SAN DIEGO — Mitch Wishnowsky and Matt Gay are special specialists for the Utah Utes. Besides All-American accolades as a punter and kicker, respectively, the duo have made college football history as seniors — being the first Ray Guy and Lu Groza award winners to be on the same active roster.
Wishnowsky, the first three-time All-American in team history, won the nation’s premier punting award in 2016. Gay, a two-time All-American, was named the country’s top kicker in 2017.
On Monday, Gay and Wishnowsky conclude their careers with the Utes in the Holiday Bowl.
“Everything you want out of a place-kicker and a punter, those two guys provide,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that they’ve been great weapons for the Utes.
Whittingham said that Gay has been “incredibly consistent” over the past two years and thought the former UVU soccer player deserved to be in the Groza Award conversation for a second straight season.
“But for whatever reason he was left out,” Whittingham said. “But he has scored a ton of points for us over the last couple of years.”
As for Wishnowsky, Whittingham said that he’s done a great job with field position.
The pair, obviously, have made a big impact at Utah.
“They helped a lot,” said quarterback Jason Shelley. “Matt Gay, his field goal range is so large that it makes it easier. We don’t have to go all the way down the field for him to get us some points on the board.
“And for Mitch, he’s such as great punter that he can flip the field so easily. We can get backed up and he’ll back them up. So it makes my job a lot easier. It balances the field out really well and also helps the defense, which also helps me out,” Shelley continued.
As Gay and Wishnowsky close out their collegiate careers, they do so among the national leaders in their specialties. Gay is fourth in field goals per game (1.85) and is ninth in total points scored (115). Wishnowsky is ninth in punt average (45.1 yards).
“I’m happy with how I’ve performed at Utah and what I’ve done,” said Wishnowsky, who has 61 career punts of 50 yards or greater. “There’s times, like seasons and games where I feel like I could have done better, but that’s everybody. So, yeah, I’m happy with what I’ve done.”
Wishnowsky noted that there have been steps to reach and goals set during his time with the Utes. The Australian listed playing major college football as one, along with running out on the field for the first time. He said the latter was “like an emotional time.”
As for his best achievement, Wishnowsky expressed hope that it’s yet to come. The three-time first-team All-Pac-12 honoree has aspirations to play in the NFL. He’s going to stay in California to train with his coach from Australia and get in the best shape he can.
Gay has also reflected on the impending end of his time at Utah. The two-time first-team all-conference selection is the Pac-12’s leading scorer. He also plans to pursue opportunities to play in the NFL.
“I’m going to take the necessary steps and work out and do those things to prepare for whatever comes next — as far as camps and combines and things like that come as they go,” Gay said.
Despite impressive numbers, Gay did not make the finals as the reigning Lou Groza Award winner. The slight has been motivating for the former UVU soccer player, who switched to Utah football last year.
“I’m a competitive guy so, I mean, I obviously wanted to come back and win it again and my eyes were set on that,” Gay said. “I definitely wanted to improve. I did feel like I improved on some things as far as my technique, comfortability and things like that.”
Gay noted being upset about not winning the Lou Groza Award for the second time, but at the same time he feels good about his game and where he’s at right now.
“I feel like I had a good year, improved on some things that I wanted to and I’m confident going forward,” Gay added.
Looking back, particularly at being part of the first active teammates to win the top kicking awards in college football, is something Gay considers an honor and amazing — especially with a guy and punter like Wishnowsky.7 comments on this story
“When he’s in the Hall of Fame in 30 years, I’ll be able to say I played with him,” Gay said. “So it’ll be awesome.”
First things first, though. Right now it’s all about the Holiday Bowl.
“We want to go out with a ‘W’ for the seniors and this team,” Gay said. “And we obviously want to go out with good performances, individually, for both of us and help us kind of feel good about going on to what’s next for us.”
SDCCU Holiday Bowl
No. 22 Northwestern (8-5) vs. No. 17 Utah (9-4)
SDCCU Stadium — San Diego
Dec. 31, 5 p.m. (MT)
Radio: ESPN 700AM