Special teams have become a real specialty for the Utah football team.
The Utes have punted the ball as good as any team in the nation the last four seasons, and kicker Andy Phillips has taken every field goal and point-after attempt in that span, making 83.9 percent of his three-point tries and 153 of 154 point-after attempts.
There’s been a common denominator on every punt, field goal and PAT over the last four years too, and that’s Orange Lutheran graduate Chase Dominguez, Utah’s veteran long snapper.
That’s right, Dominguez has snapped the ball on all 154 PATs, 87 field goals and 248 punts through his first three seasons with the Utes and the first seven games of his senior year this fall.
During that time, Phillips has become the school’s career record holder for field goals, field goal attempts and points while also finishing as a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award the last three years, which is awarded to the nation’s top place kicker.
Tom Hackett won the Ray Guy Award the last two seasons as the nation’s top punter, and Mitch Wishnowsky took over punting duties this season after Hackett graduated and leads a punt team that entered the eighth game of this season leading the nation in net punting average.
Dominguez hasn’t received as much attention as Phillips, Hackett and Wishnowsky, but that’s OK with him.
“As long as I do my job, their success makes me want to be even better,” Dominguez said a few days before the Utes travelled to Southern California to play UCLA.
Dominguez didn’t set out to become a long snapper when he enrolled at Orange Lutheran as a freshman in 2009. He played wide receiver and defensive back his first season, then quit the following year so he could focus on baseball.
His best friend, Reese Flynn, was a kicker for the Lancers and Flynn’s older brother began showing Dominguez the basics of long snapping. Dominguez picked it up quickly and decided to return to the football team his junior year and fill the long-snapping role.
He then attended a Rubio Long Snapping camp and learned additional techniques that made him one of the top high school long snappers in the country heading into his senior year.
“Rubio Long Snapping was essential for me to get where I am today,” Dominguez said. “He taught me everything.”
Rarely do long snappers earn full scholarships, but Dominguez progressed enough that he was invited to Utah on an official recruiting visit during his senior season and committed to the Utes shortly afterward.
Dominguez won the starting job the summer before his freshman season, jogged onto the field after the Utes scored a touchdown against Utah State on their first drive, snapped the ball perfectly for the PAT and has been repeating that motion ever since.
Only twice have there been hiccups in the kicking game: Phillips missed his only PAT in the last three seasons in a 38-34 win against Colorado in the final regular season game of 2014, and in a 2013 game against Washington State, the snap was high, forcing Hackett, who was the holder, to attempt a two-point pass that was unsuccessful. Utah eventually lost that game, 49-37.
Other than that, the kicking game has been solid as rock when Dominguez has been on the field, and he’s perfectly happy getting the least amount of credit.
MATER DEI SITE OF NOTRE DAME TAILGATE PARTY PRIOR TO BIG GAME
The Notre Dame Club of Orange County is staging a colorful event to kick off an exciting Thanksgiving weekend, in advance of one of college football’s most famous rivalries: Notre Dame vs. USC. The public is invited to get into the spirit Friday evening Nov. 25 at NDCOC’s Indoor Tailgate Party and Pep Rally at Mater Dei High School’s Meruelo Athletic Center in Santa Ana. The football game is Saturday, Nov. 26, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Notre Dame cheerleaders will perform and pose for photos with fans at the party. Former Mater Dei and Notre Dame football star linebacker and team captain Joe Schmidt will emcee the night’s activities. He’ll be joined by other former Fighting Irish football players who’ll speak, sign autographs and pose for photos.
The 5 p.m. Tailgate Party is free; with a hot dog or pizza, chips, and a soft drink, for just $5. Admission to the 7 p.m. Pep Rally is $5.00 for adults; tickets can be purchased at the door. It’s free for children and students.
Arrangements will also be possible through the NDCOC for $35 round-trip bus transportation to and from the Saturday game. For more information: www.ndcoc.com