The morning of the FSU vs. Florida showdown in Gainesville that saw the Seminoles roll the Gators by a final score of 27-2, I wrote about the decided edge that Florida State held in the kicking game. That certainly came to fruition, as FSU's Roberto Aguayo nailed a pair of long field goals, from 45 and 51 yards out.
Frankly, that piece was kind of a layup, as Aguayo has a Groza Award under his belt, and the Florida kicking game was, and remains, a dumpster fire (with no offense to flaming garbage). Across the country, the Gators are better only than Wyoming among 128 FBS programs with regard to its percentage of field goals made.
But UF entered that rivalry match with one seeming advantage, at least per the Florida locals. While I was grabbing a bite to eat in Gainesville the night before the big game and perusing the Gator student paper, The Alligator, the UF beat seemed to have confidence in one particular aspect of the rivalry game: punting. They devoted a segment to the best player on each team. For the 'Noles, it was running back Dalvin Cook. For their hometown Gators: punter Johnny Townsend.
Let's be honest. Optics wise, it's pretty pathetic when you're trumpeting your punter as your team's best player. And while the student scribes at UF could have probably made a better call by going with future first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III, they weren't exactly wrong. In what was, for the better part of the game, a struggle for field position, Townsend was huge. His nine punts averaged 46.4 yards per boot, and he registered a long of 53 yards. He kept Florida in the game as long as he could.
But as pivotal as Townsend was, Florida State's Cason Beatty was even better. The Charlotte, North Carolina native, in his final regular season game wearing the garnet and gold, crushed it, averaging 47.6 yards per punt on seven kicks, and besting Townsend's longest punt of the game, of 53 yards, with his own of a clean 60.
But Beatty's standout performance in Hogtown was far from a one-night stand. Nor, as it turns out, was his topping Townsend a jaw-dropping event. As I've already chronicled, Beatty's been a 'Nole weapon all year. But get this: for all the praise Townsend drew, and rightfully so, on the season, FSU and UF are even -- to the one-hundredth of a yard -- with regard to punting average, as each enter bowl season at 44.36 YPP, tied for 13th in the country.
But let's do what every Florida fan would prefer, at this point, and leave that Seminole stomping of the Gators in the rear-view mirror. Let's look ahead to something FSU, not Florida, has on the horizon. Notably, a New Year's Six Bowl game. And more specifically, how while Florida State no longer has an issue at the punter position, the Houston Cougars do. For when the 'Noles and Cougars kickoff in Atlanta's Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve at noon, the Seminoles will trot out an upper-echelon punter in Beatty, whereas underdog UH will depend on Logan Piper, who's 82nd, nationally, in punting (40.23).