For Australian’s playing in Week 6 of the NFL and Week 7 of the NCAAF it was all about massive punts and fumbles.
Hayne Fumbles – 49ers Win
Gridiron is a sport where the movement of every player is placed under the microscope. Particularly now that special teams are given so much importance, players such as Jarryd Hayne are often brought into the game with only one job to do. This is why a fumble is capable of attracting so much attention.
Fumbling means that you had clean possession of the ball and then you lost it – coughed it up -grassed it – you were de-balled. You have the pill in your hands, you’re thinking about all the glory you’re about to receive, and then bamh! 120 kilos of meat and padding causes you to lose possession. If the opposition jumps on it first, it becomes their ball. Or worse still, it means a defender can scoop it up and make their run for glory toward the end zone. In fact last week I wrote about how Adam Gotsis, an Australian defensive tackle playing at Georgia Tech, scored a touchdown from a fumble.
8 minutes into the first quarter Hayne got the opportunity to receive a punt. Catching on the 29 yard line, Hayne advanced and with the assistance of a teammate blocking, skilfully sidestepped a barrage of four Baltimore Raven’s gunners. He then sidestepped another Raven and broke a tackle.
This is the point that Hayne began to think about the glory. He saw one other gunner to dodge, and then it was just him and the punter. But in a moment that would have caused AFL fans to rise from their seats and scream “BAAAALLLLLLLL,” Hayne was brought down by Raven Anthony Levine who made a textbook from behind AFL tackle.
The ball spilled free and was fortunately pounced on by fellow 49er Dontae Johnson on the 33 yard line. This means the damage was controlled, San Fransisco retained possession, and Hayne was credited with a 4 yard return.
It was Hayne’s only return for the day and although he spent time on the field as a running back he wasn’t handed the ball. He also made several errors when giving extra blocking protection to quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepenrick sacked on third down when Jarryd Hayne failed to pick up blitzing linebacker Daryl Smith
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) October 18, 2015
San Francisco ended up with the win defeating the Ravens 20-25. This is their second win for the season having gone winless since Week 1. That was also the same week Hayne fumbled his first touch in NFL. Just saying.
Ranking – Smug AFL fans who watch this highlight will discuss how the 360 degree spatial awareness of AFL players means they would have noticed the player and dodged the tackle. So given that Hayne’s fumble caused AFL fans to become smugger, I’m going to take an extra point off him.
1 out of 5
Berry Punts into NFL History
Just viewing the highlight of this punt makes it seem a little bit of a ‘muh’ moment.
Just to set the scene – The Steelers are fourth down on the 21 yard line. There’s 21 seconds left in the first half. The punting special team comes out and Berry would have been given the instruction to send the pigskin as deep as possible.
Berry then lets loose a punt that travelled 79 yards. Even for AFL this is a decent punt (about 72 meters), and landing at about the 14 yard line the Cardinal’s punt returner was unable to catch it. The ball bounced into the end zone for a touchback.
Now this might have seemed like nothing, but it was the equal fifth longest punt in NFL history and the equal longest punt ever by a Steelers player.
Jordan Berry's 79 yard punt today is tied for the 5th longest in NFL history. pic.twitter.com/Vw2PRVexoA
— J-Wye (@jwyeNFL) October 19, 2015
Jordan Berry with 79 yard punt … for touchback. #moralvictory
— Chris Bradford (@BCTBradford) October 18, 2015
Otherwise Berry had just an OK day in the Steelers 13-25 win over the Cardinals with five punts for an average of 39yards, and only one inside 20.
Rating – Into the record books, but overall it wasn’t his best game.
3 out of 5
A Monster Punt AND a Fumble
As far as Aussies punting long and fumbling goes, it would seem that Michigan Wolverines punter and Aussie expat, Blake O’Neill, certainly had the extremes of both this week.
Firstly, in the 5th minute of the first quarter O’Neill sent down a monster 80 yard punt. It cleared the head of the Michigan State punter returner and came to rest at the one yard line.
But then, in the final quarter, two points up, on the 47 yard line, and with only 10 seconds to play, the Wolverine’s thought that a punt here would make sure up their win.
But a low snap bounced off O’Neill’s fingertips. And when he was unable to recover, the ball was picked up by Michigan State’s defensive back, Jalen Watts-Jackson, who ran it down the field for an extraordinary 38 yard touchdown.
With zero time left on the clock the Wolverines lost what should have been a certain victory.
The fumble caused O’Neill to receive death threats on social media, although many have come to his defence.
Keep your head up, trust me. It's just game!! @blakewoneill
— Adam Griffith 99 (@adamgriffith99) October 18, 2015
Heartened by those rallying to @blakewoneill … tougher than all the attacking morons combined.
— John Borton (@JB_Wolverine) October 20, 2015
Up until the final play of the day, O’Neill’s performance was solid and finished the game with 7 punts for an average of 44.6 yards.
Rating – This goes to show just how costly a fumble can be. Such a small error cost a team so much. But we’re certain that O’Neill will come back stronger as a consequence.
3 out of 5