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Football: Rusher, Oilers haven’t punted in last two games

By ANDY WOLF
STAFF WRITER
Patrick Rusher likes his job as punter for the University of Findlay football team.
The fewer the times he has do it, the better.
Over the past two games Rusher hasn’t been needed to boot the pigskin once.
“If we punt one more time the rest of the season I’d be okay with that,” Rusher, a junior, said.
The Oilers (3-1) have put together consecutive victories over William Jewell (55-17) and Tuskegee (61-0) all without punting.
And that’s just fine with Rusher.
“It’s nice to know that our offense is putting the ball in the end zone almost every possession, pretty much every possession,” Rusher said. “I’m on the sidelines standing there just in case they need me.”
Rusher’s inaction in a result of a number of factors: third down efficiency and a lack of fourth downs.
Findlay is 19th nationally in third-down conversions at 47.8 percent (22 of 46) and 8 of 10 on fourth down over the last two games. Only one of those fourth downs have been attempted on its own side of the field.
Should a third down roll around, Rusher stays loose with some stretching, takes a few deep breathes and visualizes what he has to do.
“Nothing fancy,” Rusher said. “I just kick the ball far.”
Lately his number hasn’t been called. So instead he and long snapper Jacob Schimmoeller (Liberty-Benton) share a smile and a high-five when a potential opportunity passes.
Rusher doesn’t qualify amongst the Division II leaders because he’s punted seven times in four games, well short of the 3.6 per game needed.
Only five qualified punters have a better average than Rusher (44.4 yards per punt). Three of his seven punts has been inside the 20.
Yet, he’s less stat-driven when it comes to his job performance.
“If I’m running off the field and head coach (Rob) Keys is happy then I’m happy that’s for sure,” Rusher said.
Keys, of course, has been quite delighted at not needing to punt.
“It’s funny, we kid with Patrick, as well as Jacob Schimmoeller, I said ‘The less you guys play, the better football team we are,’” Keys said. “I said ‘If you guys don’t take anymore snaps we’re probably going to win a championship.’
“And they took it in stride. Everyone wants to play.”
In Keys’ first six seasons, the Oilers went three games without punting.
Coincidentally, Findlay returns to the site of the last time that happened in 2015 at Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium with host Walsh (0-4) awaiting a 1 p.m. Saturday clash.
The game is also the first-ever Great Midwest Athletic Conference for both teams, former members of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
ABOUT WALSH: First-year head coach Dan Pifer inherited a 1-10 Walsh team that is currently riding a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season.
This year they’ve lost two GLIAC teams in Wayne State (28-9) and Saginaw Valley State (28-0) and two Division I schools in Jacksonville (56-31) and Central Connecticut State (57-6).
The average score has been 42.3 to 11.5.
The Cavaliers were also winless at 0-5 when they last met and defeated the Oilers 39-38 in double overtime.
“We don’t want to take anybody lightly; I don’t think our guys do,” Keys said. “2017 is a brand new team. There’s only a couple of guys that were on that trip that actually played in that game.
“I definitely described to them the possible pitfalls of this situation and we came off a very big win and now we’re looking at our next opponent. We’re doing our best to really focus on us and not the opponent.”
QB NEWS: Keys didn’t have an update on quarterback Rhys Gervais who left Saturday’s game late in the second quarter with an apparent left leg injury.
“We’re taking it day by day. We’ll see how everything go,” Keys said. “That’s everybody from (an) injury perspective.”
The junior has thrown for 813 yards with 10 touchdowns to three interceptions.
Backup Adam Bertke has completed four passes, two for touchdowns, in limited action.
Meanwhile, Bluffton grad Mitchell Ault has started the last two games for the Cavaliers.
He’s completed 36 of 56 attempts for 343 yards, two touchdowns and four picks.
TIME ON THEIR SIDE: Both Walsh and Findlay rank in the top 30 nationally in time of possession.
Only four teams average more than UF (34:18) while Walsh is close behind with 32:25 (29th).
The Oilers can chalk up their ranking to having the eighth-best rushing attack in the nation at 275.5 yard per game.
Senior Daouda Sylla is seventh in the country with 545 yards.
UF’s opponents have also only picked up 18 of 48 third downs.
GMAC HONORS: Senior defensive lineman Johnny Hopkins earned GMAC Defensive Player of the Week after a six-tackle, two-sack performance against Tuskegee.
His season totals of 31/2 sacks and 51/2 tackles for loss better the entire Walsh defensive totals by a ½ each.
Wolf, 419-427-8496
andywolf@thecourier.com