Was Dyson Roberts' Celebration Bowl Performance the Best By a Punter in a Bowl game?
Shaq Davis may have been MVP of South Carolina State's Celebration Bowl win, but Dyson Roberts stole the show with his foot.
After an electric opening night of bowl season that saw NIU run out of time at the Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl, South Carolina State continued the momentum of this already strong Bowl Season in the Celebration Bowl.
The Bulldogs spoiled Coach Deion Sanders’ Celebration Bowl debut, 31-10, with Shaq Wright’s three receiving touchdowns and dance moves making headlines.
While Wright won MVP honors, one could make the case the accolades should have gone to the Bulldogs’ diminutive punter/kicker Dyson Roberts.
Roberts had a game for the ages, punting eight times for an average of 49 yards per kick. Two of his kicks went for over 60 yards, with one being a 68 yarder and the other an unbelievable 74-yarder where Roberts took a hit as he kicked the ball. Additionally, another one went for 50 yards.
Had Roberts won Celebration Bowl MVP, he would have joined elite company. Since at least 2008, only two punters have won MVP of their teams’ bowl games, Graham Gano for Florida State in the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl and Michael Dickson in the 2017 Texas Bowl.
To be an MVP of a bowl game as a punter, one’s performance has to obviously be elite, so let’s compare Roberts’ to his contemporaries.
Graham Gano in the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl
Florida State’s dominant 2008 Champs Sports Bowl win was an overall excellent team performance for the Seminoles with no obvious standout, as the box score indicates. As a result, Gano gained MVP honors with five punts totaling 241 yards and four of those kicks pinning Wisconsin inside their own ten.
For good measure, Gano added six extra points, tying Florida State’s six touchdown scorers for the team lead in points.
When you look deeper at the box score, the impact of Roberts’ performance exceeds Gano’s. While Gano pinned Wisconsin deep four times, Wisconsin was either able to dig itself out that hole most of the time or Florida State failed to capitalize on the great field position, after all but one of Gano’s punts.
Additionally, Roberts had more punts and consequently, was more consistent than Gano. I will take a deeper look at how much Roberts’ field-flipping changed the game, but for now, just know that Dyson Roberts at least performed better than Graham Gano in the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl.
Michael Dickson in the 2017 Texas Bowl
Arguably, this is the holy grail of college punting performances. SBNation wrote a whole article lauding Dickson’s performance after the game. We can talk for hours about Dickson’s exploits in Houston that night, but here are the important facts.
Dickson punted 11 times for a 41 yard average. 10 of his punts landed inside the Missouri 15-yard line, 7 landed inside their 10 and 4 landed inside the 5. All of this without a touchback to his name that night.
Dickson’s performance is legendary and rightfully so. His punts led to 16 points for the Longhorns as the defense capitalized on the flipped field and delivered a fumble return for a touchdown, an interception that set up the Longhorns at the Missouri 14, and the game clinching safety.
However, like Texas, an opportunistic South Carolina State defense took advantage of the poor field position. Unlike Dickson, whose offense put him in good position to in Missouri, Roberts flipped field position all on his own.
Roberts’ first gem was a 74-yard touchback, which led to a Jackson State fumble, giving South Carolina State the ball at the JSU 5.
On another drive, Roberts unleashed a 68-yarder to pin Jackson State at their own 11. On the ensuing drive, the Bulldogs picked off Shedeur Sanders at the Jackson State 16.
South Carolina State scored on both drives and coasted the rest of the way. In essence, 142 yards on only two Dyson Roberts punts led to 2 scoring drives that were only a combined 21 yards.
Dickson’s performance has more volume and consistency, but if you look at Roberts’ two magnificent punts, you can make the case that his performance was better than Dickson’s. Dickson longest punt in the 2017 Texas Bowl comes no where close to Roberts’ 68 and 74 yarders.
At the very least, you have to admit Roberts was indispensable to South Carolina State’s efforts. It is even more amazing when you consider Roberts’ 49 yard average in the Celebration Bowl was nine yards better than his season average.
In the end, it’s easy to overlook special teams, but Dyson Roberts’ performance in this year’s Celebration Bowl deserves to have a place among the all-time great bowl punting displays.