Blake Gillikin: Difference Maker

Field position is obviously important in any game, but versus a team like Ohio State…it’s everything. 

In the past two seasons, Penn State vs. Ohio State has come all the way down to the wire. In 2016, Penn State was the victor by three points. In 2017, the Nittany Lions fell one point short. This year’s meeting shouldn’t be any different, as the nation’s two highest scoring offenses go toe-to-toe in Beaver Stadium.

It is, after all, a game of inches, and the Nittany Lions are happy to have Blake Gillikin in their corner. That’s because the junior punter from Smyrna, Georgia is simply a difference maker — a sentiment James Franklin acknowledged after Penn State’s mucky week two road win against Pitt.

“Blake was a big difference in the game this week compared to last week,” Franklin said of his punter. “Tough weather conditions, and he was able to punt the ball and swing field position when we needed to.”

High praise for a punter may be rare, but it was warranted after the team dominated the field position battle. Against Pitt, the Nittany Lions had an average starting spot of their own 44-yard line, compared to the Panthers’ average starting spot on their own 25. Gillikin was dominant, plopping three of his five punts inside the Pitt 10-yard line.

Gillikin’s leg is a weapon in the field position battle because he brings the BOOM. 

No, that’s not just a cool onomatopoeia for the high speed car crash that is Gillikin’s foot connecting with a football. Boom is also a punting metric developed by Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business, which accounts for the fact that not all 35 punts are created equal. 

Boom rating considers net yards per kick, line of scrimmage, proximity to each end zone, etc. and awards each punter a rating on a zero to one scale. It’s almost like a quarterback rating, but with a way cooler name.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone that Gillikin puts up impressive boom numbers. Last season, he ranked fifth in the NCAA with a .660 boom rating. Through week four of this season, he’s ranked fifth in the Big Ten with a boom rating of .593 on only 13 punts. This number should only increase, as he gets more opportunities to work his magic in highly contentious conference matchups.

Another person singing praises for the punter ahead of this week’s matchup against the Buckeyes is quarterback and offensive captain Trace McSorley.

“Blake is a factor in every game that we come into…how he’s able to flip field position like that, with one kick,” McSorley said Wednesday.

However, acknowledging the punter’s abilities, and wanting him on the field are understandably two very different things.

“Personally, I hope he has a very boring day [on Saturday], where he’s not really on the field too much,” the quarterback admitted candidly. “But having him on our side, we know that he’s gonna be able to flip the field and pin guys deep when he gets the opportunity to.”

Unfortunately, Trace probably won’t be able to keep Gillikin on the sideline all day against Ohio State, but that’s okay. When Gillikin’s number is called, he’ll be ready to make a difference. 

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About the Author

Anthony Fiset

Anthony is a senior *gasp* majoring in Economics and a lifetime Costco Executive Member. If you are an employer, please hire him. Otherwise, direct all complaints to [email protected].

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