Gregg Pugnetti made a dazzling debut as the punter in West Virginia’s season-opening shutout of Coastal Carolina, 31-0.
But he may have set some sort of record for having had to wait four full years for the opportunity. And that obviously required patience and faith.
“I’m not a quitter,” said the 6-foot-1, 208-pound redshirt senior from Fairfax, Va.
Making Pugnetti’s longevity even more remarkable is that he’s still a walk-on.
In other words, he hung in there, “awaiting my turn,” without a scholarship.
Hopefully head coach Bill Stewart, who also is his position coach, will find one for Pugnetti before the 2010 season ends.
He spent two years competing with Pat McAfee and last year with Scott Kozlowski. Both earned All-America status.
The fifth-year Mountaineer punted six times in his first collegiate game for an average of 49.2 yards per attempt. That’s by far the best by a Big East punter this season.
He booted one 71 yards and three landed inside the 20-yard line. Two of his punts were downed by WVU on Coastal Carolina’s 1-yard line.
Pugnetti was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll for his excellent performance.
“I strive for good field position,” he said. “I go out there and try to do my best. There’s nothing better than that 71-yard punt — I got a great roll off it.”
Pugnetti, whose major academically is athletic coaching education, said he’s kept himself prepared each year. Then when he saw that his time had come, he worked even harder in the spring, summer and now fall.
“There’s still competition and that helps,” he admitted. “I don’t want to fall behind after that pretty good start. Things went well for me.
“I don’t worry about stats. I don’t remember those I had in high school (at W.T. Woodson High). But I did well there, too.”
Coach Stewart said, “Gregg Pugnetti has been waiting in the wings. He’s been a solider and he has just been great. He has earned his spurs, so to speak.
“It’s his job right now. He understands (an opposing) rush and tries to pick it up when he has to. I am very pleased with what Gregg did.”
Pugnetti, who’s a member of the Athletic Director’s Academic Honor Roll, said he not only learned from McAfee and Kozlowski, but also by watching films of what each did — good and bad.
He added, “I need to become more consistent and make sure I know where the rushes are coming from and change my steps to where the ball needs to go.”
WVU coaches selected Pugnetti as special teams champion for the Coastal Carolina game. Would that be a rare award for a fifth-year walk-on in WVU annals?
In case you’re wondering, All-America punter Todd Sauerbrun holds the records for highest averages in a game (60.1 yards per punt), season (48.6) and career (46.2).
Sauerbrun played in the NFL after being at WVU in 1991-92-93-94.