116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — In a game where Iowa State struggled to move the ball, it didn’t help that the Cyclones always started a long way away from the end zone.
And on the flip side, Iowa can make something out of every return.
It’s those incremental position yards that No. 10 Iowa considers key to winning games, like Saturday’s 27-17 triumph over No. 9 Iowa State.
“Tory (Taylor) just performed really well, missed a couple plus 50-plus punts last week, but he came back today and really did a great job,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That gave them a long field to work from.”
Taylor talked this spring about increasing his punting average by perfecting the spiral punt and after two weeks, it’s looking promising.
Last season, he averaged 44.1 yards per punt and through two games this year, he’s amassed averages of 49.5 and 51.1 yards, respectively.
To provide perspective: the best NFL punter in 2020, the Green Bay Packers’ Corey Bojorquez, averaged 50.8 yards per game. Granted, that’s a much larger sample size. Last year’s Ray Guy award-winner, Georgia Tech’s Pressley Harvin III, averaged 48 yards per punt.
Taylor’s punting put Iowa State within its own 10-yard line four times: 8, 6, 10 and 6. Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell took advantage on one of the 6-yard-line starts to recover a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Likewise, last week, the best field position Indiana had against Iowa was on its own 48 after a recovered fumble. Otherwise, Indiana never started with the ball past its own 29-yard line and once started from its own 15. Taylor’s punts averaged 49.5 yards.
But the most mind-boggling punt Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium was a 69-yarder that got Iowa out of trouble from its own 6, sending Iowa State to start from its 25.
“That was pretty nice,” Taylor said. "I feel like I was just the one kicking the ball, but I really have to give a lot of credit to the guys running down the field.“
In addition, Iowa’s Caleb Shudak not only made 2 of 3 field-goal attempts Saturday, with a long of 51 yards, but all six of his kickoffs were touchbacks, making the Cyclones’ average field position the 20-yard line. That was the same story last week against Indiana, so no one has actually returned a Shudak kick through two weeks.
“We don't talk about it (touchbacks) directly,” Shudak said. “It's more of a directional kick and then if you have good kicks in, that's just better for the kickoff unit.”
By comparison, Iowa’s average starting field position was its own 42. Iowa State did squib kick on its opportunities to try to keep Charlie Jones’ return game at bay, but the risk outweighed the reward.
Jones had 108 yards on his four returns. It was the second 100-yard return game of his Hawkeye career, the other one being against Michigan State last season where he had five returns for 105 yards and one touchdown.
Against Iowa State, he averaged 16 yards per punt return and 22 per kick return, with a long of 24. Last week, Jones put together two kick returns for 57 yards, and the first 33-yard return set the tone for an opening drive that ended with Tyler Goodson’s 56-yard touchdown run.
“I think it all comes down to confidence,” Jones said. “Tory is one of my roommates, and the guys that I have blocking for me, they take this stuff seriously. They really work hard at it and it gives me confidence. I maybe not fair catch a couple that I probably should just because I know everyone's working hard.”
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