MORGANTOWN - Michael Molinari already had a pretty important job on West Virginia's football team. If he keeps playing like he did Saturday, he's going to safely tuck away another.
Molinari, a redshirt freshman from Parkersburg South who serves as Tyler Bitancurt's holder for placekicks, got his chance to punt against Connecticut. To say that he was impressive would be an understatement.
Molinari punted five times and averaged 43 yards per kick. Three times he pinned UConn inside its 20-yard line.
And twice he put the Huskies on their own 2, although he got credit for only one. In the first half he angled a perfect punt that landed a yard out of bounds at the goal line. It was marked at the 2.
A penalty wiped out another kick that was downed at the 2 late in the game, but Molinari wasn't complaining.
"It was amazing,'' Molinari said of merely having the chance to punt. "You have to take advantage of opportunities when you get them.''
Molinari got his chance because Corey Smith, his roommate, didn't take advantage of his. Smith had nearly as many shanks as good punts in the first four games, so coach Dana Holgorsen handed the job to the walk-on with the understanding that whether he got a chance to kick more than once would depend on his first kick.
Well, his first punt was 46 yards. Although it was returned 12 yards, he kept the job and angled that second one out of bounds in the corner. It came after a punt a play earlier that went out at the 15 was negated by a penalty.
"I don't have as much power as Corey, but I think the directional stuff and the pooch punts are my specialty,'' Molinari said.
Molinari's punting was a big reason why Holgorsen trumpeted the play of his special teams in Saturday's 43-16 win. The kickoff unit didn't give up any big returns or good field position, either.
Smith was also taken off the kickoff unit in favor of Bitancurt. But when Bitancurt's opening kickoff went only to the 10-yard line, Smith was back. He wound up kicking off five times and Bitancurt three.
"The thing I'm proud of more than anything is that we made great strides with our special teams,'' Holgorsen said.
Yes, but there is still work to do.
Tavon Austin returned one kickoff for 31 yards, but three times he or Brad Starks didn't run the ball out of the end zone. That's fine, except that twice Austin muffed the kicks in the end zone and had no choice.