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Matt Araiza’s favorite punt of the season was an 81-yard boomer. It wasn’t just the distance that the San Diego State junior enjoyed, but what it did to the punt returner.

“It was a moonshot,” Araiza said. “You could see on the film he basically looked like he had never seen anything like that before. He was lost. He was spinning. He wasn’t even 5 yards away from the ball when it landed. He kind of gave up on it.”

Araiza punted 73 times in San Diego State’s 12 regular-season games for an average of 51.47 yards, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. That distance, if kept up through the Mountain West Championship and the Aztecs’ bowl game — or if Araiza simply stopped punting now — would earn him the Football Bowl Subdivision record over Texas A&M’s Braden Mann, who averaged 51 yards per punt in 2018. Araiza might be the biggest leg college football has ever seen, and he’s putting together the kind of season that could change how we think about punters, at least if we pay attention to why he plays the position the way he does.

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https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/SDSU_PUNTER_16x9.pngPHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY EMILY SCHERER / REUTERS

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The Nation’s Best Punter Is Changing The Game

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