By RYNE BERTHELOT, Journal Sports
BATON ROUGE – Jay Bramblett stood outside the locker room with a smirk on his face. Maybe it was because he was given the game ball for special teams after he downed three punts inside the 20 against Alabama.
Maybe it was the revenge he helped serve after losing to the Crimson Tide in the 2021 Rose Bowl with Notre Dame.
Or maybe it’s just all of the phone calls he would get to make back home after his obligations with the media were over.
“I’ll be honest, I’ve never wanted to win a football game more than I did tonight,” Bramblett said after the Alabama game Nov. 5.
That’s because Bramblett, who followed Kelly over from Notre Dame this past off season, is from Tuscaloosa. There’s plenty of Tide fans that needed to know of Bramblett’s triumph firsthand.
“I’m going to be talking a lot of crap to some of my friends and family, so I’m looking forward to that,” Bramblett said.
Bramblett signed on with Kelly and the Fighting Irish as No. 2 punter in the nation for the Class of 2018, and took over the starting job his freshman season. He’s in the midst of a career year after averaging 44,81 yards-per-punt on 32 tries. He’s been a bright spot on a special teams unit that’s struggled with mistakes, pinning 13 of his 32 punts inside the 20-yard line.
On the biggest, brightest stage of the season, Bramblett delivered, and even Nick Saban took notice in his postgame press conference. The Crimson Tide were fairly effective on the ground — running back Jahymr Gibbs had 99 yards on 16 carries — but Saban had to answer as to why Alabama relied so much more on the passing game, and it had everything to do with LSU’s senior punter.
“We had bad field position, we struggled to run it when we tried to run it,” Saban said after the game. “We passed it quite a bit when we were backed up.”
Bramblett was well aware of just how big the stage was, but after 47 games in the college ranks, he knew what his role was and exactly how to fulfill it.
“I had a lot of adrenaline pumping and a lot of that stuff, but when you think about the magnitude of the game, and kind of where it stood as we went through the game, we were neck-and-neck the entire time,” Bramblett said. “Every single yard counts, and I think last week I kind of hit on it — we have a 50-yard net, and they have a 40-yard net. We’re gaining field position back, so it definitely adds up.”
Bramblett’s contributions haven’t made him a household name, or an all-conference selection. In an era of punters focused on distance and hang time, Bramblett’s best attribute comes from his consistency, both on the sideline and on the field. He’s become the benchmark for the Tigers’ special teams unit.
But, maybe most importantly, he knows Brian Kelly better than any player in the locker room.
He also knew, no matter how much Kelly downplayed it, just how much a win against Alabama and Saban meant to him. He made sure to celebrate the occasion as soon as Kelly got back to the locker room.
“Obviously he was super excited. I think that was one of the reasons he came here, to beat Alabama, beat Nick Saban,” Bramblett said. “That was the first thing I had an opportunity to say to him. I was like ‘Man, we finally got’em.’ It’s obviously a great feeling.”
That feeling meant, at least for a night, Bramblett was the happiest Tuscalloosan.
Contact Ryne at email@example.com