Helping to avert another special teams disaster for the Texas Longhorns earned freshman punter Michael Dickson Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors on Monday.
Early in the fourth quarter on Saturday, the Horns were clinging to a 16-9 lead over the Kansas State Wildcats and had just flipped field position with several completions before a holding penalty ended the drive.
When deep snapper Kyle Ashby sailed the football over Dickson's head, head coach Charlie Strong flashed back to other Longhorns metldowns.
"Here we go again," he thought.
Just like that thought echoed through the collective minds of Texas coaches and players early during the blowout loss against the TCU Horned Frogs and late in the heartbreaking loss against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, when Dickson fumbled a good snap from Ashby that led to the decisive Cowboys field goal.
This time, however, Dickson was able to make a play, even though he considered the more extreme alternative to picking up the football and trying to kick it. Faced with the decision between falling on the football in defeat or taking a risk, Dickson made the daring move.
"I got told a couple of things after the TCU and OSU games and I knew I had to wheel around to the right and get it on my foot," Dickson said after the game.
But he wasn't just a punter in the rain trying to field a water-logged football and punch it in the direction of the Kansas State end zone -- he was a former Australian rules football player with a deep background in making such kicks on the run, an important skill to acquire in order to excel at the game he played since childhood.
While Dickson doesn't have much game experience in catching snaps or consistently striking the American football, for a critical moment on Saturday, he was back in his element, just half a world away, in the driving rain, and playing a quite different game that requires pads.
Aided by a limited Wildcats punt block effort, Dickson fielded the ball, turned, and got it quickly to his right foot. When the ball finally came to rest at the Kansas State 8-yard line, it had traveled 33 yards downfield, but over 60 yards through the air to avoid catastrophe and flip critical field position.
Recovering from the mistake against Oklahoma State wasn't easy for Dickson, but his heroics under pressure on Saturday were enough to pronounce him fully healed mentally.
"It was pretty tough, I'm not going to lie," Dickson said. "I was down for a couple of days, but I just had to get over it and punt the ball. I just wanted to get back out there."
Dickson also had punts of 45 yards and 51 yards in the second half against Kansas State. Despite several shanks and the kick for negative yardage that resulted from the snap he dropped against Oklahoma State, Dickson is still managing 40.0 yards per kick, booming 11 of his 45 attempts over 50 yards and placing 11 kicks inside the 20-yard line with only three touchbacks, impressive precision given his relative inexperience.
The transition process may well continue for Dickson before he can consistently get results that match his powerful leg since he'd never kicked live in an American football game before this season, but he was able to avoid once again becoming responsible for contributing to a heartbreaking loss.
For the 2015 Texas Longhorns, that was a big development.