine have landed inside the 20, while four went 50 or more yards. His longest came against Weber State, which traveled 58 yards. As for fair catches, Wishnowsky has the edge as 12 of his were fair caught. Bailey has 10, while Flintoft has eight.

Whichever punter you pick, there’s a solid case to make. It will be fun to see these three punters compete for the Ray Guy Award. And rest assured, one of them will likely be a finalist.

Hunter Renfrow: Punter?

In case you missed it, Clemson defeated Wake Forest last Saturday. You’re probably not surprised by that and I understand. In fact, you probably guessed the score without looking it up.

But there was one player who stood out during that game and no it wasn’t the punter.

That is Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow punting the football. He also played quarterback, but that’s not important.

Renfrow played punter in the final minutes of Clemson’s win over Wake Forest. I’m not entirely sure why. To my knowledge, I don’t think Will Spiers got injured. In fact, Spiers had six punts, averaging 42.3 yards, including two that landed in the 20.

This could be a one time deal. Maybe Dabo Swinney wants to see what Renfrow can do in different scenarios. Or maybe Swinney has lost his mind and is just going to put anyone and everyone at punter. Maybe Kelly Bryant knew something we all didn’t.

Either way, we’re curious to see where this goes from here. Clemson plays NC State in a couple of weeks. Maybe Hunter Lawrence gets tested for his punting prowess. Christian Wilkins could get an opportunity. Who knows, maybe Dabo will lose it and bring in a popcorn vendor to punt. We’re monitoring the situation.

That Kansas Fake Punt Play

If you didn’t watch the Kansas-West Virginia game, it’s okay because there are a lot of games going on during that time and you can’t keep track of all of them. You did miss this fake punt play, though.

Everything about the play felt weird: the formation, the snap, the confusion, even the first down. What’s important is that it worked for Kansas. They were happy that it succeeded.

One person who wasn’t impressed by the play was West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen. In fact, he was rather displeased.

Besides calling it “high school stuff,” Holgo felt Kansas should’ve been called for an illegal snap.

For what it’s worth, Holgo did a poor job explaining why it should’ve been a penalty. He cited his “good friend” Washington State Coach Mike Leach.

I’m not Dean Blandino. The Open Man doesn’t keep me locked in a small room and contact me when there’s a controversial penalty moment in a game. To my knowledge, The Open Man doesn’t have a former referee they can contact about it.

Here is the rule about it, though. Feel free to interpret it however you like.

The Longest Punt of the Season (Thus Far)

Texas A&M’s Braden Mann continues to make a name for himself this season. In Saturday’s win over Kentucky, Mann booted an 82-yard punt. It’s the longest punt this season in FBS.

Who else is on the long punt list? Tyler Sumpter of Troy is second with a 79-yarder. Michigan State’s Jake Hartbarger and Nevada’s Quinton Conaway are tied for third with 74 yards. Steven Coutts of Cal and Jake Julien of Eastern Michigan are tied for fifth with 73 yards.

You can check out the full list here.

A Lot of Punting

It’s understandable if Wake Forest’s Dom Maggio had a sore foot the day after the Clemson game. Maggio punted the ball 12 times in the loss. It’s the most any punter in FBS punted during last week’s games. Maggio had two punts that went 50 yards, including a 52-yarder. Three of his punts landed in the 20. Also, seven of Maggio’s punts resulted in fair catches.

Maggio was one of three players with double-digit punts. He had the most for the week. Jonn Young of East Carolina finished with 11 punts, while Kentucky’s Max Duffy had 10.

Awards

This week’s Third Phase Punter of the Week Award goes to Texas A&M’s Braden Mann. It’s the second time he’s received this honor in the last couple of weeks.

And it’s easy to see why Mann is the pick this week. He crushed it against Kentucky. Including the 82-yard kick, four of his five punts traveled 50 or more. He had two punts go in the 20.

As for the Ray Guy Punter of the Week. Well, that too went to Mann. It’s very clear that a new punter in the state of Texas is setting himself apart from the rest of the country.

We’ll proably talk about him in the weeks to come.