Has an offense ever game-planned its attack around….a punter?
San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke has. Hoke is afforded the opportunity to take big risks because he can flip the field on a dime. The field-flipper? His name is Matt Araiza.
Araiza is San Diego State’s punter, place-kicker and handles the team’s kickoffs. He is the focal point of SDSU’s special teams, however, his punting prowess has made him one of college football’s most fascinating stories of the 2021 season. Why? Because he’s having the best season by a punter in college football history.
Matt Araiza: San Diego State’s Punting Phenom
Get this: Araiza has two punts of more than 80 yards, six over 70 yards and 17 over 60 yards. He averages 318.7 punting yards per game on 6.1 attempts. His 52.2-yard punt average is over a yard more than the NCAA record of 50.98 yards set by Texas A&M’s Braden Mann in 2018.
I can throw numbers around all day long, but the thing is there’s something DIFFERENT about Araiza. I think back to ESPN’s 30 for 30 “You Don’t Know Bo: The Legend of Bo Jackson.” There’s a part where people awe over the sound of the ball off Bo’s bat. Araiza’s leg is one in the same. You can feel the power he puts behind the ball, resulting in a thud that booms across the sky. He perfected his technique through hours of practice.
Starting when he was 5 years old, Araiza’s father would take him to the local soccer field to run all sorts of drills with both legs. Araiza not only developed his skills but learned the right way to practice.
The Rancho Bernardo High School grad took his training to another level this past offseason. He perfected his technique to the point where he boiled it down to a science. He figured out he has 1.3 to 1.4 seconds from the time the ball is snapped to kick it, and not just kick it, but kick it perfectly.
His newfound approach has paid off spectacularly.
Matt Araiza’s 80-Yard Punts
He booted an 81-yarder when the Aztecs took on Air Force in a Mountain West contest earlier this year. The ball may still be flying through the thin Colorado air as we speak.
Against Nevada, he kicked a 57-yard punt to pin the Wolfpack inside their own 20-yard line at a crucial point near the end of the third quarter. He also hit the game-winning 34-yard field goal.
Against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, he smashed a 79-yard punt into the end zone for a touchback.
As for Araiza’s placekicking, his high-powered left leg helped him hit a 53-yard field goal against San Jose State. Let’s not forget that he’s essentially a guaranteed touchback when he kicks off, too.
Araiza’s breakout season is helping him skyrocket up NFL Draft boards. Obviously, scouts love his leg, but Araiza is a football player. He lifts with the team. He runs with the team. He talks smack if opposing player’s get in his teammate’s faces. He’s willing to make tackles to prevent touchdowns.
San Diego State Aztecs punter Matt Araiza, who’s a mortal lock to win the Ray Guy Award, is appointment television. No punter has ever won the Heisman Trophy, but if there were ever a case, Araiza is making it. What other punter has ever been able to say that?