SE: Special Teams Hold Special Place at K-State

Tramaine Thompson

Oct. 19, 2011

By Mark Janssen - K-State Sports Extra

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It was in the good old Bill Snyder days that if the offense was 33 percent of Kansas State’s success, and defense was another 33 percent, it was special teams that accounted for the remaining 34 percent.

Martin Gramatica would toe a field goal from long distance; David Allen would take a punt return to the house; or, the ‘special’ guys would force a turnover that would set the offense up with a short field.

Those days of “total” team play seem to be returning to the 6-0 Wildcats heading into Saturday’s 11 a.m., start at Kansas.

In last week’s 41-34 win over Texas Tech, the defense scored via Nigel Malone’s interception return, the field goal unit had Raphael Guidry blocking a pair of Tech field goal tries, and, Tyler Lockett raced into the K-State record book with a 100-yard kickoff return.

Counting the points scored, and denied, and that’s 20 points that involved on non-offensive plays.

“Special teams play is very under-rated and has proven to be very important to us winning games,” said Malone, who also mentioned how a forced fumble on a kickoff return in the one-point win over Baylor set up a field goal.

Having always emphasized special teams play, coach Bill Snyder said, “I’ve seen too many games won or lost with special teams. On offense you run a play for zero yards, and you get up and do it again. On defense you can give up five yards, and you get up and do it again. But with special teams play, you get one shot. You don’t get second chances. You have one chance to do it, or one chance to defend it. It can change the complexity of the game so readily.”

Dating back to 1990, K-State is 44-15 when scoring on special teams, and owners of a 17-1 record when both the special teams and the defense score in the same game. Since 1999, K-State’s 79 non-offensive touchdowns ranks second only to the 82 scored by Virginia Tech.

Snyder thinks so much of special teams play that he starts every practice with that one-third of the game, and then sprinkles additional segments of special teams play throughout the remaining daily session.

The Wildcat coach admits that he opens practice with special teams work – field goal kicking and defending field goals – to prove a point to the players how important he thinks it is. Later in the day are two-minute periods of “good on good” when it comes to punting and returning punts, and kickoffs and returning kickoffs.

Snyder indicated that most coaches would put an emphasis on offense and defense at a higher level than special teams play “… yet it carries the same weight in winning and losing ballgames.”

At K-State, Snyder says, “It doesn’t matter where you are on the depth chart, whoever is best will be a starter on special teams. If Collin Klein is the best punt cover guy, he would start on special teams. More often than not, defensive guys are on special teams because of their tackling ability.”

With the Wildcats, Snyder adds, “They have to understand how valuable special teams play is. In some programs, a player may never want to come out of a game on offense or defense because he’s tired, but they might want to be held out on special teams. Here, they have a picture of how valuable special teams play is.

“They’ve taken all those snaps on defense, and now we’re asking them to take another 20 on special teams,” said the Wildcat coach. “That means their conditioning has to be greater than others.”

This season, K-State ranks second in the Big 12 in kickoff returns, third in kickoff coverage, fifth in punting, fifth in punt return average and fifth in field goals.

Compared to its first six opponents, K-State holds an advantage in kickoff returns of 26.4 to 20.8 return yards, in punt return average the difference is 8.3 to 5.0 yards, in field goals made it’s 8 to 4, and in net punting average 37.7 to 35.6.

Individually, Tramaine Thompson’s 14.0-yard punt return average leads the Big 12, and Lockett’s 39.5 kickoff return average on four attempts ranks second.

OU Game at 2:30
Next week’s Homecoming game with the Oklahoma Sooners will be televised nationally by ESPN starting at 2:30.

Department officials also announced that only single tickets remain available in reserved seating locations for the Oklahoma game, and 500 general admission tickets in Section 28 are available for sale only via walk-up at the Bramlage Coliseum ticket office. All tickets to the Oklahoma game are priced at $65.

In Case You Missed It
Kansas State defensive lineman Raphael Guidry and quarterback Collin Klein were honored Monday for their performance last Saturday in the Wildcats’ 41-34 victory at Texas Tech. Guidry was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week, while Klein was one of eight quarterbacks nationally to earn Manning Award Star of the Week accolades.

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