Who Receives James Franklin’s Game Ball? Punter Chris Gulla

James Franklin wouldn’t hand out the game ball for Saturday’s game to Saquon Barkley or Akeel Lynch. He wouldn’t give it to a defensive player that helped allow only three points either. Instead, he’d give it to junior punter Chris Gulla.

“Everybody’s going to say Saquon Barkley or Akeel Lynch or some of our defensive players who made some big plays,” he said. “But I would say it went to Gulla.”

Gulla’s five punts averaged 41 yards (his long was 52), but distance was hardly the objective. All five of Gulla’s punts pinned Rutgers inside its own 20. One, early in the game before it was out of question, bounced at the two before Jordan Lucas flew in and downed it at the one yard line.

“He was able to swing field position, he was able to pin them back deep,” Franklin said. “Consistency is the name of the game in every position, specifically in punting.”

Franklin also said that Gulla didn’t know he would be the starter until Friday morning. Daniel Pasquariello started the first two games of the season, but struggled with consistency.

“We talk to our guys all the time about preparing to be the starter and he did that,” he said. “He’s out there Friday morning on his own punting on the field. He’s just a guy waiting for his number to be called, really proud of him.”

According to Franklin, Pasquariello couldn’t translate training camp success into live game applications.

“To be honest, Daniel’s been punting more consistently all camp,” Franklin explained. “The last three weeks, Gulla’s really come on and made it more competitive. At the end of the day you got to be able to do it in the game as well. That wasn’t consistently happening.”

Gulla, meanwhile, credited both Franklin and Pasquariello for his success.

“Of all the coaches I personally ever met, Coach Franklin is the most involved in the special teams,” he said. “Even before practice, he’s doing extra things…That’s had a huge impact on all of us.”

Last year, Gulla’s primary role was that of backup punter and the holder for Sam Ficken. He and Pasquariello both started several games, each experiencing success then hiccups throughout the year. Gulla said the competition between him and the native Australian have helped him excel on the field.

“Danny P is one of the best punters I’ve ever had to punt against,” he said. “That’s one of the things that made me a better player. It’s really intense we both compete hard everyday.”

The competition will continue, but Gulla’s starting spot should be secure for at least one more week.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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