LAFAYETTE - Although Brett Baer doesn’t consider his kicking leg a potential asset, statistics indicate otherwise.
Baer, who handles two kicking roles for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, hasn’t missed a field goal in 14 collegiate attempts and this season his punts are pinning teams behind their own 20-yard line.
The junior kicker will attempt to continue his high level of performance tonight when ULL (3-1, 1-0) hosts Florida Atlantic (0-3, 0-0) in a 6 p.m. Sun Belt Conference contest at Cajun Field.
Baer, who is punting for the first time at ULL, said his performance is representative of the emphasis placed on special teams by first-year coach Mark Hudspeth.
“Coach Hud truly believes, if you win the special team battle, that you have a good chance to win the game,” Baer said.
Last Saturday, Baer did his part on special teams, pinning Florida International its 20 five times. Two of those kicks landed inside FIU’s 5, and the Cajuns turned those occasions into a safety and an interception.
Baer’s 42.3-yard average is fourth among SBC punters, but he said it’s not always distance that counts.
“It’s really me just wanting to lift the ball up in the air and then having the missiles (outside punt coverage) going down and getting it. Sometimes, I’ll hit the ball, and it’s not well hit and they are down there waiting on it,” Baer said.
Hudspeth said one of his other responsibilities is serving as special teams coordinator, which adds an extra couple of hours to his coaching day.
“I do that so I make sure things are done to my expectations. Second, it’s the most important phase of the game in my estimation,” he said.
In ULL’s 38-21 win over Nicholls State on Sept. 17, the Cajuns used a blocked punt that became a 68-yard touchdown play that Hudspeth said turned the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.
Against FIU, Hudspeth called a direct snap to Brad McGuire on a fourth down at the Panthers’ 28. The result was a first down that continued a first-half touchdown drive.
Hudspeth said he doesn’t exactly tell his kickers how to do their jobs.
“I’m not the kicking coach. I know how to make sure the kicker employs proper concentration and focus,” Hudspeth said. He said Baer has handled the increased burden of punting and place-kicking.
The dual jobs came as no surprise to Baer.
“It’s something I did in the spring, and I was the only kicker on the roster,” he said.
FAU opened the season with road losses against Florida (41-3), Michigan State (44-0) and Auburn (30-14), something that has Hudspeth concerned.
“You can’t even look at their record. It’s like they’ve been at batting practice against BB’s and now they’re coming back against someone throwing softballs,” he said.
The Owls are at the bottom of the conference in points scored (5.7 per game), total offense (164 yards) and eighth among nine SBC teams in scoring defense (38.7).