ORLANDO - Special teams was a disaster for UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn and the UCF during their loss to Navy. The blocking on special times allowed two blocked kicks, including a blocked punt that was recovered by Navy for a touchdown.
UCF also had a few shanked punts, and terrible coverage, resulting in short fields for Navy. The overall special teams disaster took a turn for the better Saturday evening, however.
Tight Ends and Special Teams Coordinator Brian Blackmon clearly made a focus on the mistakes leading into their battle with East Carolina, as the coverage and protection improved.
The Obarski Fan Club
In 2020 Daniel Obarski struggled with kicking duties. Kickoffs flying out of bounds and not being able to put the ball through the uprights proved to be prime issues.
Coach Malzahn noticed that and brought in some competition for Obarski to compete over the summer to earn place kicking duties. Appalachian State transfer Ryker Casey and Louisiana Tech transfer Garin Boniol, looked to beat out Obarski for the starting job, but Obarski earned the right to start.
He’s since silenced his critics, with only one miss coming from a blocked kick and zero penalties through the first five games of the season. Obarski was a key player in the victory over East Carolina, as the team’s leading scorer with eight points he also set a new career long with a 40 yard field goal to make it a three-point game in the fourth quarter. If Obarski continues his impressive start, especially in the clutch like he did against East Carolina, the Daniel Obarski Fan Club will grow.
Osteen Bounced Back Big
An uncharacteristically down season for punter Andrew Osteen has hindered the UCF defense, giving short fields for opposing offenses to work against. However, he appeared to be back to his elite self against the Pirates, trapping the East Carolina offense deep in their own territory on all but one of his six punts.
Osteen is one of the best punters to come through UCF so the slow start was pretty shocking to say the least. One thing that helped was the coverage team having an amazing day, with East Carolina’s electric return man Tyler Snead losing two yards on his only return. Coach Malzahn talked about the punt team’s coverage during his postgame press conference saying, “I was a little worried about their punt returner, he’s electric. We handled him real well.”
Still Room For Improvement
For Coach Malzahn, he must be happy with the way that special teams stepped up from last week, but negatives from the unit still exist. UCF special teams units were responsible for four penalties totaling 40 yards, including an offsetting penalty for unnecessary roughness.
Each penalty was very fixable, however, with three of the penalties being over aggressiveness including a roughing the kicker penalty that Jarrad Baker was called for after nearly blocking an the Pirates’ punt before the half, and the other being a holding call on Woody Barrett who played quarterback until this season when he moved to running back.
Coach Blackmon will look to fix these mistakes and have a similar performance to the one against Cincinnati last season, when UCF forced two muffed punts and one turnover on special teams.