Saturday, September 15, 2012
FSU special teams do damage to Wake
By Corey Dowlar
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As if facing one of the toughest defenses in the country on the road wasn't enough, Wake Forest was handed an average starting field position at its own 19-yard line.
The result were disastrous.
The Demon Deacons accumulated just seven first downs and 126 yards of total offense. They gained 2.1 yards per snap.
Rashad Greene had a 60-yard punt return for a score against Wake Forest.
It was mission impossible.
"When you have a kicker as talented as Dustin [Hopkins] is to adjust those kicks for him to be doing what he is doing, and then to be as athletic as we are -- I know as a play-caller, when you start inside the 20-yard line, you call them different," Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "You have to. Mistakes can get you killed.
"For us to do that and have a defense that can stop people, it is points. You control the field position. It makes it a big advantage.”
And Hopkins and the rest of kickoff team mean business.
There are no freshmen on the unit. It is a group of starters or key contributors with two key attributes in common -- speed and the willingness to deliver a knockout blow.
The kicker has one goal: get the ball high into the air. The rest takes care of itself.
"If I get anything close to a four-second hang time, our guys are going to get them at the 15, 18, right around there," he said. "It is a huge field position thing. It adds up. That hidden yardage, it adds up.
It worked on Saturday just as it had so far this season. Every time a Deacons returner fielded a return, he failed to reach the 20. The other times the ball sailed deep into the end zone for a touchback.
And the two touchbacks out of Hopkins' nine attempts were a blessing for those dressed in black and white on Saturday.
"I don't know if you all watch kickoff, but someone's helmet comes off at least one time on kickoff," said senior fullback Lonnie Pryor.
It wasn’t just the kickoff team that did damage for the Seminoles.
Rashad Greene returned his second punt for a touchdown in three games to give Florida State a 14-0 lead and the visitors all kinds of doubt.
And to round out the day, the punt team did pretty well too.
True freshman punter Cason Beatty had four attempts, three of which were downed inside the opponent's 20 and the other was a touchback giving Wake Forest exactly zero return yards.
When Clemson comes to town next weekend, the Seminoles will need to win the special teams battle once more. If they do, it will give them a huge leg up in the ACC Atlantic race.
If not, the challenge of containing Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and the Tigers will become all the more difficult.