Light Workload

No.4 Wisconsin's high-scoring offense doesn't have too many negative drawbacks, unless you are the team's senior punter. Brad Nortman hasn't been used much in the last two seasons with the Badgers' lighting up the scoreboard but when he gets the opportunity, Nortman shows he's one of the best in his line of work.

MADISON – Wisconsin senior punter Brad Nortman is here to dispel rumors.

First, yes, he is still on the Badgers' football team currently ranked fourth in the nation by all national polls. Two, no, he is not paid per punt. Three, true, he has kicked more in warm-ups than he has in every game this season. Fourth, despite being used more for holding PAT kicks than actual punts, he is having the time of his life.

"I enjoy it, I really do," said Nortman. "Our team's success and getting a win each and every week is important to me. It's fun to watch our offense. I would rather take a one punt game than an eight punt game any day. I would become frustrated with the Badgers if I was punting that much."

It's a common occurrence for when Wisconsin's high-powered offense is lighting up the scoreboard that the television cameras usually finds Nortman, a senior from Brookfield, on the sidelines to make a joke out of it. He's been seem lounging on the bench with both arms extended more than a couple times this season.

Nortman has just 10 punts this season and has punted just once in two games for Wisconsin. That number represents the fewest punts for any FBS team in the country. To put that number in perspective, Ohio State's Ben Buchanan, Minnesota's Dan Orseske and Indiana's Adam Pines each punted 10 times in one game on Oct. 1.

When Nortman's number is called for the Badgers, the senior has shown that he is one of the top kickers in the country. Nortman ranks third in school history with a career punting average of 42.1 yards and is averaging 43.0 yards per kick this season. That average would put Nortman as the 28th-best in FBS if he qualified for the category but in order for Nortman to be considered among the top punters nationally, he is required to punt at least 3.6 times per game.

That's nothing new for Nortman, who averaged just 3.2 punts per game last season (38 punts in 12 games) because Wisconsin's offense was just as explosive. Against Indiana last season, Wisconsin's offense scored on all 12 possessions, leaving Nortman with one of the easiest days of his college career.

With Wisconsin (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) even more treacherous this season and Indiana (1-5, 0-2 Big Ten) just as bad, Nortman might not be needed again.

"It was quite interesting to be honest," Nortman said of last year's 83-20 drubbing of the Hoosiers. "It's a mental tease in a way. Every third down, we'd get the punt alert and I would get mentally prepared and assume it's going to be a fourth down. It never happened. It was a mental roller coaster, but in a good way. I tried to enjoy the moment because it's rare to have an offense like the one we have two years in a row."

Nortman calls the lack of action a blessing in disguise, helping him really lock in knowing that might be his only kick of the game. The results speak for themselves as only one of his 10 punts this season has been returned.

"He's as mentally tough as anybody I've had at that position," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "Usually kickers and punters are a little off center, but he's been really good. He handles the pooch game as well. That really brings down his average, but he doesn't think of that."

Nortman has seen a decrease in his punting attempts each season at Wisconsin, going from 66 times as a freshman to 49 times as a sophomore and 38 times a year ago as a junior. It's not a coincidence considering Wisconsin's record has improved from 7-6 to 10-3 to 11-2. Nortman's average has also decreased because he's asked more to do pooch punts to pin opponents, a craft he loves.

Over the summer after his sophomore season, Nortman began practicing a kick called the Australian pooch kick, where he holds the nose of the football at a specific angle to generate extra back spin. Even when kicking as hard as possible, the angle of the ball limits the distance of the punt to roughly a 45 yard maximum.

Again, the results speak for themselves as Nortman has pinned opponents inside the 20 yard line four separate times and forcing six fair catches.

"It's been an evolution and I have been refining it through the years," Nortman said. "I feel very confident with it. Especially with this offense, you get more pooch punts than open field punts, so it's important that I have that down."

With the low numbers because of UW offense's success on third downs, completing 62.1 percent on third downs, Bielema went to bat for his punter in the bye week to try to get him as much exposure as possible. Bielema said one of the things on his to-do list during the off week was reach out to representatives from two senior bowl games to ask them not to penalize Nortman because UW's offense has been so productive.

"He's always had by back, through thick and thin here, throughout my whole career," Nortman said of Bielema. "It hasn't always been easy, especially when I was a freshman. I think it truly defines he's a players' coach and has our best interest in mind. The fact that he's doing that and putting his own name on the line, it makes me want to back up what he's saying and make sure that every punt is good enough so I can prove him right."

If Wisconsin's offense is ever stopped, Nortman might actually get the chance.

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