O'Toole More Than a Mustache, Strong in WVU Debut - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

O'Toole More Than a Mustache, Strong in WVU Debut


It turns out Nick O'Toole is more than just a mustache with a mug shot.

The sophomore punter made a name for himself in West Virginia's fan base before he ever set foot on the field just because his photo for the program showed off some fine facial hair. On Saturday, he displayed a fine leg to go with it.

Among head coach Dana Holgorsen's first comments following the 24-17 win over William and Mary was a "shout out" to his punter. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson later said, "Thank God for Nick O'Toole."

It isn't often that a punter is counted among the heroes of a game, and especially not one in which an FBS team is up against one from the FCS, where there typically isn't as much punting from the favored squad.

No, this was different. With an offense struggling to maintain possessions and a defense taking a half of football to play the way it wanted, the punter became a key part of what was ultimately a seven-point victory. He averaged 50.6 yards on five punts.

Twice in the fourth quarter, WVU was backed up in its own territory with the game tied. The offense couldn't convert on third down to keep the drive going, so O'Toole was called on to punt it away. First, he punted from his own 27-yard line and sent the returner back from where he had set up to field the kick. A 56-yarder with a solid tackle from Darwin Cook flipped the field.

Later in the quarter, still knotted a 17 apiece, O'Toole found himself punting from his own end zone with the ball backed up to the 13. He booted it, crushed it and watched it sail over the return man's head.

"When we were backed up, I knew I had to come up with a big kick and I saw the returner, he was lined up at the 50, so I was like, ‘Better get it over his head,'" said O'Toole.

He did, and there was Cook again, getting to the returner before he could do any damage.

"He's got a big leg. That's why I recruited him," Holgorsen said after the game. "He's a big kid, he's got a good leg and he's getting a lot of individual attention from Coach DeForest, which is paying off."

O'Toole could be mistake for a tight end with his size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, he stands out when compared to the other specialists. He puts that size behind his kicks and you can tell why they tend to go a bit further than the Mountaineers have become accustomed to in quite some time, perhaps since the leg of now-NFL punter Pat McAfee.

His work with special teams coordinator Joe DeForest has paid off individually.

"Coach ‘DeFo' has been awesome," O'Toole said of DeForest. "He helps me get more mentally tough and keep everything going. My technique, stay strong in my technique and we've been working on more flexibility, getting more consistent stuff. It's a great honor to be with Coach ‘DeFo' out here."

O'Toole, who transferred to WVU after spending one season at Fullerton College in California, says he needed to take what he did each day in practice and make sure it translated onto the field when it really counted. He did that on Saturday.

"I've played in front of 30,000 at my high school at Angel Stadium, but nothing compares to Mountaineer Country out here," said O'Toole. "I was just trying to focus on what I'm doing. I've done the same kick every day for the last couple of years, so I might as well just keep doing that and once I got on the field, it was all just muscle memory."

So now perhaps those photos of the punter and his mustache won't be the only thing he's known for in Morgantown. That doesn't mean he isn't still embracing that part of his identity.

"When I first got here, we were just lifting and stuff, so all of the strength coaches … they just said I was like 37 years old and they didn't believe I was 19," O'Toole said, laughing. "I decided to go with the ‘stache to make it look a little bit older. I got Coach [Kevin McCadam] on the ‘stache this game, so hopefully that'll relay and more people will join in."

If it means they all have performances like O'Toole did, Holgorsen probably wouldn't mind a team full of mustachioed men. 

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