IOWA CITY — They texted each other this week before the game, though there was no smack talk. Apparently.
It’s hard to imagine punters ever really doing something like that, honestly. Though if they did, you’d figure it’d have to be a couple of guys from Australia.
“Naw, it was good luck, have a kick and get a photo and stuff to send back to the boys back home,” insisted Iowa’s Michael Sleep-Dalton, after his team’s 30-0 win Saturday over Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium. “It was just good to have a chat with him.”
This was one of those rare football games in which both teams featured punters from the land down under.
Sleep-Dalton is the Arizona State graduate transfer who is from Geelong, Australia. Rutgers’ Adam Korsak is from Melbourne.
They both went to the Prokick Australia academy in their home country that has sent numerous kickers and punters on to college and pro football.
“A little rivalry,” Sleep-Dalton said, with a smile.
Both of the guys in this little rivalry did incredible jobs. From a pure numbers standpoint, Sleep-Dalton won, though only barely with a 48.3 yard average to Korsak’s 47.6.
But Korsak placed an amazing seven of his 10 boots inside the Iowa 20 and forced the Hawkeyes to start possessions inside their 10 five times. Two of Sleep-Dalton’s six kicks pushed Rutgers inside its 20.
“Overcoming bad field position, it was a tough game field position-wise, needless to say,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been involved in a college game where two punters played as well as both those guys. Or probably any game, ever. Both of them performed extremely well. It was interesting on that front for sure, and great to see Michael play like he did.”
Sleep-Dalton is a significant addition to an Iowa team that struggled punting last season. For instance, the Hawkeyes averaged just a smidge over 35 yards per kick in losses to Northwestern and Purdue.
Obviously, Sleep-Dalton hasn’t punted on the road, yet, or in cold weather, which he says he’s looking forward to. But when a guy averages 48 a kick ...
“It was good to finally get into a bit of a rhythm and get out there and get rid of the nerves,” he said. “I only got one kick last week, but the boys all did well. It started with (Jackson Subbert’s) snap and then the protection and the coverage ... I was pretty happy with the result. I hit the ball well.”
That was using both the traditional punting style and then the roll-out rugby style. That’s predicated on what the wind is doing, Sleep-Dalton said.
He said he surely would get in contact this coming week with his old mate Korsak, ask him how his leg feels after 10 punts. So who ended up winning this little Australian battle anyway?
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen the stats,” Sleep-Dalton said. “But he hit some good balls, we both hit some good balls. Pretty equal, I’d say.
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“I admired his kicks. It’s good to watch someone else, especially another Aussie, do well. Just support each other.”
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