With less than three minutes left in the third quarter against Kansas State on Nov. 6, Adam Crossett, the Missouri football team’s third punter of the season, got off his best punt of the afternoon.
Crossett’s 58-yard, booming punt backed the Wildcats’ Yamon Figurs to his own 4-yard line to set up a return. However, despite Crossett’s big punt, Figurs weaved through the Tigers’ punt coverage unit, returning the ball 54 yards to the Missouri 42.
Coach Gary Pinkel said he was pleased with Crossett’s punting, though he felt like the redshirt freshman outkicked his coverage to set up Figurs’ return.
“I think Crossett did a good job today, that one time he had a line drive and outkicked the coverage,” Pinkel said. “That’s all the kicking game is, field position.”
The Kansas State game was Crossett’s first as a punter since his senior year of high school in 2002.
He is the Tigers’ backup kicker, serving on kickoffs, but he also became Missouri’s backup punter after senior Brock Harvey broke his collarbone against Colorado.
When sophomore Matt Hoenes struggled against Nebraska as Harvey’s replacement, dropping a snap and getting one punt blocked, Pinkel decided to give Crossett an opportunity, a decision that caught even Crossett by surprise.
“I was shocked,” Crossett said about being named the starting punter four days before the Kansas State game.
Crossett had been getting a few opportunities in practice as a punter, but he suddenly had to prepare for punting in front of a packed Memorial Stadium.
“The backups always get a few reps in practice, so that’s what I was getting,” Crossett said. “It definitely helped getting those reps in practice, but I don’t believe that anything replicates being out there in front of 50,000 fans.”
When he stepped on the field for the first time with 10:30 left in the first quarter, Crossett said, his nerves were running wild, but that helped him deliver a solid punt that calmed him down.
His first kick went 41 yards and Crossett averaged 44.3 yards on six punts.
“I will be nervous, but I turn nerves into a positive, it helps keep me focused,” Crossett said. “I was so nervous before the game, but I also was so focused.
“It (his first punt) wasn’t great or anything, but after that I was like, ‘OK, I can handle this.’ ”
Despite his solid outing, Crossett said he understands he is not as mechanically sound as regular punters are, but assistant coach Andy Hill is working to improve that aspect of his game and help him keep the job in the future.
“There are definitely mechanics to punting and while I’m not as solid as others, but I feel like I am fine,” he said. “I’m not the purest punter, but when I make contact, I feel like the ball will go.”