OU punter Tress Way helps win field position battles

by Michael Baldwin Published: December 21, 2011

— Teammates are elated when Tress Way has minimal impact on games. If Oklahoma's punter isn't playing much, it usually means the Sooners are scoring a ton of points.

This season, traditional punting statistics don't tell the entire story. Way is among the national leaders with 33 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

“He has a good feel for the trajectory doing that,” said OU coach Bob Stoops. “He's worked really hard on his technique. And our guys have done a really good job going down and fielding it. It really makes a big difference when you pin a team back.”

Way's overall stats are down. He's averaging a career low 41.2 yards per punt.

His major contribution has been after the offense stalls around midfield. Booming a 50-yarder into the end zone would boost his average, but he's embraced the challenge of helping the Sooners win the field position battle.

“I've really focused on it, worked hard at it,” Way said. “Making a team start at the 20 is one thing. But if you can make them start at the 5-, the 7- or the 10-(yard line) is huge if you make them go 90 yards or more.”

Way has been so efficient, his first touchback all season was against Texas A&M, nine games into the season.

Teammates have assisted Way's remarkable “punts downed inside-the-20” season.

Wide receiver Jaz Reynolds suffered a bruised kidney against Oklahoma State. He will miss next week's Insight Bowl against Iowa, but Reynolds made a habit of tapping Way on the helmet before the punt coverage unit took the field.

“Jaz often tells me, ‘Just hit it up high and I'll get down there,'” Way said. “Kicking is only part of it. Those guys have made some great plays. I love it when I can kill it. But I also love the pooch punts. It's pretty cool with what we've been doing.”

A pooch punt isn't as simple as “taking a little off.” Ask any golfer facing a 70-yard shot to the green.

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by Michael Baldwin
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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