ANNAPOLIS, Md. - There’s no sugarcoating yesterday’s special teams performance. It was bad. The lack of sound special teams play cost the Knights points, and could even be the primary culprit for costing UCF the game to Navy, losing 34-30.
There were good moments like making sound tackles and Johnny Richardson’s return out to the 30 yard line that was a good start to a drive. Fair enough. Overall, however, the Knights special teams played poorly.
UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn went out of his way to mention special teams multiple times during his postgame press conference. He should have. It was needed for clarity and honest reflection of his team’s day. Good for him to be honest.
Players and coaches are culpable. Neither side did well in the special teams efforts. It was a special teams effort that needs to be reflected upon, and here are the primary points.
Punt Block for a Touchdown
Anytime there’s a punt block where an oncoming rusher all but comes free without any interference from a blocker, that’s a mental error. It’s unacceptable. When Navy scored after the blocked punt, the game’s momentum shifted right before halftime.
With 1:34 remaining in the second quarter, UCF punter Andrew Osteen attempted to punt but it never left the UCF backfield. The Midshipmen blocked the punt, and it rolled into the endzone where it was recovered for a touchdown by Navy’s Daniel Taylor for a touchdown.
The game changed on that play. Navy changed the scoreboard to 20-17 after a lackluster first half offensively. It also changed the momentum of the game.
“Probably the biggest play of the game,” Coach Malzahn said with confidence during his postgame press conference. Coach Malzahn made a prior comment about special teams that summarized the units day.
Coach Malzahn summarized the unit's day with one sentence.
“It was a disaster today on special teams.”
Indeed, the punt block aside, UCF also allowed an extra point to be blocked. Additionally, during the fake field goal, a missed block allowed Navy linebacker Diego Fagot to make a tackle on field goal kicker Daniel Obarski that might have saved a touchdown.
It’s about execution on all three levels -- offense, defense and special teams -- to win football games. UCF’s special teams failed during a few critical moments, and it cost the Knights dearly.
Blocked Extra Point
Even the blocked extra point not happening could have changed the game. Think about the following situation.
With Navy leading 34-30, the UCF offense needed to score a touchdown. If the score would have been 34-31, the Knights could have attempted a field goal to tie the game and reach overtime.
Again, the special teams really faltered on Saturday. The disaster that Coach Malzahn mentioned was truly just that, a disaster. There were several other errors by the offense and defense, but sometimes a unit must take one on the chin. UCF’s special teams got knocked out by Navy on Saturday.
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