Corvallis, Ore. – During the first two years of his college career, Ryan Santoso served as the Gophers’ place-kicker, making 29 of his 39 field-goal attempts, including 17 of 21 in 2015, when his .810 percentage ranked second in the Big Ten.
Looked as if Santoso was primed for a solid junior year, right?
Then-coach Tracy Claeys opted to use Emmit Carpenter as his kicker and Santoso as his punter in 2016.
The move worked great for Carpenter, who made 22 of his 24 field-goal attempts. But not so much for Santoso, who struggled as the punter, averaging 40.9 yards per kick.
Santoso was quick to assign the blame — right on himself.
“I didn’t perform well for the team last year,” said the senior from Pace, Fla. “Certain games I did better than others, and that’s gotta change. It’s gotta be consistent progress throughout the whole season.’’
In the Aug. 31 season opener against Buffalo, Santoso showed improvement. He punted six times for a 44.7-yard average and three times pinned the Bulls inside their 20-yard line. Two of those punts were key in the second half, when the Gophers relied on their defense and good field position to hold Buffalo to 69 second-half yards.
Still, Santoso is not satisfied.
“We got results this first game — yeah, it was what we needed for the team — but it’s gotta change,” he said. “It’s not as great as it could be.”
Santoso, 6-6 and 258 pounds with a big leg, also handled kickoff duties in the opener after winning the job from Carpenter during training camp. He found out he’d have that job a couple of days before the opener, and performed well, getting three touchbacks on his four kicks.
Along with his punting and kicking duties, Santoso also was a sounding board for Carpenter, who missed from 36 and 50 yards in the opener. The message: You’re better than that.
“We’re in the culture now where Emmit knows, I know, that you’ve got to change it. It’s not acceptable to miss things like that,” he said. “We understand that. We expect higher things from ourselves.
“Being in that position [in 2015 and ’16], it was hard. I didn’t have the kind of coaches here to pick me up right away, to understand that response is instantly. Emmit understands that. He’s the Big Ten kicker of the year for a reason.”
Saturday night’s game at Oregon State marked the Gophers’ last nonconference regular-season game against a Power Five opponent until the 2020 season. Coach P.J. Fleck wants to schedule more Power Five teams — when he believes the program is ready for it.
“We want to give ourselves the best chance to continue to develop our program the way we want to be able to do it, right, in terms of this culture,” Fleck said.
“… But I will say that with the way that the playoffs have changed, the playoff system has changed, the playoff committee’s changed, and what they’re valuing, we’re going to have to start scheduling bigger opponents, nationally ranked opponents, and we’ll get there, and we plan to do that in the future.”
• Freshman defensive lineman Nate Ulmor played, ending a chance to redshirt him.
• The Gophers wore all-white uniforms, including a white helmet. Oregon State went with their alternate “11 Strong” uniform with dark gray jerseys and pants, silver numbers, and a black helmet featuring a silver logo.