"I pictured it exactly how it went," a calm Kinney recapped after West Virginia's win. "I thought about going out there an nailing every punt perfect, and keeping my form right, and just letting them fly."
Kinney was nearly perfect, booting five balls for an average of 45.4 yards per attempt. He dropped one nice back-spin ball for a pin inside the Missouri 20, and put plenty of height on each of his kicks. That helped the Mountaineer coverage team limit the Tigers to just two yards on one return attempt. Not bad for a guy making his first start -- but again, Kinney had seen it all before, at least in his head.
"We did some visualization as a team and pictured everything happening. It was a really good feeling," said Kinney of the session, which occurred at WVU's usual Friday night hotel stay.
The only blemish on his day, and it was a very minor one, was his first punt attempt, which flew just a couple of yards past the goal line for a touchback. However, that's a bit like pointing out a smudge in the corner of a Rembrandt painting, coming as it did on a day that could hardly have been better.
That wasn't the case for one of Kinney's counterparts. Missouri placekikcer Tucker McCann badly hooked a pint-blank 24-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, and followed that up with another miss from 42 yards in the fourth. The first miss, which came right in front of the uprights, had to be playing in McCann's head, and certainly wasn't a part of his pre-game visualizations.
"I know exactly where that comes from," Kinney said. "Going into my first game dressing as a freshman, I was actually more nervous not playing that I was [today]. I can definitely sympathize that."
Making the opener all the more special is Kinney's status as a hometown guy (he's a University High School graduate) and the tight-knit group of specialists that took the field together.
"The three starters on special teams tonight are all from West Virginia," Kinney noted. "We're a really close group and really good friends. Mike Molina and Nick Meadows [and I], we have a really good friendship. We click wherever we go. It was just awesome."