Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Special teams say expect improvement

September 13, 2001
Sophomore kicker Michael Servis practices last Saturday before the football game against Central Michigan —

Even though head football coach Bobby Williams keeps his practices under wraps, everyone knows MSU must be focusing on special teams this week after Central Michigan blocked four punts in Saturday’s season opener.

Special teams and linebackers coach Sal Sunseri took the blame for Saturday’s punt problems and said he should’ve lined up more athletic players in front of the punt team in practice.

“I’m gonna test them all week and put our best athletes out there against them,” Sunseri said. “We spend a lot of time on it no matter what, but I guarantee we’re gonna do extra work on it.”

And it’s a good thing - all of MSU’s future opponents must have taken note of the four blocked punts, a number that tied the NCAA Division I-A team record for blocks in a game. Central linebacker James King tied the individual record.

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said in a teleconference that MSU should have its punt situation rectified by Saturday, but his team is still going to focus on its punt blocking schemes in practice.

“They’re going to work on (their) punt (team) this week,” Pinkel said. “Obviously we’re going to try to do very well in every aspect of the kicking game. We’re the kind of team that needs to make some breaks for ourselves, and the kicking game is a good place to do that.”

But since Sunseri diagnosed the situation by reviewing game film, he said he has a good idea of how to rectify it.

“One person in each one of those situations (was) not following the technique he’s been taught,” Sunseri said. “They were just over setting and King was knifing underneath. There’s no excuse for it, no matter what anybody tells you, it comes right back here to myself.”

But Sunseri also credited King’s punt blocking and athletic ability.

“Give a compliment to the kid,” Sunseri said. “The kid did a nice job and my hat’s off to the young man.”

But the punt team was not the only breakdown on special teams. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Charles Rogers dropped and almost fumbled the first two punts booted to him.

“(I just had) a lot of jitters,” Rogers said. “It was my first time back there, (it was) something new. It’s something I enjoy a lot, I came out today and had a good practice at punt return.”

Rogers said he tried to not think about dropping the first punt - he didn’t want to make the same mistake again by worrying about the first.

“You gotta have a short memory,” Rogers said. “You can’t dwell on things too long. If you dwell on things too long it will repeat itself. I tried to get that out (of my mind) early.

“It wasn’t hard (to forget about it). I just came to the sideline and a couple guys told me not to worry about it and said ‘you’ll get the next one.’”

But Rogers didn’t snag Central Michigan’s second punt.

“I didn’t get the next one, though,” Rogers said. “Hey, it was the first game. I’ll get them Saturday.”

Williams sympathizes with Rogers dropping the ball and said he will continue to use Rogers as his punt returner Saturday.

“Vision this,” Williams said. “This is your first year playing after sitting out a year. This is your first chance you get to play. You’re back there deep in Spartan Stadium, 72,000 people plus - packed house. There’s a punt. What do you think? I think he was nervous.”

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