“Special” Special Teams

Author: Nathan Ruppel | @ntruppel

Special Teams are such a weird concept in football. 87.5% of the time, the game consists of an offense versus a defense. (Okay, fine, I made that percentage up.) The two sides battle it out over the course of a possession, but once the drive is over, we let the special teams units go out and do their thing. And then we’re back to good ole fashioned O versus D.

Even though special teams play only happens occasionally, the group has a huge impact on the outcome of a game. Special teams are one of those things that don’t seem very important until they are.

After the last match against South Alabama, I wrote about how Tech struggled in one aspect of special teams: punt returns. Tech finished last year’s contest with 18 more points (which I think means they won), but the game was much closer than the score indicated. And Tech’s lack of ability to return a punt contributed to Tech’s struggle against the 2017 Jaguar team.

This year was worse though. This year, every aspect of Tech’s special teams was bad.

The kicking was bad. The punting was bad. The kickoff returns were bad. The punt returns were so bad they didn’t even exist.

So let’s take a look at just how bad they were.

Kicks that Are Worth Points

Bailey Hale, the transfer from Eastern New Mexico, took over the kicking duties for the 2018 Bulldogs from a field goal god by the name of Jonathan Barnes.

Hale made his lone field goal attempt, a gimme 23 yarder on the first drive in the second half. But before that, this happened:

Tech FG.gif

To be fair, there is a decent amount of wind. You can see the banners waving in the background and the flags at the top of the goal posts moving in the breeze.

But to be even more fair, the wind is blowing to the right. And the ball goes to the left.

We aren’t off to a good start here.

Kicks for When you Don’t Want the Ball Anymore

Tech’s entire special teams effort can be summed up by this play:

Tech Punt 1.gif

Tech punter ɹǝʎp uɐʌɐp otherwise had a decent night. Over four attempts, ɹǝʎp averaged 39 yards a punt. Not a world breaking effort, but definitely serviceable.

Returns of Other Team’s Kicks

There was so much ineptitude that I kinda forgot about this one:

USA Onside.gif

As a Saints fan, I am contractually obligated to enjoy surprise onside kicks. For some reason, this one was less than satisfying.

On Tech’s other three kickoff returns, all of them were received at or near the goal line. Letting the ball bounce into the end zone (or utilizing the new fair catch rule) would have given Tech the ball at the 25. Only once did the returner get past the 25 yard line.

But in that one case, Smoke Harris got the ball all the way to the 26.

Who Needs Punt Returns Anyway?

South Alabama also punted the ball four times. Let’s see how Tech did on those returns:

USA Punt 1

#1: 0 yards.

USA Punt 2

#2: 0 yards.

USA Punt 3

#3: 0 yards.

USA Punt 4

#4: 0 yards.

So let’s do the math. 0+0+0+0 = not good (don’t worry, I double checked it).

Yeah, there wasn’t any room for a return on any of those punts, but that’s on the downfield blocking for Tech. South Alabama was able to swarm to the returner before he could make a move.

Conclusion

Tech’s specials teams play was bad. Like really, really bad.

J’Mar got a lot of blame for his performance (and rightfully so), but he wasn’t why Tech almost started the season in the loss column. Tech lost quite a few close games last year, and if the special team-ers don’t get their act together, this season will be more of the same.

Oh, and even though it went out of bounds, don’t forget that last special teams act which was WAY TOO CLOSE:

USA Final Onside.gif

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