Arizona Football: The Punter was a decisive factor in loss to Utah

Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky was awarded the Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week for his performance against Arizona last weekend which ended up being the best in the country.

When you go back to analyze why you lost a game, the first thing you point to is the performance of your team. In the Arizona vs. Utah game, you have to dig a bit deeper. If you paid attention, the Cats started their drives much deeper in their own half of the field than the Utes.

The Augusta Sports Council awards the best punter of each week the Ray Guy Award. This week, they awarded Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky for his performance in last week’s game against our Arizona Wildcats.

Wishnowsky, who is almost 25 years old, has an interesting resume’. In 2012, Mitch was listed as a reserve for Perth in the West Australian Football League. Then he played JUCO football for Santa Barbara City College where his longest kick was 77 yards. Mitch did not play football in 2015.

The council published this press release on Monday following the game. This is the second time in the 2016 season Wishnowsky has won this award in five games:

“Augusta, GA (October 10, 2016) – The Augusta Sports Council and Ray Guy Award are proud to announce Mitch Wishnowsky of the University of Utah as the Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week for the second time this season. He assisted in helping Utah beat Arizona in a 36-23 win. Punting 6 times, Wishnowsky punted for 300 yards. He averaged 50 yards per punt with 5 punts marked inside Arizona’s 20-yard line. Wishnowsky’s net average from this weekend’s game was 50 yards. His long punt was 56 yards, and none of his six punts were returned.

Mitch Wishnowsky ranks No. 1 in the nation for net punting (48.12). He leads the nation in punt average (50.5) and leads the Pac-12 with 13 punts inside the 20-yard line and 14 punts of 50+ yards. Mitch Wishnowsky is the real deal. Congratulations to Mitch and the University of Utah!”

While Wishnowsky punted six times for 300 yards against Arizona (50-yard Avg), Arizona punted four times for 137 yards (34.2 yards Avg.). That’s two fewer kicks and 163 fewer yards. No wonder the Cats had a hard time scoring. Arizona also returned the two kicks for 37 yards (18.5 average), starting further back from Utah who returned four kicks for 100 yards.

The longer the kick, the more time the defense has to get down the field and stop the ball or the kick returner.

When Arizona Football coach Rich Rodriguez was asked post game what was the difference in the game, one of the first things he brought up was field position. He’ was right!

It was most evident when Khalil Tate was thrown in the game after what looked like a helmet to helmet hit made on Brandon Dawkins. The drive started on Arizona’s two yard-line and resulted in a safety.

On another deep drive, the ball was marked on the one-yard-line, and the result was a Dawkins interception. There was also a drive that started on the five-yard-line and that drive led to an another Dawkins interception.

The good news is that the Cats improved a bit in avoiding punts from their game against UCLA. Against UCLA the Cats punted ten times for 392 yards and against Utah, they only had to punt four times.

It’s times like these when you sorely miss your seasoned senior punter, Drew Riggleman who was named a nominee for the 2015 Ray Guy Punter Award which goes to the nation’s top collegiate punter.

Riggleman was quite the punter in college. According to ArizonaWildcats.com, ‘Riggleman’s average yards per punt (44.5) ranks 15th nationally, while the mark is second-best in the Pac-12.’

Mitch could play in the NFL or maybe he can work in the entertainment industry, this athlete reminds us of a Viking! Maybe Game of Thrones?

In summary, we know that punting isn’t the only reason the Cats lost. The missed field goal, the loss of a seasoned MLB Cody Ippolito early in the game, and not being able to stop Utah’s running game especially on two major runs also greatly attributed to the loss. The Cats weren’t slaughtered by Utah like Washington slaughtered Oregon (by 49 points), they lost by less than two touchdowns in a thunderous stadium. Of course, there never is any excuse, but it’s not the end of the world.

Punters and special teams can make a difference.

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