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Porter, special teams making an impact for DWU

If it wasn't for kicker/punter Daniel Porter and the rest of the special teams unit on Saturday, it would be likely the 8-2 Dakota Wesleyan University football team wouldn't have the NAIA playoffs in the back of its mind heading into Saturday's r...

If it wasn't for kicker/punter Daniel Porter and the rest of the special teams unit on Saturday, it would be likely the 8-2 Dakota Wesleyan University football team wouldn't have the NAIA playoffs in the back of its mind heading into Saturday's regular-season finale.

In addition to hitting a 25-yard field goal, Porter controlled the game with his punting. He downed five punts inside the 20-yard line in a game dictated by field position, and boomed a punt of 60 yards in a 17-10 win against Concordia.

"One of the things I learned early is field position is big," Porter said. "Last year, I was happy if I got a punt inside the 20, but this year, I've really been striving to get punts inside the 5. It's a little harder, but I like the challenge."

If DWU gives an award for most-improved player at the end of the season, Porter would be a strong candidate for that trophy.

After not making a single field goal in 2014 (0-for-8), Porter is 9-of-11 kicking field goals in 2015, and has hit from as far out as 41 yards.

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"We take special teams a lot more seriously than we have in the past," he said. "It was more of an emphasis from Day One of fall camp. Instead of spending maybe 5 minutes on it during practice, we spend about 15 to 20 now. It definitely has helped put us in a better position to succeed."

After being DWU's lone option at kicker/punter in 2014, Porter-who is also on the Tigers' track team-said he benefited from the presence of freshmen kickers Chase Murphy and Enrique Cajero in fall camp.

"I feel like I'm more focused this year," Porter said. "Last year, I was by myself in practice and didn't really have anyone to push me. This year, we had kickers coming in where their primary job is to practice for the kicking job. That pushed me to get better, be more accurate and care a little more."

But there wasn't a bigger moment on Saturday's win against the Bulldogs than Dustin Livingston's go-ahead 56-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

"In that moment, we needed a play," DWU head coach Ross Cimpl said. "We needed someone to do something, and Livingston trusted his blocks and then we were winning the ball game. It was nice to see our special teams guys have success because they're not always in the spotlight, but they came to play on Saturday."

Livingston said DWU has been close to breaking off a touchdown return on special teams on previous games, and he was relieved when his unit finally got it done.

"It felt good. We've been waiting for one all year," he said. "We haven't had many opportunities, but I finally got one last week and it felt good. It always seems like there's one or two things that happen that don't set it up right. But everything worked out on that play."

DWU will hope to see continued success from its special teams when it takes on Dordt College at 1 p.m. in the regular season finale on Saturday in Sioux Center, Iowa.

Related Topics: DAKOTA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
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