O'Toole's punts key for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There were many keys to Saturday's game between William & Mary and WVU at Milan Puskar Stadium.
There were the rollout passes that helped keep the visiting Tribe in contention. There was the running game that helped the host Mountaineers.
But the key that unlocked WVU from upset jail might have been new punter Nick O'Toole, a transfer from Fullerton [Calif.] College.
On five punts, he covered 253 yards for an average of 50.6 per boot. He had a long of 60 yards and placed one inside the Tribe 20.
"I'm glad we had Nick O'Toole," said WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.
At the start of the fourth quarter, WVU was tied with the underdog Tribe at 17. After a missed William & Mary field goal, the Mountaineers bogged down again. On fourth-and-8 from WVU's 27, O'Toole uncorked a punt for 56 yards. The Tribe had to start at its own 22.
A WVU series later, O'Toole went in to face even more dire circumstances. The Mountaineers were on their own 13 and in a fourth-and-3 situation. The sophomore crushed one 60 yards and again Cook was there for the tackle, a loss of 2 yards for Sean Ballard. W&M began at its own 25.
"When we were backed up, I knew I had to hit a big kick," O'Toole said of the latter. "I saw their returner was lined up at the 50. I thought, 'I'd better get it over his head.'
"The wind was behind me. It was a great snap by John [DePalma]. The coverage was awesome. Cook got down there. I was talking to John later. He said Cook got down there fast. He passed him."
O'Toole seemed to have no attack of nerves or lack of confidence.
"I played in front of 30,000 at my high school stadium [at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif.], but nothing compares to Mountaineer country out here," O'Toole said. "I was just trying to focus on what I'm doing. I've done the same kick for the last couple years. I just wanted to keep doing that. Once I got on the field, it was all muscle memory."
Which led to good memories for WVU fans.
"Coach [Dana] Holgorsen asked me [Friday] night [about nerves]," O'Toole said. "It's kind of the same thing I told him. I feel it a little more in my head. Once I get on the field, it all goes away. It's all muscle memory. I just have to stay true to my muscle memory, stay true to my technique and hit that kick."
O'Toole did that all Saturday. And he gave a nod to assistant coach Joe DeForest.
"Coach DeFoe has been awesome," O'Toole said. "He's been trying to get me mentally tough and to keep everything else going - stay strong with my technique.
"We've been working on my flexibility and getting more consistent. It's been a real honor to be working with Coach DeFoe."
Of all the kicks on Saturday, though, O'Toole got the biggest kick before the game.
"Just being with the guys before we went out," said the punter. "We were all in the weight room. There was the fog coming in. You couldn't really see anything. All you could hear was the countdown. That was the best."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.