WASHINGTON - It happens to golfers and punters, alike - sometimes your best stroke leaves you and it's extremely difficult to recapture it.
Such was the case with Marshall punter Tyler Williams, who burst on the scene last year as one of the nation's best freshmen at his discipline. Yes, he had to shake one of those sophomore slumps.
"Yes, I got out of a little bit of a slump. We kind of shook some stuff up, and I got more comfortable and was able to kick the ball like I did last season," he said Wednesday as his team was preparing for Friday's Military Bowl against Maryland.
Boy, did he ever kick it last season. He averaged 45.2 yards over 43 attempts, with 13 50-yarders to his credit. He also had 16 kicks downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
This season, his numbers were down from the start. He had a punt blocked in the fourth game at Virginia Tech and scuffed two kicks against Texas-San Antonio. At Middle Tennessee, the Herd lost its second game in part because of a punt block, and Williams left that game with a 42.0-yard average and just five 50-yarders in 27 attempts.
A lot of punters wouldn't mind those numbers, but Williams isn't one of them. And if you had seen him in 2012, you knew something was just not right.
"The littlest thing can go wrong, like a drop [from hands to foot] or your plant foot or just your steps and everything," Williams said. "You're out of whack just by inches, it's just like golf - something little goes wrong and it looks bigger than it really is.
"I think I was trying to hurry myself too much, kind of over-thinking it too much, thinking too much about my steps and my drop. So I had to do some things, do some extra and get out of my little slump."
It took Williams to the 11th game - at Florida International - to get the ball jumping off his foot. He punted six times in the game at Miami, averaging 47.7 yards with four kicks topping 50 yards.
In the two games since, he averaged 45.4 yards, nudging his season average up to 42.5. He will have the next year, starting with the 2:30 p.m. game at Annapolis, Md., to get his name back in the awards picture for 2014.
His long-snapper, Matt Cincotta, can relate. Cincotta had his own problems, as some snaps went a bit off-target. In one instance, Williams accidentally took a knee gathering in a low snap.
"One thing we talked about all season is, if there's only a little thing ... it's happened to me, a little thing can throw you off," Cincotta said. "For me, sometimes it's been my left hand on the ball. If it's an inch higher than it's supposed to be, it throws you off. You're really trying to focus and figure out what went wrong. Both of us have worked through little things like that throughout the season in practice.
"He's really fought through that and he's getting the ball off well now."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.