Iowa punter Tory Taylor punts the ball against South Dakota State during a NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. © Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
It is not often we enter a football game knowing the entire contest could be changed by one man’s right foot.
But, that is the state of reality as we enter Saturday’s Cy-Hawk showdown in Iowa City when Iowa State will be tasked with mitigating the damage done by one of college football’s most dangerous weapons.
Iowa punter Tory Taylor.
“That’s consistently something that we got to continue to have a great plan for. He’s an outstanding player,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “You talk about the ability to change field position, the ability and I think, sometimes the credit just goes to him, he is a great player, but they’re also really good in their coverage units. They also have 10 other guys that do a great job around him. I think from our end of it, we’re going to have to have a great plan for him and a great plan of attack. At times we thought we had that last year, and, at times, that didn’t show up when we needed it to, but, again, a huge credit to him, great talent, and it’ll be a great challenge for us.”
To say that Iowa State’s plan of attack did not show up as needed last year might be an understatement.
Taylor was, arguably, the most important player in the game last season, a 27-17 Iowa win, while booting eight punts for 409 yards (51.1 yards per punt), including a long of 69 yards, and dropping five punts inside the 20-yard line.
Here was Iowa State’s starting field position after each of Tory Taylor’s eight punts in last season’s Cy-Hawk game:
- Iowa State’s own eight-yard line
- Iowa State’s own six-yard line
- Iowa State’s own 10-yard line
- Iowa State’s own 25-yard line
- Iowa State’s own six-yard line
- Iowa State’s own 24-yard line
- Iowa State’s own 17-yard line
- Iowa State’s own 20-yard line
Do you get the picture?
Iowa State started inside of its own 10-yard line on four separate drives, all four of them forced by Taylor.
On those four drives, Iowa State punted twice, Brock Purdy threw an interception that led to one of Iowa’s two offensive touchdowns on the day and the last one ended with a Breece Hall fumble returned for a touchdown.
We all saw a week ago what Taylor’s abilities can do to a game. He played an integral part in winning the contest for them, 7-3 over South Dakota State, by pinning the Jackrabbits within their own five-yard line twice, where the defense ultimately forced a pair of safeties.
So, yeah, Taylor’s contributions to the game must be well accounted for.
“With him, knowing that he can control the ball however he wants, then their offense being able to get to midfield and him trying to pin us deep is just me being able to communicate on the back end and being able to play the ball well,” Iowa State punt returner Jaylin Noel said. “I know he as a player is a very crucial part of the team’s success. I know me being back there and making the right decisions will be really crucial to our success.”
Noel said he treats setting up to return a punt like he’s standing on the edge of a cliff. He puts his heels where his coaches tell him, and he’s not going to catch one behind where his heels are.
How does that change with a player like Taylor, who is so adept at placing the ball exactly where he wants it even with a bounce?
Noel says it doesn’t.
“It’s really just staying disciplined to what I’ve been taught,” Noel said. “I’m not trying to make anything new out of it. So, if coach tells me to have my heels on the 10 or the eight, that’s where they’ll be and I won’t try to override that decision. Just being able to make the right decisions each time will be very crucial.”