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Headlines: The Importance of Special Teams

Brian: Jeff, while on the plane to Denver I caught an old Minnesota v. Wisconsin college football game on ESPN U during the day on Friday. I needed to get my middle of the summer college football fix. I was amazed at what I saw and vaguely remember hearing about this game. Let me set the stage.

The then 22nd ranked Gophers led 34-24 with only 3:27 to play in the 4th quarter. Wisconsin marched back and drew within 3 points with 1:17 to play. Then the Badger onside kick bounced off a Gopher and was batted all the way down the field but luckily Minnesota recovers on the 11 yard line. After 3 unsuccessful tries to get the first down, Minnesota is forced to punt with approximately :37 left on the clock, which sets up this play.

You had to feel for the Gophers as that year - 2005 - was the last year Minnesota football was somewhat relevant (the Gophers limped to a 1-11 finish last season). The look on Laurence Maroney's face says it all. But this game got me thinking about the upcoming BC football season and the importance of special teams play. Even though you and I are ever the BC optimists, how much is a lack of experience on special teams, especially in the punt game, going to hurt us next year?

Jeff: If I made two statements:

  1. BC's offense will gain fewer total yards than they did last year with Matt Ryan and
  2. BC's offense will find the end zone fewer times than then did last year

I think at least 95% of fans and analysts would agree with me. But, we still need to find ways to score next year and one way we can do that without gaining a ton of yards, is to win the field position battle. We agree that our defense is going to be real strong next year but that does not mean they will never give up a first down or a point. Our punting game will play a huge role in how we fare in the field position battle. Net punts of 40 yards vs net punts of 30 yards will make a huge difference. Then when we are receiving punts we need to call fair catch only when necessary and get some pressure on their punter regularly. If we can win the field position battle we will have plenty of possessions that start at about our 40 and BC doesn't need a top quarterback to score from there.

Brian: Watching Minnesota fall apart towards the end of that game made me realize that you can straight up lose football games with poor punting and special teams. I hope that we can fill the void left by our punter Johnny Ayers, but there is no one currently on the roster to handle the punting duties.

Jeff: Most people take for granted when the punting unit steps on the field that the other team will now gain possession of the ball 40 yards away. If BC can find someone fairly reliable to fill the void left by Ayers, that would be great. But the other impact player on special teams is the place kicker. Last year if it was 4th and 7 from the 25, we went for it. BC needs someone who can put it through the uprights from there. Our offense is going to have to get points 3 at a time a little more often than they did last year. If BC can be at least slightly above average on special teams this year they can win a bunch of games.

Brian: The hope in the kicking game lies with either Bennett or the true freshman Quigley. Aponavicius was a good story but it's high time BC gets a BCS conference-calibre kicker. 12 of 18 for field goals and 46 of 50 for PATs last year, including special teams disasters that by my estimation cost us an ACC title won't come close to cutting it next year.