By HANNAH GENIG, Staff Writer
Michigan football continued to wow in an array of areas Saturday, Sept. 10 against their opponent, the University of Central Florida. While most games showcase the skill of running backs, quarterbacks, etc., this particular game highlighted an often underappreciated group of players.
Every football fan knows that the special teams group is a unique and specific assembly that can easily make or break any game. Every Michigan fan remembers the game in 2012 against Michigan State where a mere field goal clinched the win. Those fans will also unfortunately recall the most previous Spartans matchup and the repercussions of that special teams fluke.
Michigan football is all about improvement and growth each year, and based on what was saw Saturday, special teams is no exception.
The core special teams responsibility this season has been placed upon Kenny Allen, who has now transitioned into both punting and kicking for the Wolverines. And he has done it quite well so far.
This Saturday, Allen made all of his three attempted field goals, supplementing his perfect statistic this season. Aside from field goals, Allen has continued to show strength in punting that will continue to make him a huge asset this season.
However, when mentioning special teams’ influence in Saturday’s game, it is most crucial to reference the other side of the line. From the moment the coin was tossed, it was evident that the Wolverines did not want anything getting past them, kicks included.
The first UCF punt of the game resulted in safety Tyree Kinnel sweeping past the line to block and thus reduce the ball to just a mere 13-yard distance. The next punt did not work any better and was reduced to just a 27-yard travel.
Just when it seemed Michigan could not get any more inconsiderate, defensive end Chris Wormley blocked UCF’s only chance at some points, a 50-yard field goal attempt. In his interview after the game, Wormley was asked whether the success on special teams was due to preparation or just a bit of luck. “We watched the film and blocking those field goals was something I think we all thought we could do. The kicker kicked pretty low and we got good push, put our hands up and made plays,” said Wormley.
While the field goal block actually prevented points from being scored, the punt blocks proved to be equally helpful for the Wolverines. Special teams continued to do little things, that when added up greatly impacted offensive placement.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh had only good things to say about this group’s performance in his press conference post-game. “You just don’t want to ever concede points on the board, whether it’s an extra point or a field goal. It’s been an eight-, nine-play drive or six or seven and guys are tired but they just commit themselves to one final push to keep points off the board. I thought guys did an excellent job. Our special teams has really performed well. Been very pleased,” said Harbaugh.
When a strong special teams group like this one can restrain the opponent and regain possession of the ball, people like Wilton Speight can work his magic. And that is exactly what caused this huge 51-14 blowout.