Gophers punter Mortell keeps it light, booms it long

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 11, 2014 - 7:48 AM

When the Gophers play in Saturday’s spring game, they will have one of the best — and funniest — punters in the Big Ten.

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Peter Mortell’s punting average of 43.3 yards last season was third-best in the Big Ten and third-best in Gophers history, helping him earn a scholarship in January.

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Peter Mortell is a Green Bay, Wis., native and an unabashed Packers fan, so leave it to him to have some fun with the Vikings’ new living arrangement at TCF Bank Stadium.

“Hey @AdrianPeterson I hear we are sharing lockers at TCF Bank next year,” Mortell wrote on his Twitter feed (@PMortell37). “Keep your side clean, and we won’t have any issues. #Gophers.”

The Gophers punter was kidding, of course, just as he was last month when word spread that a Gophers defensive line recruit from Alabama, Gary Moore, can squat 680 pounds.

“Finally,” Mortell tweeted. “I hated being the only one.”

Mortell hopes his social media followers, and everyone else, have a sense a humor.

“I’m just a goofball,” he said after a recent spring practice.

He’s also one of the more successful punters in Gophers history.

Mortell’s 43.3-yard average was third-best in the Big Ten and third-best in team history.

The booming season was a bit of a surprise from the former walk-on, who redshirted in 2011 and played only two games in 2012. But before long last season, the Gophers knew they had something. In a 23-7 loss to Iowa on Sept. 28, Mortell launched a 58-yard punt and placed two inside the 20-yard line. In a 24-10 victory over Penn State on Nov. 9, he had a career-high 62-yarder and three inside the 20.

During the Texas Bowl, with the Gophers offense continuing to sputter against Syracuse, some fans joked that Mortell should be named the team’s MVP.

By the end, Mortell was almost too strong for the team’s good. His final punt came with 2:03 remaining against Syracuse. Leading 17-14, the Gophers had the ball at their own 27.

Mortell crushed a 57-yard punt — seemingly a good thing — but Brisly Estime returned it from the Syracuse 16 to the Minnesota 14, setting up the winning touchdown in the Orange’s 21-17 victory. The speedy Estime would have scored himself if Mortell hadn’t made the tackle.

“If that sideline wasn’t there, he’d still be running, let’s be honest,” Mortell said.

It seemed to be a classic case of outkicking his coverage, but Mortell doesn’t view it that way.

“I tried to kick it as far down the field as I could to try to keep them out of field-goal range because I knew it was only a three-point game,” Mortell said. “I’m not going to put it all on the coverage team, because I could have maybe handled that better. Try to take a 45-yard punt that’s higher vs. a 57-yard punt that is a little lower.”

Mortell said his offseason goals are to become better with directional punts, using the sidelines and shorter punts with more hang time when appropriate.

“That was my first year,” he said. “I’m definitely pleased with how my season went, but I’m not satisfied.”

On Jan. 15, Kill summoned Mortell into his office. The coach commended the junior on the job he’d done on and off the field. A marketing major, Mortell had earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, too. Kill told him he’d earned a scholarship.

Mortell said calling his parents and telling them the news made it “the best day of my life.”

“He’s what coaching’s all about; that’s who I was,” Kill said, referring to his walk-on days. “That’s a good moment, a defining moment for him, and he earned it.”

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  • Chart: Gophers football spring game

    Thursday April 10, 2014

    Saturday, 2:30 p.m., TCF Bank StadiumAdmission: FreeTV/radio: Live on 100.3-FM, and streamed on BTN2GO.com. Replayed on Big Ten Network at...

  • Gophers football Spring Game

    Saturday, 2:30 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium

    Admission: Free

    TV/radio: Live on 100.3-FM, and streamed on BTN2GO.com. Replayed on Big Ten Network at 5:30 p.m.

    Format: Coach Jerry Kill said he is leaning toward holding a controlled scrimmage — offense vs. defense — instead of dividing the team into two separate rosters.

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Chicago Cubs 3
Detroit 3 Bottom 8th Inning
Kansas City 1
Philadelphia - J. Williams 3:05 PM
Oakland - D. Pomeranz
Toronto - M. Stroman 3:05 PM
NY Yankees - C. Capuano
Arizona - T. Cahill 3:10 PM
Colorado - E. Butler
Boston - R. De La Rosa 6:05 PM
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Milwaukee - M. Garza 6:05 PM
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Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
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Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
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Akron 3
Hawaii 9 3rd Qtr 11:30
Colorado 21
Louisville 0 Delayed 15:00
FIU 0
North Carolina 10 1st Qtr 7:26
East Carolina 7
Army 0 1st Qtr 5:03
Wake Forest 7
Virginia 7 1st Qtr 4:44
(21) BYU 3
(6) Texas A&M 3 1st Qtr 6:41
SMU 0
Rutgers 0 1st Qtr 7:28
Navy 7
Central Mich 0 1st Qtr 6:00
Kansas 7
Utah 0 1st Qtr 3:59
Michigan 3
Florida 7 1st Qtr 11:18
(3) Alabama 7
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Indiana 0 1st Qtr 14:40
(18) Missouri 0
San Jose St 0 1st Qtr 14:35
Minnesota 0
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Penn State 0
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
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Arizona
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(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
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Ga Southern
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(15) Arizona State
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New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
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Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 4:00 PM
Portland
Houston 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
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Columbus
San Jose 6:30 PM
Montreal
Seattle 6:30 PM
Red Bull New York
D.C. 7:30 PM
Chicago
FC Dallas 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

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