November 26, 2008

Just kickin' it: Fodge named Ray Guy finalist

If there were ever an unsung hero on a football team, it would be the punter.

Typically, the position is an afterthought, only getting on the field when the offense can't finish off a drive. And since punting is seen as a negative, no one typically wants to watch the punter trot on the field.

But it will happen. It's just part of the game of football. Even the best offenses don't always seal the deal. With that being the case, you'd hope that if your team ever has to punt, the ball is snapped back to a guy who can really flip the field and give the defense a leg up.

It's safe to say Oklahoma State has just that type of guy in Matt Fodge. The Cowboys and their fans have recognized Fodge's skills for awhile now, but he's also receiving national attention this season. Just this week, Fodge was named a Ray Guy Award finalist. This award recognizes the top punter in college football and is named after NFL legend Ray Guy, who revolutionized the position during his 14-year stint with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.

The other two finalists are Pat McAfee from West Virginia and Louie Sakoda from Utah.

"It's a great honor to even be put in the same sentence as those other two guys," Fodge said. "And even in the top 10, there's a great group of punters this season and you couldn't ask for more for a senior season."

Being named a finalist for this award means that Fodge - along with teammates Brandon Pettigrew and Dez Bryant, finalists for the Mackey and Biletnikoff awards, respectively - will attend the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show in Orlando. The event will air live on ESPN on Thursday, Dec. 11 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Central Time. The Game Day crew of Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit will host the show.

So far in 2008, Fodge has only punted 29 times for an average of 44.4 yards. His net punt average is 42.7 yards. Of those 29 punts, 17 have been downed inside the 20 yard line and only one has bounced into the end zone for a touchback. He has six punts of 50 or more yards, including a long of 71 on the year.

"You know, it's a really good feeling even to be considered and really it's all a tribute to the coverage unit and the whole punt team," Fodge said. "Because I wouldn't be in the position I'm in right now if it weren't for those guys. They've done a great job all year and hopefully we can finish up the season up strong."

So how does Fodge stack up against his competition for the award?

His punting average is favorable to McAfee (44.3 ypp) and Sakoda (41.7). As far as pinning teams inside the 20, McAfee and Sakoda both dropped 21 of 50 in the red zone, but that was with 21 more attempts. McAfee's average punt this season was 42.9 yards, while Sakoda's was 41.2 yards. As far as touchbacks go, Fodge wins that category. McAfee has six touchbacks on the year while Sakoda has nine.

So the numbers seem even, but when you factor in the differences in attempts, one would think Fodge would be a favorite to win.

"It would be huge," said Fodge of winning the award, which has been handed out since 2000. "I sit there and think, 'What if I won?' But just to be able to go is more than I could even ask for. And so if I won, it would just be icing on the cake. I'm just excited to even be invited.

"You try not to because you start playing the numbers game, but it's kind of hard not to and you do every once in a while. And looking at those numbers, those other guys have had just as good of numbers as me and that's just a great honor. It's exciting to be able to do that and to be able to say that you're a finalist."

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