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Punting is Winning: Week 2

A look at the specialists’ performances

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

It's the B1Gest part of the game, so it makes sense that it should have its own OTE column. Field position is crucial for teams with stronger defenses than offenses, and that's most of the league. Hidden yards on punts and returns are often the difference in close games. So, in short, punting is winning.

In Week 2, Big Ten punters totalled 59 punts for 2605 yards and an average punt of 44 yards. They knocked 27 punts inside the 20, and 7 of those were inside the 5. Only 4 went into the endzone for touchbacks, and two different punters hit a very nice weekly high of 69 yards.

Those numbers feel pretty elite, if you ask me.

One punter had an exceptionally efficient night, putting two punts at the one yard line, and sending his only other attempt 62 yards. Unfortunately, that would be Jesse Mirco, whose efforts are largely unappreciated by his Ohio State faithful.

Fellow Aussie Tory Taylor notched 409 yards on 8 efforts for a 51-yard average, and had his long of the day stopped at 69 yards because his coverage team thought it was muffed. Or because they’re bros. Five of the eight punts were stopped instead the 20. He did have one touchback, but it was with the game already secured in the fourth quarter. No team relies on their punter more than the Iowa Hawkeyes.

B1G Punter of the Week

One punter gets to hold his foot higher than the rest this week, and that is my favorite Rutgers Scarlet Knight, Adam Korsak.

Korsak drove 6 punts a total of 313 yards, for an average of 52 yards that is second-best only to Wisconsin's Vujnovich (who only had two efforts). 5 of his 6 punts died inside the 20, and this 69-yarder was downed at the 1. Ladies and gentlemen, Adam Korsak.

Not everyone had spectacular punting though. Michigan State had a punt blocked by Youngstown State, who then promptly threw an interception. Michigan decided they were too good for punting, and tried (and converted) a fake punt. Maryland's long of the day was 37 yards. Northwestern did force and recover a muffed punt, so good for them.

Opposite our lead-footed heros are their proverbial Jokers, the return men. Big Ten return men took out 19 kicks and 43 punts, for a total of 1055 yards. Hands down, though, nobody had a better day than the Indinia Hoosers.

Return (Unit) of the Week

Indiana saw 9 punts, and returned 8 of them for 154 yards, a 19-yard average. That is lowered slightly by the fact that it includes a 4-yard blocked-punt return for 6. However, it's raised slightly by the fact that it includes a 81-yard punt return touchdown.

They also took a kick return 72 yards, setting up a 28-yard touchdown drive. They totaled 266 return yards as a unit, and I say as a unit because seven guys got in on the eleven total returns. Indiana had more than 20% of the return yards for the league. Way to go, Hoosiers. Sincerely.

Less successful were the Huskers, who never fielded a kick, but did muff one. Ohio State's Garrett Wilson attempted two punt returns, the longer of which was only a two yard loss. The shorter was a six yard loss.

The Big Ten combined for 71 touchbacks on 91 kickoffs, getting perfect days from Iowa's Shudak (6), MSU's Coughlin (7), Illinois's McCourt (3), and PSU's Stout (9).

Shudak also went 3/3 on extra points and 2/3 on field goals, knocking one 50-yarder and missing another on a high snap. Northwestern's Kuhbander, Minnesota's Trickett, and Wisconsin's Larsh all had perfect days, totalling 4 field goals between them, but with only Trickett trying one past 50.

Kicker of the Week

The longest field goal of the week came from Michigan's Jake Moody, who struck one true from 59 yards. It was his only attempt of the day, as he also went 4/4 on extra points in the Wolverines' victory.

A less good performance came from Nebraska's Culp, who went 0/3 on field goals. Or did he?

Their foes also had a rough day, as did anyone who willingly watched this game. The two sides combined for one field goal in seven attempts. Nebraska's punter had a below average day for the league and was head and shoulders the bright spot of the Huskers special teams.

Outside the Empire

USC's Parker Lewis went above and beyond, traveling 30 yards downfield on the opening kickoff to make the tackle himself. Unfortunately, he also went beyond the rules, making the tackle with his head. This has got to be the fastest a kicker has even been ejected. It's probably also the first kicker ejection of the year.

That's all for this week. Let me know of anything I missed in the comments. Like the 65-yard Northwestern punt return.