By now we all know what needs to happen for both teams to pull out the win tomorrow. It does not take a college football analyst to tell us UofL has a good football team. With that being said, Kentucky isn’t as far removed as people think. We know Teddy Bridgewater has earned the title elite college quarterback. To quote the old playstation game STREET, “You can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him.” Having said that, a couple of sacks from the leading sacker in the NCAA would not hurt. The topic that always gets overlooked however is special teams. Special teams can make or break a really good team. This is a time where momentum swings thrive and big drives are born. It is unfortunate that Kennan Burton is no longer on the team to get us our guaranteed kickoff/punt return touchdown, but the place Kentucky is now is not a bad state. While we gave up an easy special team’s touchdown in the game against Miami, we have been consistent and made smart plays while on the return game. To grasp a better understanding, let’s look at the numbers.
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD 6-176-0 1-23-0
Average Per Return 29.3 23.0
These numbers say a lot because EKU is a Division I-AA school that is averaging 30 yards per kickoff return. To look deeper into the numbers there were only three touchbacks that the kickoff team forced. This is staggering that you can be top ten in both polls and not have a kicker that can reach the end zone. With explosive return men from the Cats this is a place where they can excel. While we haven’t had a “monster return” on kickoffs yet we have had plenty of solid returns. When looking at how the Cats fared last week:
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD 4-97-0 2-56-0
Average Per Return 24.2 28.0
We did not torch Miami last week in the return game, but it shows that we brought it out and averaged more than if we were to take the touch back. This is something that will have to happen to be successful for Saturday’s game. While we had four touchbacks, we could have had more. It is no secret that we can kick the ball out of the end zone every time. However, whenever Miami did bring the ball out they were stopped short of the 25 yard touchback mark. This gives the Cats another advantage because that is more yards that will have to be gained and more plays that will have to be run which increases the probability for a mistake to be made.
Punt return and field goals are pretty much dead even. With both teams perfect last week with extra points and fields goals, you have to feel pretty confident that both teams will stay close to perfect. However, all it takes is one punt block or one missed PAT that could totally change the outlook on the game. Another factor to consider is last week our punter (Foster) got hit twice with a call never made to penalize Miami. While last week the game was never in question, the no call on running into the kicker was not a major factor. This week that extra first down could keep a drive alive and provide that team with an extra score that otherwise would have never happened. Another point to be brought up is if they are going to call that a lot more liberally look for the Cats to go for the block more often to try and create a major swing.
All in all the game tomorrow will be much better than some people think. Special teams can always be the Achilles heel of teams that have high expectations and not too many people stand in the way. If there is one position that should be prepared it needs to be special teams. Coach Peveto understands the situation and will be sure to have his guys rise to the occasion. Louisville did find a way to lose to both Connecticut and Syracuse last year, so maybe this Saturday can be the off week. There is no doubt that the guys will be fired up and have a lot on the line. After finishing third in the state last year behind Western Kentucky and Louisville, Kentucky will do everything in its power to not let that happen again. All it will take is one break down somewhere for the floodgates to open for either team. While the numbers do favor the Wildcats, it will take a perfect game to come out ahead. This is just a part of the game that Kentucky could steal from the Cardinals. It is often said that offense sells tickets, defense wins championships, but the special teams wins games.