Coffin Corner King

HE ONLY GETS on the field for about six, maybe seven, snaps a game. But punter <b>Kyle Basler</b> is no small reason why Washington State is ranked No. 8 in the land and gunning for a second-straight trip to the Rose Bowl.

He has one of the strongest legs in the nation --- he booted one ball 68 yards against Oregon State -- and averages 43.6 yards per kick. But the precision of his fancy footwork is something to behold. Indeed, 22 of his 60 punts this year have dropped inside the 20-yard line.

Look at the replay from WSU's winning-ugly games against Oregon State and UCLA and you'll come away wondering if the outcomes may have been different without Basler. He pinned the opponent inside the 5-yard-line a collective five times in those two games.

With the ferocity that the Cougar D brings to the game, that kind of advantegeous field position is like dangling a red flag in front of the bull.

"When you talk about great Cougar punters, there have been some dandies over the years -- Keith Lincoln, Gavin Hedrick, Tim Davey, Glenn Harper and Jason Hanson," says long-time Cougar-watcher Paul Sorensen. "But from what I've seen this year, I'd take Basler over all of 'em. And how scary is this -- he's only a sophomore!"

Fittingly, Basler -- the pride of Elma, Wash., -- this week was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award, given each year to the nation's premier college punter.

The semifinalists were determined by evaluating their overall statistics with emphasis placed on net average, percentage of total punts inside the 20, average return yardage, and percentage of punts not returned.

Ray Guy, the award's namesake, was perhaps football's greatest punter ever, combining a booming leg with an uncanny knack for putting balls out of bounds inside the 10-yard-line during a remarkable career at Mississippi State and then with the Oakland Raiders from 1972-86. The "coffin corner kick" became mainstream parlance on NFL Sundays because of Guy's ability to kill punts inside the 10-yard-line.

The Guy Award recipient will be announced Dec. 11 on the ESPN College Football Awards Show.

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