The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 9, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - Molinari passes first test as punter

MORGANTOWN — Sometimes dreams do come true.

Ask Michael Molinari.

His came true on a dreamy sunlit afternoon in Milan Puskar Stadium, somewhat overshadowed by a rock-ribbed defense that for the third time this year failed to yield an offensive touchdown and that turned the fortunes of the game around with an 83-yard rumble with a fumble by Jewone Snow.

It was overshadowed, too, by an offense that produced 541 yards, 469 of them through the air, with receivers Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney each surpassing 100 yards, Bailey putting the cherry on top with an 84-yard touchdown reception.

As spectacular as all that was, though, the most important contribution may well have been the job Molinari turned in with his first punting assignment.

Let me clarify that, for you surely are thinking that it was his first punting assignment at West Virginia University, after coming out of Parkersburg South High. Most did think that way, for the WVU media guide clearly states that he averaged 40 yards a punt for the Patriots.

“I read where it said I punted in high school but I didn’t ever punt in high school,” he revealed after the game. “We had a big fullback who punted.”

He was a placekicker and, here at WVU, he had been groomed as a holder, but when Corey Smith proved himself to be consistently inconsistent as a punter, launching the ball 50-plus yards on one kick and 14 the next, Coach Dana Holgorsen held tryouts.

It was that or pull out what hair he has remaining by the end of the season.

Molinari won the tryouts, went out onto the field and under as much pressure, really, as anyone could be, punted the ball five times for an average of 43.0 yards and a net of 41.4. Three times he punted inside the 20 and once pinned Maryland back so far that when the center lined up over the football his rear end was in the end zone.

Asked if he could describe the experience, Molinari thought for a moment, then said, “A dream.”

“I’ve dreamed about this day,” he said.

He came to WVU, in part, because he knew he could compete for the holding job when Jeremy Cash graduated last season, certainly not to punt.

But, as he said, “You always have to stay the course.”

Named the punter in mid-week by Holgorsen, he didn’t get a chance to punt until early in the second quarter when UConn stopped the Mountaineers. Punting from his own 26, he boomed the first punt 46 yards, which was nice, but a 12-yard return by Nick Williams eliminated some of the effectiveness of it.

A series later a WVU drive stalled out at the UConn 38 when Molinari was again asked to come on to punt.

The Mountaineers took their time, wanting a delay of game penalty that would give Molinari and little more room to drop the

ball dead, and snap came almost  at the same time the flag was thrown … Molinari fielding it and going through was a punt, the ball slipping off the side of his foot and going out of bounds maybe 10 or 15 yards downfield.

“I heard the crowd moan,” Molinari admitted, “but I knew there was a penalty and I would have another chance. It was kind of half-hearted effort, not really looking.”

When he punted again from five yards further back it was a beauty, a ball that floated out of bounds right at the pylon on the goal line, the ball marked at the one and a half yard line.

The crowd went bonkers, as did his teammates on the sideline, mobbing the young West Virginian when the ball missed going into the end zone.

“That took a lot of weight off my shoulders,” he admitted.

All of a sudden, he could relax, confident he could get the job done. More important, Holgorsen could relax also.

“Sometimes you gotta put guys in a game situation and give guys chances to see if they can do it,” Holgorsen said of putting Molinari in. “UConn didn’t come after him as much and that changes guys as well, but he had time to kick it and the conditions were good and he took advantage of his opportunity.”

As for Molinari, how did he see the entire experience?

“You hope your dreams become a reality some day and it did today,” he said.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos