A Blissful Punting Performance For Tigers

Kody Bliss put his best foot forward as he helped the Tigers kick Ole Miss. The sophomore has been a key part of Auburn's success this season.

Auburn, Ala.--On a night when the offense wasn't as sharp as usual and the defense was up and down, the Auburn kicking game was a key component in the Tigers' 35-14 victory at Ole Miss.

Both Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville and Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe cited the kicking game as a huge factor in Auburn's success that night as the Tigers clinched a berth in the SEC Football Championship Game.

Sophomore punter Kody Bliss went into the game saying that he was looking forward to the challenge of competing against the Ole Miss punter, one of the top players in the league. He not only competed with Cody Ridgeway, he won the head to head battle.

Bliss was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for his 48.8 yard net punting average.

In a first half that was scoreless for the first 29 minutes plus, Bliss played a vital role in pinning the Rebels deep in their own territory. Three of his six punts on the night forced Ole Miss to start inside its own 20-yard line.

"Any time you have a close game special teams plays a huge role," Bliss says. "The difference between the two teams in net punting (average) was 18 yards. And that 18 yards is almost two first downs, which is huge in a defensive battle like in the first half."

On back to back punts in the first half, Bliss and the Auburn punt coverage team pinned the Rebels at their five and their 10 yard lines. Special teams coach Eddie Gran singled out Bliss as well as gunners Carlos Rogers and Courtney Taylor as special teamers who had a big impact on the outcome of Saturday's contest.

"It was huge for the field position," Gran says. "Our starting field position was the 38-yard line and theirs was the 20. You look at that throughout a 60-minute game and that is huge. Our net punting and their net punting was an 18-yard difference."

The other punter in Saturday's game, Ole Miss senior Ridgeway, punted for what on paper looks to be a decent 40.1-yard average, but his low wobbly kicks gave Auburn's Carnell Williams chances to make returns. Williams, the SEC leader in punt returns, finished the night with six for 71 yards, compared to three for negative seven yards for Rebel returner Mike Espy.

Ridgeway, along with Tennessee punter Dustin Colquitt, came into the season as the two most highly-regarded punters in the SEC, but have both been outdone by Bliss in head-to-head matchups this year.

"Any time you go against someone who is supposed to be an All-American candidate, it's a good time to shine and try to get a little respect," Bliss says. "More than that, just the teams they play for, it's real exciting to go into a game like that and have a chance to help out your team do the things they need to do."

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