Molinari Takes Advantage of Punting Opportunity - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Molinari Takes Advantage of Punting Opportunity

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MORGANTOWN -

It seemed as though Michael Molinari was just handed the starting position, asked to show what he could do not because he proved to be the better option, but because the first option hadn't gotten the job done.

The role of punter was his if he wanted it or it was Corey Smith's again if he failed to produce when he was called upon. Molinari decided not to give up the role.

"You've got to take advantage of these opportunities when you get them," the redshirt freshman said. "You can't let them slide by or anything, so you've just got to go out there with confidence and make it happen."

Molinari's task wasn't necessarily a big one. He jumped Smith on the depth chart after head coach Dana Holgorsen grew tired of seeing 14-yard punts in back-to-back weeks. The goal wasn't 15 yards, but the bar wasn't set too high coming into the game.

Just don't shank it, Michael. He certainly didn't shank it.

At the start of the second quarter, Molinari had his debut. The Mountaineers offense was struggling and the visiting Huskies had just taken the lead on a record-tying field goal. WVU fans needed something to cheer about, and their punter of all people is the one who gave it to them.

A 46-yard boot isn't something that will get many punters overly excited, but the ovation from the crowd had to give Molinari confidence that he could perform.

"It was just amazing," says Molinari. "I had a little bit of nerves going into that first punt, but after that first punt and after the second one especially, just a confidence-booster, that second punt. That just kept my momentum going and I had a good day."

If the initial reaction from the fans was meant more to show appreciation for not shanking the ball 14 yards down the field, the second reaction was a more genuine response to a great punt.

The Mountaineers had just taken a delay of game penalty, pushing them back five yards, which would prove pivotal to the success of Molinari's attempt. He got his leg behind the ball and knocked straight toward the sideline. A 41-yard punt, he had pinned the Connecticut offense all the way back at its own two-yard-line.

"It was just an amazing feeling," says Molinari. "Just the fact that with the penalty and getting pushed backed, I was thankful for that penalty because it was a little bit more in my pooch range. I knew it was good off my foot and I was hoping it went out of bounds so it wouldn't bounce into the end zone."

As Molinari jogged off to the team bench, coaches and teammates swarmed him to congratulate him on such a beauty of a boot. Inside receiver Willie Milhouse attempted to give Molinari a chest bump, but just glanced off the punter, who remained on the ground.

He had probably never been offered a chest bump in his other role as the team's holder – he may not have known what Milhouse was trying to do.

"Sometimes you've just got to put guys in game situations and give guys chances and see what they can do," said Holgorsen. "He had some time to kick it and the conditions were good and he took advantage of his opportunity."

The opportunity will exist for Molinari for as long as he continues to prove that he deserves it. Just because he excelled in his first outing doesn't mean he will next time. The work he puts in during practice will determine what results he gets when the team travels to Syracuse.

"It's always a competition. You can't let off the gas at all," he says. "You've got to keep pushing, you know, because for every good game, you could have a bad game. I've just got to stay focused and keep thinking in the back of my head it's still a competition so I've got to go out there and perform."

It should be easy for him to keep that competition in mind, too, because his roommate is the competition. Molinari and Smith live together off the field and work to take each other's job on it.

A friendly rivalry at its finest, and right now, Molinari holds the upper hand.  

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