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Punting is Winning; kicking, not so much

Korsak shines with limited reps, Huskers lose thanks to poor special teams

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 Michigan at Rutgers
Korsak kicks pork
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Let’s talk about punting statistics, shall we? Or you can just scroll down to the bold to see how Adam Korsak did. I use ESPN, and their box score statistics, to generate the numbers I use here. ESPN uses gross punts for their averages. The problem with that is that it doesn’t account for return yardage or touchbacks, both of which are highly indicative of the quality of the punter. Of course, the counter is that they’re also reliant on the quality of the punt coverage team. The long this week came from Michigan State Spartans punter Bryce Baringer, who had a very polarizing week. Of his five punts, three were downed inside the 20 (including one at the 1), and the other two were touchbacks. This includes his long of 65 yards. His average was a league-leading 54.6 yards/punt, but take away the two touchbacks, and it’s a much more mundane 46.6 yards.

If I don’t use ESPN and their gross punting, I’d have to individually go through the play-by-plays and count up the yardage myself. So here’s the compromise, and it’s under the premise that I am not going to create a perfect system: I’m going to take their yards and averages, but I’m going to mark longs and coffin punts by net (i.e. if a punt is caught at the 18 but the returner is tackled at the 23, it’s not inside the 20). I’m not going to do hangtimes because I’d have to find and watch every punt and because I don’t make every highlights video, they rarely include punts.

Punter of the Week

One week this season, I’m going to have to give this to someone other than Adam Korsak. This ain’t that week. Korsak punted just twice this week: a 57-yarder downed inside the 20, and a 56-yarder downed at the 1. Rutgers, put up the statue already. Great effort by the coverage team there. Rutgers ended up conceding a field goal off of the ensuing drive, which... come on guys.

Big Ten Network

An honorable mention goes to a team whose defense does capitalize off of field positioning is Iowa, who tallied their fourth defensive score and their first safety this year following a Tory Taylor punt downed at the 8. Taylor had five punts for 238 yards, and his was the story of near misses this week. His first punt was downed at the 1, but a costly kick-catch interference moved it all the way up to the 25. His third punt hit the pylon, going for a touchback. He had a 47.6 yard average, and the long of the week for the Big Ten at 60 yards. Iowa’s most interesting special teams play of the day wasn’t a punt, though. It was a fake punt. It was a fake punt attempted after Iowa took a delay of game penalty trying to draw the defense offside. It was a fake punt that involved the punter throwing a five-yard out on fourth and nine. A punter who, being Australian, doesn’t exactly have much experience throwing footballs. It did not work.

Also, I know I've already talked too much about Iowa for some of you, but Taylor and Raygun are selling this shirt for charity. Naturally, I bought one.

Honorable mentions should also go to Ohio State’s Mirco and Nebraska newcomer William Przystup. Both put all their attempts inside the 20, with Mirco hitting three for 133 yards and a 44 yard average, and Przystup landing two for an even hundred yards, with the further being 52 yards. While Minnesota’s punter didn’t have an extraordinary day, he did “force” a turnover, so that deserves a shoutout.

Penn State did the B1Gest thing of the year so far by punting on third down. I'm sure you've seen it by now, but after a questionable intentional grounding on first down and an incomplete pass on second down, the referees indicated fourth down. After protests from the Penn State sidelines, they conferred and ask the replay officials and somehow, everyone had fourth down. So Penn State did something Kirk Ferentz has been trying to do for 22 years, and booted it away on third. The SEC did admit the mistake on Sunday, and Penn State won anyways.

Returner of the Week

Hey, look at you, Rutgers! Now, they did play an FCS team, but Aron Cruickshank took one kick for 38 yards and two punts for 77, including a 62-yard score. Quite the rounded effort for the Scarlet Knights, whose kicker also went 1/1 on field goals and 6/6 on extra points.

AJ Henning, of the Michigan Wolverines, was the only other returner to have a noteworthy days, taking five punts for seventy yards, with a long of thirty-two. The conference totaled 20 kick returns for 350 yards, and 29 punt returns for 289 yards.

Kicker of the Week

Though the conference gave this award to Maryland kicker Joseph Petrino, he attempted all his kicks from exactly 32 yards, and went 2 of 3. He did notch the game winner over Illinois though, so props for hitting it when it mattered most.

Player of the week goes to Noah Ruggles, the Ohio State Buckeyes’ kicker, who went 2/2 on field goals, both in the 40-yard range, and notched all five extra point efforts. No kickers were remarkably good this week, with the only 50-yard make coming from Nebraska’s Connor Culp, who also missed from 50 and 35.

Okay, let’s talk about Nebraska. Nebraska went 1/3 on field goals, leaving six points off the board. They also had an extra point blocked, so that’s seven. They lost by seven. But wait, that blocked extra point?

Oh Huskers. That’s two weeks in a row where special teams really let the Huskers down. Culp missed all three efforts last week. He went 1/3 ON EXTRA POINTS in their loss to Illinois. Their punter, Daniel Cerni, was benched after substandard performances. Obviously there’s a lot of holes on this Nebraska team, but competent special teams shouldn’t be impossible for a power five team.

Outside the Empire

Shoutout to the special teams of Hamilton High School in Arizona, who converted two onside kicks en route to a 1:10 17-point comeback. High school sports sure are fun.

Share what I missed and/or got wrong in the comments.