Last year, by November 23, 2019, Miami had lost five total games and all were within one score. In those losses, Miami had been scrutinized for its flaws related to missed field goals that often left opponents with advantageous field position. In addition, two years ago, and on their way to a middling 7-6 record, the Canes had one of the most atrocious punting units in the country, which often resulted in poor field position.
This year, however, Miami has turned close losses into close wins as they’ve won their last three contests by an average of three points per game. This has led to an impressive turnaround to a 7-1 record. Overall, the U’s culture has been a big reason for the transformation in finishing close games with a win.
And, while there have been many contributors to the positive changes, the unsung hero for 2020 may be Miami’s Punter, Lou Hedley. Hedley has exhibited an integral role throughout the season by consistently flipping the field position and pinning the opponents’ deep in their own territory during pivotal moments.
In the most recent victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies in a 25-24 nail biter, Hedley provided a needed boost throughout the game by averaging 52.4 yards on his seven punts, three of which were placed within the 20-yard line. On his final two punts on the afternoon, which transpired when Miami maintained a 25-24 lead, Hedley pinned Virginia Tech at their own 9-yard line with 4:04 left and at their own 3-yard line with 1:45 left in the game. Both punts contributed to the Hokies’ scoreless fourth quarter and wrapped up the victory for the Canes.
Hedley did get flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the Canes pulled within one point at the end of the half. While this variety of penalties has plagued Miami this season, the flag on Hedley was inconsequential and it was actually pretty entertaining to see the 6’4”, 234lb punter pushing around the Hokies to protect his special teams’ unit.
While the more eye-popping candidates for player of the week may have been DE Jaelan Phillips who had 2.5 sacks or WR Mark Pope who caught the game winning TD on a perfectly run slant route, Hedley deserved immense praise for helping Miami win the hidden yardage battle on special teams. For his efforts, Hedley earned the Ray Guy Award Winner of the week, as well as ACC Specialist of the Week, as he turns heads as one of the top punters in the NCAA.
This season, the Australian native boasts an impressive 47.4 yards per punt which ranks 3rd in the nation for punt yard average among punters who have had more than 8 punts on the season. Hedley’s average is also ahead of last year’s Ray Guy Award Winner, Kentucky Punter, Max Duffy.
Based on these numbers, Hedley should be in a prime position to finish out the season strong and be on the short list of candidates competing for the Ray Guy Annual Award, which is presented to college football’s most outstanding punter. It must be noted that Hedley was snubbed from the Ray Guy Award Watch list in the preseason, which would likely make the end-of-season award that much sweeter.
Lou Hedley has been named ACC Specialist of the Week for the second time this season. Hedley averaged 52.4 yards on his seven punts and placed three kicks inside the Hokies' 20-yard line. pic.twitter.com/dlVBQMEuGY— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) November 16, 2020
Regardless of the individual accolades, Hedley has proven to be a leader who won the Canes Special Teams’ MVP as a Freshman and as a catalyst in the all important field position segment of Miami’s games. He knows, and many Canes’ fans know based on 2018 punting woes and 2019 placekicking woes, that it takes all three phases to set the tone for a fully-functioning team, as many games have been won and lost based on field position. The clutch performances and big punts should continue to come for Hedley as he boots his way to the title of one of the nation’s top punters and strives to achieve his goal of getting into the NFL. In doing so, he should make the job easier for the defense and offense to finish this season strong.