Nov. 7, 2013
Punter Steven Clark is in the home stretch of a sterling Auburn career (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn punter Steven Clark was sporadic in pregame warmups last Saturday at Arkansas. A sore foot seemed to be causing him some trouble, and special teams coach Scott Fountain was concerned.
"He had a little bit of an injury in his foot," Fountain said, "and I was a little bit worried."
He need not have been.
Clark had his best game of the season, averaging 42.5 yards on four punts, dropping three inside the 20-yard line and two inside the 5.
"It was his best game of the season," Fountain said.
Here's what Clark did:
* In the first quarter, his 37-yard punt was downed at the Arkansas 2. The Razorbacks fumbled at the 29 and Auburn scored two plays later.
* His second punt was a 53-yarder to the Auburn 27.
* In the third quarter, Arkansas fair caught a 44-yard punt at its 17.
* And in the fourth quarter, his 44-yarder was downed at the 5.
Clark utilized a new weapon on his first and last punts. He and others call it an "Aussie punt." It is adapted from Australian rule football. It's an end over end punt that rotates back toward the punter.
"It is definitely a great tool to have in those situations," Clark said. "The last one of the game, I have to be honest. It was a little divine intervention. I thought I hit it a little too far and that sucker checked back. I got the result I wanted but not exactly as I had planned."
Clark says he's had plenty of help along the way. Gunners Sammie Coates and Jonathan Jones have been adept at downing Clark's punts deep in opponents' territory.
"Saturday, the shield (of blockers) upended somebody right in front of me," Clark said. "I had punted it and saw some dude flop on the ground. It's kind of cool to know I have those guys in front of me. Everybody has done a great job of blocking and getting down and covering. We've hardly had any returned this season."
Clark, who graduated last August and is in graduate school, is in the home stretch of a sterling Auburn career. He's averaging 42.5 yards on 36 punts and has dropped 14 inside the 20. For his career, Clark has averaged 40.4 yards and has been perhaps Auburn's all-time best at pinning opponents inside their own 20. He is considered a top NFL prospect.
"I feel like there is plenty of room for improvement, but I feel like our whole team has done pretty outstanding this season," Clark said. "I'm in the same shoes as everybody else, just trying to get better each week and see where we stand at the end."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: