Prior to the Arizona football team's first game of the 2005 season, head coach Mike Stoops singled out the Wildcats' kicking game and said it would be a strong point this season.
Stoops knew he had a pair of capable feet in senior punter Danny Baugher and junior placekicker Nick Folk, and both athletes have proven Stoops correct over the team's first three contests.
Baugher leads the nation in punting, averaging 51.8 yards per kick going into Arizona's Pacific 10 Conference opener Saturday in Berkeley, Calif., while Folk has booted 12 out of 17 kickoffs into the end zone this season.
Folk is a big reason why the Wildcats' opponents have, on average, started their drives at their own 18-yard-line.
"Our kicking game has been our best and most consistent aspect of our team," Stoops said. "I'm really pleased with both kickers. They've kicked outstanding."
Both Baugher and Folk said their offseason workouts and general communication have contributed greatly to their early-season success.
Since the pair started living together in 2002, they have developed a strong relationship, which they use to help each other on the field.
"It's very beneficial because we know each other so well," Baugher said.
Folk added that it was a luxury to have someone to help and who notices technical problems in kicking when they can't look at film immediately.
Baugher and Folk spent much of the summer together lifting weights with the rest of the team and working on kicking drills just with each other.
"We were out here four or five times a week trying to get better, especially in the weight room," Folk said.
So far that work has paid off.
Against Northern Arizona Sept. 10, Baugher set the Pac-10 record for single-game individual punt average (58 yards per kick).
A week later, against Purdue, he gave the Wildcats the Pac-10 single-game team punt average mark with his seven kicks for 402 yards (57.6 per kick).
"It's great to have records, but I still have a lot of hunger," Baugher said. "There's things I like to do before my time is done, especially win some games."
Stoops said he has not been surprised at all by Baugher's performances this year, which include a career-long 76-yard boot against Purdue and three other punts of 60 or more yards.
"We always knew Danny had a phenomenal leg," Stoops said. "I just like that his consistency level has improved. I think he's stronger this year and more consistent."
Folk has also been a huge asset.
Besides forcing opponents to drive longer distances, Folk has nailed three of four field-goal attempts this year, including a 51-yarder against the Boilermakers.
By comparison, the Wildcats hit on only three of 11 field-goal attempts in 2003 and started the 2004 season 2-of-5.