Kinnick home to punters duel for Iowa-Rutgers

In a game of tough field position for Iowa, Michael Sleep-Dalton punted the Hawkeyes out of trouble on numerous occasions.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa punter Michael Sleep-Dalton kicks the ball during a football game between Iowa and Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, September 7, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 30-0. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

Kirk Ferentz made his choice for Iowa’s Player of the Game known when he took the podium after a 30-0 dismantling of Rutgers on Sept. 7.

His choice was not Nate Stanley, nor was it A.J. Epenesa. In Ferentz’s eyes, the key performer for the Hawkeyes against the Scarlet Knights was their 27-year old graduate-transfer Australian punter.

Michael Sleep-Dalton punted six times in the win, averaging a staggering 48.3 yards per punt. He booted three of his punts over 50 yards and distance, including a 57-yard blast that had Hawkeye fans reminiscing over Reggie Roby.

The Geelong, Australia, native showed great touch on his punts as well, dropping two of them inside the Rutgers’ 20-yard line. The Scarlet Knights also had their share of success in the punting game. Rutgers punter Adam Korsak had Iowa starting drives backed up in its own territory for most of the game.

“It was a tough game field-position-wise,” Ferentz said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been involved in a college game where two punters played as well as both those guys, or probably any game ever. Both of them performed extremely well. They were the players of the game on both sides.”

Korsak averaged 47.6 yards on his 10 punt attempts and downed Iowa inside its own 20 seven times.

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley took notice of the poor field position because of Korsak’s leg. As a third-year starter, Stanley understands the difficulty of facing a quality punter and the asset it can be to have their own.

“Their punter did a great job of pinning us in deep,” Stanley said. “Nico [Ragaini] didn’t really have a chance to catch many of those punts. [Sleep-Dalton] did a great job for us, too; he hit some really big kicks when we needed them.”

Besides having terrific games for their respective special teams units, Sleep-Dalton and Korsak share something slightly more personal: a home country. Korsak is also from Australia.

The two exchanged text messages before they matched up in Kinnick for the game, and, Sleep-Dalton said, it was all in good fun.

“It was good luck, have a kick and get a photo and stuff to send back to the boys back home,” Sleep-Dalton said. “It was just good to have a chat with him.”

As far as who had the better performance between the two Australian punters, Sleep-Dalton had to go to the film room to make an official decision.

“I’m focused on my own kicks,” he said. “But it’s good to watch someone else — especially another Aussie — do well. Just support each other. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the stats. But he hit some good balls, we both hit some good balls. Pretty equal, I’d say.”

Questions about the punter position have haunted Iowa the past couple of seasons. For this season, however, it seems like the Hawkeyes have found their guy.

“Michael made it really better today, obviously changed field position,” Ferentz said. “If we can have him continue to perform like that, he will be a real asset for our football team.”

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