By LARRY VAUGHT
It’s really easy to get spoiled by Kentucky punter Max Duffy.
Let me freely admit I knew next to nothing about him when Kentucky managed to get the Australian kicker on the roster last year and he was really good. But this year, WOW.
Okay, I know it was just one game Saturday against Toledo. Still, what a game it was.
Duffy punted six times for an average of 54 yards per punt. Again, FIFTY-FOUR yards per punt.
Five of his punts were for 50 or more yards. He was so good that a 50-yard punt looked routine.
He put two of his six punts out inside the 20-yard line. Even better, Toledo managed only five punt return yards. That’s a credit to UK’s coverage, but even more it shows just how well Duffy was kicking.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops called it a “big time” performance and started early in the game when UK was down 7-0 after Toledo scored on its first possession.
“Momentum, you know, was on their side early and they were overloading us and coming after (Duffy) and we rolled left,” Stoops said. “(Special teams) Coach (Dean) Hood had a nice scheme there and I believe they checked out of that and went to the left and he (Duffy) rolled left and had that huge punt early on. I mean, the rest of the day he was really solid. He’s a weapon. ”
A weapon? He sure is and his ability to flip field position could be a God-send for a UK defense that figures to need time to become a solid, consistent unit.
“A lot of that has to do with him, where he places the ball, the height, and everything,” Stoops said.
However, the coach did also praise UK’s coverage team. Receiver Bryce Oliver, who caught his first collegiate touchdown pass, also had a terrific, hustling tackling on punt coverage a few minutes before he score
“The guys have been busting it. They been work ing hard on their coverage units, and Coach Hood does a very good job. We were very effective there today,” Stoops said after Saturday’s win. “ I thought they — I don’t know what the hidden yards was, but they had some good nets as well because we were giving up too many first downs.”
Still, no matter what happens, Stoops knows nothing is going to upset the 25-year-old Duffy.
“He’s not real worried about anything,” Stoops said Monday. “I mean that in a good way, like he cares a great deal, he loves the team and he cares, but he, yeah, he’s a different dude, you know.”