One of Florida State’s most consistent players in 2021 had one of his best days of the season on Saturday in the 26-23 win over Boston College.
Alex Mastromanno punted five times for a 39.6-yard average, but he pinned BC inside the 20-yard line four times. The first one was downed at the 1-yard line, while another was downed at the BC 4 and a third was fair caught at the BC 10.
“It was good, a lot of people came up to me after the game and told me about it,” Mastromanno said. “But I just thought all day the coverage, they did really good getting down there on the 1-yard line and catching them to not let them go in the end zone. My shield, to hold on and protect me and allow me a bit more time to get that artificial hang time, that helps a lot. And then the snaps are awesome as well.”
Mastromanno is averaging 43.4 yards per punt this season, nearly identical to the Australian’s 43.5-yard average from his first year of college football in 2020.
FSU coach Mike Norvell is active with the special-teams units, placing a high emphasis on it during practices with the amount of time the Seminoles spend on various coverage, return, kick and punt groups. While FSU has had its challenges in the return and coverage game, Mastromanno’s punting has been a mark of consistency.
“I thought our punt team was phenomenal,” Norvell said. “One of the game-changing units. Alex was extraordinary, was able to pin them inside the 10 multiple times. I like what we were able to do.”
That consistency is often hidden within the box scores but field position is a big factor in an offense’s percentage of scoring on a drive as well as the defense’s ability to protect a long or short field. As much as Norvell does roll the dice and go for it on fourth down when his feel of the situation and the analytics warrant, flipping the field with a punt and having gunners run down to force a fair catch or down a punt before it goes in the end zone is valuable.
Special-teams coordinator John Papuchis said he has seen Mastromanno gain a better understanding of American football — a sport he had seen on TV or the Internet but never played prior to his arrival at FSU in the spring 2020. Papuchis said he has an “overall awareness of the in-game thoughts and adjustments,” and is no longer just going out and “punting the ball to the best of his ability.”
Mastromanno said he has a better feel for the game and what strategies to use to help the team with his various punts.
“My understanding of the game and how much I can hold field position with different styles of punts, that’s something I’ve worked on a lot more this year and got my head around,” Mastromanno said. “Coach JP and I, we’re really close. And on game day we’ll have chats about what type of punt we’ll do, whether it’s a roll out or I hang it up there and just do a nice end-over-end or try and kick it over the head. We have those discussions and that really helps me develop and learn what kicks are good in a situation.”
Mastromanno has also punted this season with his left foot, which at first caught FSU’s coaches off guard but it was a necessity when he grew up playing Australian Rules Football. How does he know when to punt with his left foot?
“It will be situational,” Mastromanno said. “It might just be whether we check out of one call, so if teams are going to try and overload my right we just roll left. It doesn’t really bother us. That’s worked really well this year. … I really enjoy it.”