Friday, June 5, 2020

Special teams look to regroup

October 9, 2000
Sophomore safety Thomas Wright (43) tackles Iowa running back Ladell Betts (46) during the game in Iowa City on Saturday. The Hawkeyes defeated MSU 21-16. —

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Two weeks ago, head coach Bobby Williams implored the special teams to put forth a “championship effort” if MSU was going to beat Notre Dame. The special teams responded, and the Spartans won.

Saturday’s 21-16 loss at Iowa, however, was a different story, since miscues in the kicking and punting games and kickoff return coverage keyed MSU’s downfall.

“Special teams was just very, very poor today,” Williams said.

Junior kicker David Schaefer had an extra point attempt and a 24-yard field goal attempt blocked in the second and fourth quarters.

In the third quarter, Hawkeye wide receiver Kahlil Hill sidestepped would-be tacklers en route to returning a kick off 90 yards for Iowa’s second touchdown. The return came just after the Spartans scored to lead 16-7 with 1:22 left in the third quarter. A nine-point lead was reduced to two again in 20 seconds, the time it took Hill to score.

“The kickoff return and the two blocked kicks, those were point swings,” Williams said. “The short punts, that’s field position. I don’t think those things hurt us as bad as the blocked kicks and a return for a touchdown.”

The punts, by the standards of junior punter Craig Jarrett, were short. Averaging 40.5 yards per punt this season, he struggled to consistently get distance throughout the afternoon.

Despite booting a seasonlong 68-yard punt, Jarrett was not happy with a performance that included kicks that went 27, 23, 31, 36 and 5 yards, giving Iowa good field position.

“I’m not going to say that the wind wasn’t a factor today because it was to a degree, but I have no excuses,” Jarrett said. “I felt everything I did today was wrong.

“My steps were off, my drops were bad, I wasn’t swinging through the ball smoothly. One poor punt should not affect the next one, but I had five bad kicks and that did affect me.”

Junior wide receiver Herb Haygood, who runs punt coverage, said Jarrett “just had a bad day punting today.”

“Then again, if the offense would move the ball, we wouldn’t put him in that situation,” he said.

Haygood said the special teams’ play was terrible.

“We did a bad job,” he said. “Coming into the game, we knew we had to have good special teams ... we knew we needed to come out and defend them well and we didn’t.”

Senior linebacker Drew Young said the special teams performance hurt the team.

“The defense did their thing. The offense did their thing,” he said. “It’s frustrating for us (the defense), when other people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. It puts more of a burden on us.”

However, junior quarterback Ryan Van Dyke, who played for the first time since the Sept. 9 Marshall game, wasn’t so quick to blame anyone for the loss.

“I’m not going to sit here and point the finger at anybody. That’s not what this team’s about,” he said. “I think if we started doing that, then you’d see Michigan State take a dip.”

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