AKRON, Ohio - The UMass Minutemen won their first game of the 2012 - and first game since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Mid-American Conference (MAC) - with a 22-14 victory over Akron Saturday at Akron University.
Right in the middle of it all was Warren Area High School graduate and current Minutemen punter Colter Johnson.
Johnson twice pinned the Zips at their own 1-yard line and placed a third punt at the Akron six, helping UMass win the game of field position and ultimately keep the hosts from putting together a potential game-tying drive in the fourth quarter.
UMass had been 0-9 entering the game and got on track quickly Saturday by jumping out to a 15-0 halftime lead. Johnson's special teams battery mate - kicker Blake Lucas - kicked field goals of 23, 26 and 35 yards in the first 30 minutes to give UMass the edge.
Akron closed the gap to 15-7 in the third quarter, but a one-yard plunge from quarterback Mike Wegzyn with 3:59 to play pushed the lead back to two scores. Johnson's punting then ensured the Zips would need to go a long way if they were going to win the game.
The junior's performance wasn't lost on Minutemen head football coach Charley Molnar.
"Colter Johnson has to be not only the best punter in the MAC, he's got to be one of the best in the country," UMass head football coach Charley Molnar told the Boston Globe (www.boston.com). "I say it over and over again, this guy is about as good as it gets."
Johnson finished the day with six punts for 269 yards - an average of 44.8 yards per kick. Four of his six punts came to a rest inside the Akron 20.
Johnson and UMass return to the field Saturday when they host the University of Buffalo at Gillette Stadium - the home field of the NFL's New England Patriots.
Colter Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound kicker and punter who transferred from Alfred State College, has punted 55 times for 2,401 yards, or an average of 43.7 yards, and a long of 66. Fourteen punts have been inside the opponents' 20.
He is the son of Dean and Melinda Johnson of Warren.