first_imgI’m not going to start any rivalry between Australians and Americans, but it felt good to be hit — it’s been three or four years since I’ve been knocked around. – Tom Hackett said.SALT LAKE CITY — Tom Hackett says he never gets nervous on the football field unless perhaps he’s punting out of the end zone with two seconds left in the game. He has to be the most laid-back guy on the Utah football team or perhaps in all of college football.But that doesn’t mean Hackett doesn’t care, which is why following an uncharacteristically slow start to the season, after winning the Ray Guy Award as the best punter in the nation a year ago, he said he “locked myself into my room for a couple of days” to sort things out.It seems to have worked because the old Hackett was back last Saturday night in Eugene, Oregon where he boomed a career-long 76-yard punt, averaged 60.3 yards for the night, put all three of his punts inside the 10-yard line and added a 33-yard run on a fake punt for good measure.For those exploits, Hackett earned Pac-12 special teams player of the week honors as well as the Ray Guy national player of the week.“I got three of them last year, so I’ve got a ways to go,’’ he said about winning the national award. “So hopefully I can get a few more the next couple of weeks.’’While everyone remembers Hackett’s long run after he had to leap high to keep the snap from going over his head, his punting made a big difference, pinning the Ducks deep in their territory to give the Utes the field-position edge.His first punt of the night, with Utah at its own 16-yard line, sailed over the Oregon returner’s head and eventually came to rest at the Utah 8-yard line. The 76-yard punt was the longest of Hackett’s career and fifth-longest in Ute history.“They put two returners back last year but don’t ask my why, they only put one back this year,’’ he said. “When they put one back, the rugby punt is more effective than the traditional one. When I saw they had one back it’s an opportunity I have to take so tried my best and I torched it.”With the Utes scoring on nine straight drives, Hackett didn’t have to punt until the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand and he stuck a punt on the 1-yard line and the other on the 4-yard line.In between, came Hackett’s run, which came in a fourth-and-13 situation with the Utes at their own 28-yard line. His first punt hit the overhead wire the TV camera slides on, so he got a rekick. During the short break, the Utes dialed up a run for Hackett to the left side where only one defender was lined up.This time, the always-reliable snapper Chase Dominguez sent a ball so high that Hackett had to leap for it, corralling it with one hand and then taking off toward the left side.Here’s how Hackett described the whole sequence:“Coach says, ‘Hey run the fake.’ I look up and it’s fourth and 13 and I say, ‘Crikey I’m 14 yards back — do the math, I’ve got about 30 yards just to get to the marker.’ I told the boys to keep blocking for me. I’m not the quickest bloke. If I get some good blocks I’ll be able to get there, that’s what I told them.“It happened so quick, I guess I just made it because the gap closed right after I popped through. A second or two more and I might have been dead.’’Hackett was asked if Australians are tougher because they play rugby and Australian rules football, but he didn’t take the bait.“No, I’m not going to start any rivalry between Australians and Americans, but it felt good to be hit — it’s been three or four years since I’ve been knocked around,’’ he said. “I had to take ibuprofen afterwards because I got smacked around the helmet so many bloody times by my teammates. I’m not used to that.’’Hackett now ranks No. 7 in the nation in punting yards at 47.8 and the Utes have moved up to No. 5 in the nation in net punting. Related Red and blue recruitslast_img

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