IN American Football the punter’s role is vital but their efforts often underappreciated.
When the offence has exhausted their chances it’s up to the punter to get the ball down the other end of the field in a bid to relieve pressure on their team’s defence.
But for Oberon talent and Sacramento State Hornets punter Owen Hoolihan he recently got his moment in the sun thanks to an stunning performance with the boot.
Hoolihan was named the FCS National Special Teams Player of the Week and Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week in Sacramento State’s 28-25 victory over Northern Colorado.
The Sacramento senior pinned his opponents inside their own 20 yard line on six of his eight punts – four of those ending inside the 10.
Hoolihan saved his best for when it mattered most, with his side down 28.
Inside the final minute of play his 50-yard punt forced the UNC returner to be trapped on his own 6-yard line.
The punt was muffed and the loose ball was gathered by a Sacramento player to secure the victory.
Hoolihan was quick to play down his efforts, saying his offence often managed to get inside Northern Colorado territory before he was forced to punt.
Regardless, the accuracy from the former St Stanislaus’ College student was something to admire.
“We had a short field to punt into because offence kept stalling at the 50 so I just punted a few balls close to their endzone, four of which I managed to get inside the 10,” Hoolihan said.
Hoolihan is in his first season at Sacramento State after graduating from Prairie View A&M in Texas, where he also had field goal kicking duties in his first two seasons.
After three years there he graduated with a degree in kinesiology but still had the opportunity to continue playing football.
He wasn’t going to pass that chance up.
“Because I had a year of eligibility left I still had the option of playing another year. That’s when I got recruited to come to Sacramento State,” he said.
“When I was in Texas we played in some pretty substantial games. I played in front of 100,000 people once at Texas A&M which was pretty cool. I got to play with the likes of Miles Garrett, who was a number one overall pick in the NFL.
“At Sacramento we’re still playing in front of some big crowds. We played Montana towards the end of September and we had 25,000 there. That was a really loud stadium. I’ve never heard anything like that.”
Hoolihan also played in front of a vocal crowd of 45,000 at San Diego State earlier in the season.
Despite the big numbers Hoolihan said the occasion doesn’t often overawe him.
“When I used to kick field goals that first one of the year was really tough,” he said.
“You’ve got that snap, hold and it can all go pear-shaped quickly but apart from that I’ve never felt too nervous. I’m pretty relaxed and tend to joke around.”
Injuries have hurt Sacramento State’s current campaign.
Since the win over Northern Colorado they’ve lost five straight matches and will be hard pressed to turn that around against No. 4 Weber State this Saturday. The team are still seeking their first conference victory.