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Punter Gano sets tone early in rout over Wisconsin

first_imgORLANDO, Fla. — When a team puts 42 points on the board, its punter rarely receives much praise, let alone the game’s MVP honors. Consider the Champs Sports Bowl a rarity.While the University of Wisconsin defense was shutting down quarterback Christian Ponder and the Florida State offense in the first quarter, Seminole senior punter Graham Gano was doing his best to keep the Badgers off the scoreboard, a goal he almost single-handedly achieved.Gano’s first punt bounced at the UW 3-yard line and took a right turn out of bounds. Two first downs later, the Badgers were forced to punt.Gano’s next punt sailed over David Gilreath’s head, hit at the 1-yard line and stuck on the Citrus Bowl turf. Again, the Badgers only managed a pair of first downs before being forced to surrender the ball back to the ‘Noles.Gano’s third punt of the first quarter was angled very similarly to his first, toward the front right corner of the Wisconsin end zone. The ball hit near the 1-yard line and again took a right turn out of bounds. All three of the Badgers’ first-quarter possessions started inside their 3-yard line, the last two of which were spotted at the one.“The whole first half we were battling to get past the 50-yard line,” said UW center John Moffitt. “That’s not anybody’s fault, that’s just the punter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a punter that good.Has anybody ever kicked three inside the five before?”Interestingly enough, Gano’s feat came one game after Cal Poly kicker Andrew Gardner missed three extra points at Camp Randall Stadium in Wisconsin’s overtime victory over the Mustangs.The Badgers didn’t make it past midfield until the second quarter and failed to reach the end zone until T.J. Theus’ 20-yard grab from quarterback Dustin Sherer with only 4:06 left in the game, much of which can be attributed to Gano and his ability to shift the field position game in FSU’s favor.“It’s frustrating, but we kind of did it to ourselves,” Sherer said. “We never could get the ball moving; we gave them a short field, they could punt us and pin us deep. We got out of there a couple times, but we would shoot ourselves in the foot on third down. That’s just how it went.”It put a lot of pressure on the UW defense as well, a unit that held its own in the first half but couldn’t stay with the speed demons of the ACC after intermission.“[Gano] was definitely a factor,” said senior cornerback Allen Langford. “It affected time of possession and field position, and they definitely owned both of those and that’s why they got the ‘W.’”The Badgers stood helplessly against Gano’s (48.2 yards per punt) first-half dominance, but they beat themselves in the second half. P.J. Hill and Sherer each had fumbles that led to Seminole touchdowns after halftime. Wisconsin’s three total fumbles set a Champs Sports Bowl record and all three were converted into touchdowns, two of which were scored directly by the defense. Derek Nicholson (first quarter) and Dekoda Watson (fourth quarter) each scooped up Sherer fumbles and ran them back for scores.“They’re fast,” Sherer said. “Their defensive line did a great job of getting pressure on me; their [defensive backs] did a great job of covering downfield. There were parts where I probably should have got the ball out and didn’t, but they played well, so hats off to them.“I knew going into it I had to play well because they were going to put nine guys in the box to stop our run. And I didn’t play well and we lost.”last_img

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