While Kentucky’s defense may have saved the game for the Wildcats, the guys on special teams were the unsung heroes of the day. From blocked punts to 71-yard kicks to recovered fumbles, special teams offered fans some of the most exciting plays in an otherwise offensively-frustrating game.
Josh Paschal’s blocked punt was a monumental moment for the Wildcats, as it came in the fourth quarter and set up Benny Snell’s game-defining touchdown. But, according to Mark Stoops, it wasn’t always the plan.
“Dean [Hood] asked me whether — you know, to go after him or to get the possession, and I first said to get the ball back, and then I told him to go after it, and I’m glad I did. So we went after it and got the block, and that was a big play in the game.”
“We just felt like we had an opportunity to get it,” said special teams coordinator Dean Hood. “They did a great job executing.”
Equally impressive was Tristan Yeomans’ recovery of an Eastern Michigan muffed punt. The 6’2″ long snapper recovered the football, and Kentucky took over at the EMU 42-yard line. Although the drive did not result in a touchdown, it did lead to a field goal that finally broke the 14-14 tie in Kentucky’s favor.
“You want to talk about an advantage for a guy coaching the special teams? When you have a long snapper than can cover, that has speed… it gives you an incredible advantage,” Hood said. “People have to put somebody on him, and it’s harder to double-team Moushey if they’re going to use a guy for your long snapper. It’s just an incredible, schematic advantage for us because Yeomans can run.”
Speaking of Charles Moushey, the senior had quite the game of his own. Moushey recorded a few massive stops, specifically by stopping the punt returner immediately after the catch.
“He’s got great speed; he’s a great athlete,” Hood said. “I mean, he was a pole vaulter. You’re not a pole vaulter unless you’re an unbelievable athlete.”
Not only is he an incredible athlete, and apparently a former pole vaulter, but he also has an intense love for the game.
“He’s just got an incredible passion for the game – he loves it,” Hood said. “He plays at a higher level than everybody else because he loves the game and he just wants it more. There’s no other way to put it: people can’t match his intensity and his passion level on every single rep.”
In a game like tonight’s, the Cats needed all of the intensity and passion they could get.
“We’re not perfect, but I appreciate Dean and the work of all those guys because you’ve got to be very unselfish,” Stoops said. “These guys practice a lot, they meet extra and they do a lot of things. They’ve done a really nice job.”
A very nice job indeed.