TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Special attention to special teams for WVU

College Football Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Sickles
Friday, Sept. 30, 2011
 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It's hard to imagine a more one-sided special teams battle than the one last weekend between West Virginia and LSU.

The Mountaineers consistently were pinned deep in their territory, averaged just 33 net yards per punt and allowed a back-breaking 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

"They pretty much had their way with us on special teams," senior cornerback Keith Tandy said. "(The coaches) always told us punts and kickoffs are the two biggest plays in football. People would laugh at it, but now we know how big of a play they are."

West Virginia is looking to improve all aspects of its special teams play Saturday against Bowling Green after struggling through the first four weeks.

The Mountaineers special teams rank last in the nation in net punting, 116th in punt return yardage defense and 88th in kick return yardage defense.

Coach Dana Holgorsen said the problems aren't schematic; there's a lack of trust among the players on those units.

Redshirt junior punter Corey Smith has struggled, averaging 40.5 yards per punt. Four of his punts have gone for less than 32 yards, including two that have traveled less than 15 yards.

It's unclear whether Smith will be the long-term punter, but there already have been changes. A number of starters are now on kickoff and punt coverage, as Holgorsen looks for more impact plays.

"I think the main thing is people don't have as much pride as they used to when they go out there," said Tandy, who started the season on punt coverage and was added to kick coverage this week. "When you go out there, you have to want to make the tackle or want to make the block. You have to want to be the person that changes the game."

Bowling Green, meanwhile, has thrived on special teams. The Falcons lead the nation in net punting, averaging 45.29 yards per punt.

"I don't know if we can win that punting battle," Holgorsen said. "They're No. 1 for a reason."

West Virginia has the benefit of a solid punt returner in Tavon Austin. The junior is fourth in the nation, averaging 22 yards per return. He hasn't attempted a punt return in the past two games, but Holgorsen is confident in Austin's game-changing abilities.

"I've got complete confidence in Tavon to be able to get that done," Holgorsen said. "We've got to do a better job of holding people up."

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
  2. Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
  3. After early criticism, Haley has Steelers offense poised to be even better
  4. McCullers’, McLendon’s prowess in clogging trenches crucial to Steelers defense
  5. Reds solve Cole, stave off Pirates’ 9th-inning rally
  6. Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
  7. Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation
  8. Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp
  9. Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site
  10. Starting 9: Examining Pirates’ deadline decisions
  11. Roman Catholic Church in midst of culture clash over gays