ORLANDO - UCF Football has many players that grab the headlines and receive the television highlights. Those are not the only truly impactful players on this Knights roster, however, despite several of them not gaining any fame.
The way the game of football works is like no other sport on the planet. Three separate elements of the game -- offense, defense, and special teams -- help to make up a roster of 85 scholarship and walk-on players.
The offensive players like a quarterback or wide receiver will certainly be mentioned quite often. On defense, there's a pass rusher or future NFL player in the secondary that people like to discuss and their names will be all over sports television channels. That's not the case with the special teams members though.
The special teams members do not get much attention. That’s probably a good thing, as the following anecdote will reveal.
When People Know Your Name
Remember the Boise State at UCF game? Competitive, hard fought, and decided late in the game. That’s the type of contest where a special teams’ blunder can cause a change in momentum, a change on the scoreboard. Well, that’s precisely what happened.
During the very first play of the fourth quarter, with UCF leading 28-24 over Boise State, there it went…
The snap of the football from long snapper Daniel Cantrell went flying over the head of Boise State punter Joel Velazquez. The result would be a safety, providing the Knights a free two points and a now 30-24 lead over the Broncos. It was also something else.
From that play forward, UCF seized control of the football game. The Knights were surging anyways, and then that particular play sent UCF’s momentum into overdrive. Special teams matter, oh so much!
Few plays on special teams receive mention unless it’s a disaster. Well, that particular snap by Cantrell allowed his name to be known a little more than he would probably like, and it was certainly a disaster that caused his name to be known.
The snap went well over Velazquez’s head, and to be quite frank, the Broncos were fortunate that it did not end up being a Knights touchdown via a fumble recovery in the end zone. That’s today’s history lesson regarding special teams, but here’s a better story with regards to the overall effectiveness of the UCF special teams
Just Doing Their Job, While Going Unnoticed
Yes, being unnoticed is usually good. While Dillon Gabriel and Kalia Davis and Tatum Bethune and other UCF players will be mentioned more and be provided opportunities to speak with the media, and there will not likely be a game where a UCF special teams player, that’s okay. They are doing what they are supposed to do.
No kickoffs returned for touchdowns. No punts blocked, and no gaffs like the one Boise State gifted UCF with. In all, it’s been a solid three games of UCF special teams play.
Was it perfect? No, but that is not realistic. More importantly, the Knights continue to be consistent with special teams play overall.
UCF kicker Daniel Obarski made all 18 of his extra points. That's a good start. The Knights covered kickoffs well, ranking them No. 12 nationally by allowing only 14.8 yards per kickoff return. That's a tremendous effort by the kickoff coverage unit.
Further, the kickoffs were booming into and out of the endzone when UCF played at Louisville. Nice job by Obarski, two times. It’s a representation of what special teams players are all about, and that’s just doing their job and going unnoticed, over and over.
Of note, Alex Ward did a good job of snapping this season, unlike one unfortunate Boise State player, at least for one play. Being all but transparent as the long snapper, that will work out just fine for Ward.
For Ward, Obarski, and every other UCF special teams member, it’s about consistency. Do your job. Do your job each and every play after you trot onto the gridiron.
While even members of the media take special teams for granted, they represent an enormous portion of the game of football and its outcomes. That's especially true in those close games like Boise State. Never forget that. One last category to mention.
Field Goals are Coming
An odd statistic for UCF would be field goals. As in, the Knights did not yet attempt a field goal. As the law of averages play out, there’s bound to be a football game where UCF attempts three, perhaps four field goals.
Here’s to hoping that every one of the special teams players does the best job possible to block, snap, hold and kick when that game comes about. That way, nobody is really talked about, and yet the Knights go on to win the game.
Special teams members know that attention is not going to come flying their way. It’s just not. With that said, they do deserve more attention. Here’s a tip of the cap to the players that go unnoticed, yet do their jobs and make it possible for UCF to win football games.
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