The uncertain and sometimes crazy up-and-down plight of a punter was on display last week when Delaware State suffered a 37-7 loss to Morgan State in MEAC action, falling to 5-5.
In that game, Delaware State punter Matt Noll had two punts that had a difference of 80 yards.
He had one punt of zero yards and another of 80.
For the game, he had seven punts and averaged 48.7 yards, a healthy average. Take away the blocked punt and he averaged 56.8 yards on the remaining six punts. Of course, you can’t take away the bad ones and only include the successful ones.
Yet Noll showed plenty of gumption to rebound from his miscue.
His first punt of the game was blocked and returned 26 yards for a touchdown. After that, the 6-foot, 200-pound sophomore really began an otherwise impressive day of booting.
His next punt was 45 yards, but the following one is the one that traveled 80 yards. Noll would have settled for 79, because the punt went into the end zone, giving him a net of ‘only’ 60 yards.
He then would complete his day with punts of 43, 40, 43, 51, and 39 yards.
The fact that he had to punt seven times shows that it wasn’t Delaware State’s day.
Yet the 80-yard punt wasn’t a fluke.
He has been an accomplished punter for his two full seasons at Delaware State. As a freshman, he was a first-team all-MEAC punter with a 40.4 average. This season he is averaging 43.1 yards on 59 punts, placing him 13th among FCS punters.
He has had six games this year where he has boomed a punt of at least 60 yards.
Noll’s 80-yard punt was the longest of the season and left many (ok maybe not many, but at least me) wondering if that was close to an NCAA FCS record.
The answer: no.
According to the FCS record book, the longest punt is 93 yards by Northeastern’s Tyler Grogan in a game against Villanova on Sept. 8, 2001. Villanova won that game, 31-14, so like Noll, the individual brilliance of Grogan was overshadowed by an L.
BTW, the longest punt in the FBS record books is 99 yards, by Pat Brady of Nevada on Oct. 28, 1950, in a game against Loyola Marymount.
Just a guess, but this one looks like it will never be broken.
Anyway, back to FCS, the leading punter this year is senior Jake Gerardi of Southern Utah (4-6), who is averaging 48.09 yards on 45 punts.
The 6-3, 250-pound Gerardi also does kickoffs. He has eight games this season with at least one punt of 60 or more yards, including four games of a punt of at least 70 yards.
Gerardi’s high this season was 73 yards in a 41-38 loss to SFA.
The busiest punter this season has been senior David Gelb of Charleston Southern, who has punted 66 times in 10 games for the 2-8 Buccaneers.
Gelb is third among FCS punters with a 45.35 average.
Punting is one of the statistics in which FCS punters can be compared to their FBS counterparts. And things are close, at least among the FCS and FBS leaders.
The top FBS punting average is Bryce Baringer of Michigan State (5-5), averaging 49.64 yards on 45 punts.
The busiest punter is Aaron Rodriguez of New Mexico (2-8) who has punted 65 times in 10 games.
Punters are a lot like linemen, in that they mainly get noticed when they shank a punt or two, but when they boom a big one the way Noll did, it generates headlines for a position that is among the least publicized or appreciated in any sport.