Western Kentucky’s special team’s inexperience is proving to be a reliable asset through the first two games.

Head coach Tyson Helton wasn’t sure what he’d get from punter John Haggerty and kicker Cory Munson, both players making their first kicking attempts in college football this fall for the Hilltoppers.

Through two weeks, Haggerty is showing off leg strength and Munson is converting when the opportunity arises.

The freshman kicker was voted the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week after making two field goals that were the difference in Saturday’s 20-14 win at Florida International. Munson made kicks of 19 and 44 yards, added two extra-point kicks, put three of his four kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks and the other kickoff he converted a successful onside attempt.

Munson was given the nod as WKU’s kicker when Alex Rinella learned he’d be academically ineligible for the first two games. Rinella will be eligible Saturday when WKU (1-1) hosts Louisville at Nissan Stadium in Nashville for a 3 p.m. kickoff broadcast on Stadium.

Helton said he’ll stick with Munson at the placekicker spot for now, but wants to try Rinella out on kickoff duties. The freshman was thrown into action in a Week 1 loss to Central Arkansas fresh out of Warner Robins, Ga.

He made all four PATs against UCA, but missed a 32-yard field goal attempt.

“I’ll leave it like it is for now,” Helton said of the kicking position. “I’m glad Rinella is back. He adds another talent to that group. It’ll be John and Cory right now. I want to look at Rinella a bit with the kickoffs. Cory is doing a nice job with that, too.”

Rinella is the most experienced member of the special teams unit as the redshirt senior and is one of only four specialists in the FBS that has served on kickoff, place kicking and punting. Rinella was 12-for-12 on extra points and 7-of-10 on field goal attempts last season.

“Rinella is a team player and can do all three,” Helton said. “Just happy he’s there. If something happens we’re able to put a guy in there we feel good about.”

Haggerty attempted six punts Saturday and pinned FIU inside its own 20 three times. The Panthers’ average starting field position was at the 23-yard line.

“Really impressed,” Helton said of Haggerty. “I knew he had the ability and talent, it was just when the lights came on was he going to go out there and do it. He’s been able to change the field like he does and it’s a tremendous asset for us. Really looking forward to the rest of the season with him producing like he is.”

Haggerty is averaging 50.8 yards per punt through seven attempts this season. He’s had four go longer than 50 yards and all three inside the 20 came at FIU. The Sydney, Australia, native had never played college football before coming to WKU. He attended Tom Hackett Punting Academy and ranked 17th in the 2019 class among punters.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Haggerty isn’t using the traditional rugby style punt of most Australian punters. But that strategy came in handy when the snap on Haggerty’s first punt attempt sailed past him and he had to chase the ball down and improvise the punt.

“He had to pull his old rugby skills out on the first punt,” Helton said. “We had a bad snap so he caught it, ran out to the right and kicked it. So, he saved us on that one. He’s done a great job transitioning to football. His operation times are good and he understands how to do and what to do.”{&end}

– Follow WKU athletics beat writer Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

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(1) comment

OccupyBowlingGreen

The economy of the city is based on all the College Students that regularly come into the city every year. The local population doubles.

Trump's policies are blocking a huge number of foreign students from attending WKU.

As a result, WKU is cutting courses and firing professors.

WKU's student population is shrinking and will continue to do so until 2020.



If Trump is re-elected, that trend will continue until WKU shuts down.



What will happen to an economy that suddenly has 1/2 the population to support it? We already are seeing the start of the effects.

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