Mannie Nunnery nearly ended a punting life Saturday

Mannie Nunnery gets to the punter before anyone from Rice realizes it / Photo by Mario Puente

It’s a blowout. Everyone knows it’s a blowout. Everyone is thinking, let’s just get this game over with and go home. But no one told Mannie Nunnery.

Nunnery nearly ended a punting life Saturday. On back-to-back fourth downs, Nunnery came off the left edge and got to Rice’s punter, Charlie Mendes. Mendes came to the Institute from Harvard-Westlake, the only school in the tony Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was the Conference USA All-Freshman punter last year and has won the Commissioner’s Academic Medal twice, meaning he’s had a 3.75 GPA or better for the last two years in NanoEngineering. He’s lived a good life.

Saturday, Mannie Nunnery interrupted that good life. Twice.

After coming off the left edge and working past the punter’s personal protector, Nunnery got a piece of a slow-developing 4th quarter punt. The punt gets off but Nunnery deflected it.

“I watched this live and was so pumped,” former UH punter Dane Roy told me Monday. Roy, the 2019 AAC Special Teams Player of the Year, says the breakdown started well before the ball got to Mendes.

“The shield – the personal protectors – it’s their job to nominate which defender they will go to, after looking at what the front line players have pointed to.” Rice’s protectors did not seem to even notice Nunnery.

“I had really good personal protectors the whole time. Tyus Bowser, Cam Malveaux, McClosky, Parish and Mutin and Creamer. If you don’t have good personal protectors to identify who’s coming, then you’re gonna get blown up a few times,” Roy said.

“Really, the next time they go out, the (Rice) coach should have said to the personal protector, ‘sort your shit out, mate. You are meant to let everyone know who are they blocking and you are meant to grab the guy who comes in last.”

Mannie mauls Mendes

Rice changed the punt formation on their next possession. It appears they beefed up the left side of the line – away from where Nunnery was lined up again. At the same time, the personal protector decided they didn’t need to block Nunnery until he was past him.

Dane thinks they should have moved a gunner in to block Mannie. He says the protector “just needs to know, no one is blocking (Nunnery) so I have to step out and block him. The protector moved towards the wrong guy and then realized, ‘Shit, I’m gonna have to block this guy now?’ That happened to me once.”

In Dane’s last year at UH, Nunnery spent a lot of time running with the special teams’ scout team.

“Mannie obviously got there so quick. He’s been like that on special teams, he was really good.”

Dane, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the best collegiate punter, is living in Cheltenham, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. He’s still passionate about the Cougars as well as the intricacies of special teams.

“What people don’t know is you can tackle the punter,” Roy said. “If he doesn’t have the ball on his foot yet, he’s technically a running back. A small, skinny (bleep) running back.

“If Mannie wanted to really hurt him, he could have just tackled him. He would have been BLOWN UP.”

In reality, Nunnery was in the backfield so early in Mendes’ progression that he really didn’t know what to do. Roy says Mendes surely didn’t, either.

“Mannie got there too early and he scared the kid and he just dropped the ball. The punter was too slow. I sent a message to (former UH Recruiting Coordinator) Alex Brown, who’s on the Rice staff. ‘Mate, you need yourself an Aussie punter. Aussie punters see the pressure.'”

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