The first punts up at State College weren't perfect - a 37-yarder, a 43-yarder returned 29 yards - so Temple special-teams coach Ed Foley eventually suggested Alex Starzyk switch up. Go to the rugby kick.

"It's a good change-up when your fastball is not working," Foley said this week.

That time at Penn State, you remember the play if you watched, when Starzyk rolled to his right, put his right foot into the back of the football - that's a key to how to punt it rugby-style, to nail the ball in the back end instead of getting under it - and saw the ball hit the ground and skip and eventually hit the back leg of an unknowing Penn State player. Temple recovered at the 1, then drew to within three points midway through the fourth quarter.

The Nittany Lions held on, but it happened again last week for Starzyk, an SMU player his victim. Temple recovered and eventually scored and scored some more and won, improving to 3-2 going into Thursday's game at Memphis.

The style of kicking emigrated to the NFL and NCAA football from Australia, but Starzyk grew up outside Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He's a convert, learning it at Temple. The junior uses it about half the time. He averaged 42.4 yards a punt last season and is at 41.0 this season.

Foley just ran the numbers this week and saw Starzyk had kicked rugby-style 10 times so far, compared with nine regular punts and two pooches. The usual circumstances for it are when the wind is blowing or the weather is otherwise bad, hurting a standard punt, or if an opponent has a great return man.

"It is a really difficult thing for defenses to deal with," said Temple coach Matt Rhule. "Some people just run off the field and say we're not going to return it. The other benefit for me is not even the fumbles. We've had a bunch of balls now go down to the 10 or 15. As a general rule, you tell the returners to only touch the ball on one bounce, so if it hits two or three or four bounces, the ball can take a weird hop. We're not getting a ton of returns on it."

A key, Starzyk said, is for the punter to hold onto the ball as long possible, to let his punt coverage team get downfield. It takes some calculation in addition to athleticism.

"You get the ball out as soon as you see pressure come at you," Starzyk said.

And if you see a defense adjust its punt-blocking coverage to try to load up toward one side, you can adjust back to a standard punt. There's some chess going on.

"You'll never really know when we come out with it," Starzyk said. "We try to give as many looks as we can."

Starzyk's only big miss came last season against Memphis, when he bobbled the snap, which upset his whole timing. He moved right, said he waited too long to get it off, and booted the ball right into the back of one of his blockers.

"Completely on me," he said.

Separate from that kind of deal, Starzyk said, you can't have a perfect rugby-style punt all the time, "because there are a lot of variables that go into it, how the ball hits the ground, that's going to change every time. You can consistently hit a good ball. Doesn't mean the ball is going to bounce well."

His coaches get the risks and rewards.

"He did it today, in practice, kicked it low, hit a [teammate]," Foley said. "If you're going to do it, you have to live with it."

In order to teach it, Foley had to study it. He looked particularly closely at Hawaii's use of it in recent seasons. Hawaii had a great Aussie punter and a sophisticated special-teams coach.

Has Foley watched much rugby?

"Very little," the coach said.

And Starzyk? Has he found a new sport to enjoy?

"I'm not a big rugby person, no," Starzyk said.

What he does enjoy is seeing the havoc that the imported kicking style creates.

"Love it," Starzyk said.

@jensenoffcampus