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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 27, 2007

UH rocks, no punt intended

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Tomorrow's University of Hawai'i "Football Ohana Festival" at Aloha Stadium provides a rare opportunity to glimpse a nearly extinct species of Warrior in action.

The punter.

Maybe you read about the position. Perhaps you've even heard about it. But, hardly did you see it employed by UH during 2006.

For all intents and purposes, the man who held it, Kurt Milne, was UH's answer to the Maytag repairman. He attended all UH games, home and away. He was seldom summoned to duty.

No regular punter in NCAA history saw fewer opportunities than Milne, who averaged 1.2 punts per game. In a 14-game season, UH punted a mere 17 times. Most teams did that before Halloween. UH opponents punted 60 times.

Of all the marks UH set last year and there were 28 NCAA records that fell to the Warriors this was the most remarkable. Milne's inactivity blew away one of the oldest existing NCAA standards and not just by a little. The previous mark was two punts per game, set by Nevada in 1949, according to an NCAA spokesman.

That is the price paid for having a record-breaking offense. When the Warriors had the ball, they usually scored with it. With quarterback Colt Brennan and the offense running up and down the field, punting was an option UH hardly availed itself of. Placekicker Dan Kelly had as many tries at field goals.

So, there hasn't exactly been a loud buzz this spring about the position. Head coach June Jones isn't asked at every turn who the punter will be now that Milne, a senior, is moving on. Center, yes; punter, no. Nor is there a punter controversy.

If UH opened the season today, Jones said the punter would likely be slotback Davone Bess, who handled the position in high school. But with two other competitors in camp, and a couple walk-on candidates expected in the fall, that could change.

Yet for all the anonymity that is enveloping the position in Manoa, don't think for a minute it is being or has been taken for granted. The outcome of games turns faster on punting and the special teams as anything. UH knows well both the joy and the disappointment of what a blocked punt or long punt return can bring. And, what a well-paced punt to the 1-yard line can portend.

Mat McBriar, UH's punter 2000-'02, parlayed the experience into a Pro Bowl career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Meanwhile, the 'Ohana Festival, which begins at 5 p.m. (7-on-7 drills to start at 7 p.m.) provides a look at a position that, like solar eclipses, might not come around again for a while.

After all, who knows if UH will even find it necessary to punt in its first two home games with Division I-AA Northern Colorado (Sept.1 ) and Charleston Southern (Sept. 22).

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.