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By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun
Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips is counting on a lot of freshmen to carry the load for his team at the midway point of the season.
One of those newcomers — punter Landon Foster — has been a consistent performer for the Wildcats and turned in a solid outing in Kentucky’s 27-14 loss to Mississippi State Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
Foster had eight punts for 350 yards, an average of 43.8 yards per kick against the Bulldogs, including a 56-yarder in the first quarter. Foster had three punts soar inside the 20-yard line and didn’t have any touchbacks.
“Those please me,” Foster said of the 56-yard kick that landed at the MSU 19-yard line. “The other ones don’t and I try to get more like those and less like the others.”
Foster admitted that he wasn’t “too pleased” with his red-zone punting and would like to add more yardage to his punts inside the 20-yard line.
“I like to get it (the ball) inside the 10,” he said. “You definitely want to pin the other team back as far as you can and that’s fun (thing) about punting and it’s the name of the game.”
Since he arrived at Kentucky, Foster has noticed a difference in the returners and the block schemes, which are more elevated than the ones he experienced in the prep ranks a year ago.
“When I was in high school, we just zone protected and got it out in plenty of time, but in college you definitely have a lot more block schemes and more time in the film room,” he said. “That’s definitely different and the get off time with the hand and foot.”
Foster said the “hand and foot” time is a lot quicker.
“It’s a lot quicker from high school to college,” he said.
Foster’s top priority is to be “more consistent” as he delves deeper into his freshman campaign.
“That’s the difference between high school and college and college and pro is your consistency,” he said. “I want to hit the same goal, with a 50-yard (kick) and five-minute hang (time). In college you do it five out of 10 times and in pro, you do it nine out of 10. I’ve obviously got to get more consistent.”
During the game, Foster keeps up with the progression when the Cats are on defense, but is more into his field when the offensive unit has possession of the ball.
“On first down, I watch the play and catch a couple of punt snaps from the long snapper,” he said. “On second down, hit a couple of punt attempts and on third down, I go into the box at midfield and repeat the process on first down. If not, I got out to punt.”
Foster isn’t happy when he doesn’t get off a solid attempt and describes himself as a perfectionist.
“You can’t do anything about (a bad punt),” he said. “You’ve got to move on to the next one and make sure that’s the best one you can get. I like to be inside the 10- or inside the 5-yard line.”
In addition to Foster’s outing, Kentucky’s special teams unit limited the Bulldogs to just 33 yards on three punt and kickoff returns combined. Avery Williamson recovered an onsides kick with 6:22 remaining in the third quarter after Jalen Whitlow scored on a 3-yard run to make the score 27-14. Kentucky failed to convert in the turnover and neither team scored for the remainder of the contest.
Foster said the team’s 1-5 start and current four-game losing streak is frustrating at times, but enjoys being around his teammates.
“That’s just football,” he said. “I enjoy this team and love being around this team. We’re really talented, but we’re getting banged up and that’s unfortunate. We’ve just got to keep moving forward.”