‘This kid is a freak’: Tory Taylor’s 10 punts aid Iowa in season-opening win

Taylor booted seven of his 10 kicks inside the South Dakota State 20-yard-line on Saturday afternoon.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa punter Tory Taylor puts the ball during a football game between Iowa and South Dakota State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Jackrabbits, 7-3. Taylor punted for 479 yards.

Chris Werner, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa players spent a lot of time near the South Dakota State goal line on Saturday afternoon, but they weren’t scoring any touchdowns. Instead, the Hawkeyes were downing Tory Taylor’s punts deep in Jackrabbit territory.

In their 7-3 win over the Jackrabbits, the Hawkeyes didn’t score a single touchdown. Rather, Iowa earned its seven points with a field goal and two safeties.

Taylor registered single-game career-highs in total punts and yardage, racking up 479 yards on 10 kicks. Seven of the 25-year-old’s boots were downed inside the 20-yard line. Five of those seven punts came to a stop inside the 10-yard line.

“I really just try to catch it and kick it as far and as high as I can,” Taylor said postgame. “I’m really lucky that those guys on the punt unit want to be on the punt unit, like Terry Roberts, Cooper DeJean, guys that run down there and make tackles or cause a fair catch or down it inside the five.”

RELATED: Iowa football wins unconventional season-opener against South Dakota State, 7-3

Taylor, who admitted his career-high in total punts probably wasn’t good news for Iowa as a whole, even stopped two of his kicks inside the SDSU 2-yard-line.

“At one point I said ‘This kid is a freak,'” South Dakota State head coach John Stiegelmeier said postgame. “I thought he kicked it out of bounds one time and rolls it down to the 2-yard-line. That is a powerful weapon. That is part of their defense, and the reality is our field position was really tough a lot of the time.”

In all, South Dakota State ran 57 offensive plays — only eight of which started in Iowa territory. Of those eight snaps on the Hawkeyes’ side of the field, seven came after a Spencer Petras interception set the Jackrabbits up on Iowa turf.

Taylor, a preseason second-team All-Big Ten selection, said he gained confidence throughout Saturday’s game.

“I always get a little nervous on the first punt of the day because you never really know, ‘What’s my day going to be like today,’ but it really makes things a lot easier when you hit a good ball first up,” Taylor said. “… It’s really just preparation, confidence, and I think just focus as well. I mean, I’m only out there, well I was out there 10 times today, but I’m only out there for maybe 15, 20 seconds, and it’s really just being able to have a high level of focus for such a short period of time, which isn’t too hard to do.”

Out of Taylor’s 10 punts, only one squeaked into the end zone for a touchback. SDSU returned two of the punter from down under’s kicks, netting eight total yards.

“I just look up and try to find the ball,” Roberts said. It’s just like magic … He’s very consistent. In my opinion, the best in the nation. I don’t care what nobody says.”

Taylor said that, while he loves being on the field and hearing fans chant “MVP” for him, he understands it’s best for the team if he never has to take to the turf.

Taylor also hopes he doesn’t have to punt at all next week when the Iowa welcomes Iowa State to Kinnick Stadium for the annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Game.

“None,” Taylor said with a smile. “Well, maybe one or two so that I can say that I did something, but yeah, none will usually result in victory and there’s nothing better than beating Iowa State.”