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In 2006, Hawaii demolished a punting record

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And I’m pretty sure they might have done it on accident

Photo by Jordan Murph /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images. Banner Society Illustration.

If you remember the 2006 Hawaii Warriors, it’s probably for Colt Brennan’s record-setting quarterbacking. Brennan finished the year with new high-water marks for passing efficiency and touchdowns thrown (though both have since been surpassed), leading Hawaii to an outlandish 46.9 points per game and the season’s top ranking in offensive SP+.

There’s another FBS record the Warriors set that year, one that’s still standing and might not be touched for some time: fewest punts per game. In 14 outings, Hawaii only punted 17 times, an average of 1.2 per game.

How impressed should you be by that number? CFBStats only goes back through 2009, but in the last 12 seasons, every FBS team has punted at least twice per game. And this 2007 article in the Honolulu Advertiser says that the previous record, set by Nevada in 1949, was two punts per game even.

In five of their games, the Warriors didn’t punt at all. If not for one punt each in their wins over Purdue and Arizona State, Hawaii would have made it through the last month and a half of the season without sending their punt team out at all. This was a towering achievement, a testament to the power of kicking tons of ass on offense.

But it was not, curiously, the product of a particularly aggressive or successful approach to fourth down. Hawaii went for it on fourth down 20 times, converting eight of those attempts. Put those numbers in the 2019 season, and the Warriors would be 70th in fourth down attempts, and 106th in conversion percentage. Hawaii wasn’t trying to avoid punting; they simply didn’t need to do it that often.

That made me wonder: Could they have pushed the envelope even more? I catalogued all 17 of their punts to figure out the answer.

2006 Hawaii Punts

Opponent Yard Line Distance To Go Quarter Score
Opponent Yard Line Distance To Go Quarter Score
Alabama Own 31 3 1 Tied
Alabama Own 16 14 2 Down 7
Alabama Own 27 3 4 Down 15
UNLV Own 23 2 1 Up 14
UNLV Own 15 11 2 Up 28
UNLV Own 40 5 3 Up 35
Boise State Own 16 14 1 Tied
Boise State Own 46 6 2 Down 11
Nevada Own 45 13 4 Up 13
Fresno State Own 25 5 1 Tied
Fresno State Own 7 15 2 Up 21
Idaho Own 29 7 4 Up 51
Utah State Own 39 2 1 Up 11
Utah State Opp 48 6 2 Up 11
Utah State Own 44 13 4 Up 53
Purdue Opp 37 2 2 Up 14
Arizona State Own 44 8 2 Down 7

Let’s apply a handful of filters to see how far we can bring the total down.

  • No punting from your own 40 or beyond. There’s less field position to flip near midfield, so why not lean on your otherworldly offense a little more? That removes seven punts from the list.
  • No punting on 4th and 4 or shorter. Hawaii averaged 8.6 yards per play in 2006, so asking them to just get half of that doesn’t seem like a particularly outlandish demand. Four more punts come off the board.
  • No punting if you’re up three scores. Worst case, Hawaii turns the ball over on downs, gives up a touchdown, and is still up by two possessions. They can just turn around and score again to extend the lead. It’s fine! Don’t worry about everything so much! Three more punts gone.

That would leave Hawaii with three punts on the season:

  1. 4th and 14 from their own 16, down seven to Alabama in the second quarter
  2. 4th and 14 from their own 16, tied with Boise State in the first quarter
  3. 4th and 5 from their own 25, tied with Fresno State in the first quarter

Those are all pretty defensible punting decisions (though you could twist my arm into going for it on that last one), and they would bring Hawaii’s 2006 average down to a staggering 0.2 punts per game.

I guess what I’m saying is I’m happy to serve as the Punt/Don’t Punt Coach for any program looking to smash this record.