By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Cason Beatty would prefer Florida State’s offense to score every time it touches the ball.
But on the occasion that Jameis Winston and Co. do stall out – and they’re also out of kicker Roberto Aguayo’s considerable field goal range – then Beatty is happy to have his number called.
“I know any time we get across the 50, we’re either going to score, or kick a field goal or they’re going to be pinned back deep,” Beatty said. “That’s the confidence going in.”
Beatty, a junior from Charlotte, N.C., has held up more than his end of the bargain lately.
Junior defensive back Tyler Hunter first noticed it a few weeks ago during FSU’s win over Virginia, when Beatty launched a 67-yard punt that landed at UVA’s 7-yard line and blew away his previous career high.
But Beatty’s hot streak started well before that.
Since the Seminoles’ game against Syracuse on Oct. 11, Beatty has punted 18 times for an average of 45.7 yards per kick.
That’s a dramatic improvement from the Beatty’s first half of the season, when he averaged 38.9 yards across 19 punts.
“It’s been huge,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s been a difference maker. I mean, that guy is changing field position.”
He’s helping to change the scoreboard, too.
Twice against Virginia, the Seminoles turned the momentum from a Beatty punt into a turnover on the very next play.
Both times, FSU scored quick touchdowns.
“(Bad field position) really narrows down their play calls,” Hunter said. “There’s nothing the offense can do.”
Beatty’s resurgence has been a valuable commodity for an FSU team that often this season has required second-half comebacks.
He believes that being able to count on a punter to flip field position can take pressure off of the Seminoles’ offense, too.
“I think they’re confident that, if we do stall, our defense is going to be set up in good field position on the other side,” Beatty said. “I feel that anywhere the offense struggles a little, I can bail them out from any part of the field.”
Beatty sounds confident when he talks about his craft, which is another positive development.
He admits that there were times, especially last year, when he’d worry about the repercussions of a bad punt.
That, combined with the fact that FSU’s record-setting 2013 offense didn’t allow him to see much game action, led to a 41.07 yards-per-punt average last season.
The NCAA requires a minimum of 3.6 punts per game to be considered for national leaderboards, and Beatty only punted an average of three times per contest. Had he qualified, Beatty’s average would’ve ranked 54th in the country.
“This is one of the most difficult places to punt,” he said. “Just with Jameis here, our offense and how high-powered we are. You look around and (other teams) are at 40, 50, 55, 60 punts. I would love that. But I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Beatty has since adjusted his mindset to match that of fellow special-teamer Roberto Aguayo, who enters every game not sure if he’ll be called upon in a high-pressure situation.
“If Roberto only has one kick in the game, he’s expected to go out and make it, “Beatty said.
“If I only have two kicks – one in the first and one in the fourth – they expect me to hit a 48-yard ball and a 50-yard ball. That’s what’s been happening this year. That’s just that confidence going out on the field.”
It’s apparently paid off.
In last week’s comeback victory over Miami, Beatty punted three times for an average of 41.7 yards. But that average is skewed heavily by a 25-yarder that put the Hurricanes at their 17-yard line.
Otherwise, he had kicks of 52 and 48 yards.
“That’s just my role,” Beatty said. “And I go out knowing that I’m going to hit a good punt.
“There’s no more ‘What if I mess up?’ That’s out of the woods. It’s in the past.”