Grading the Canes: Special Teams

The Hurricanes were excellent on offense against Texas A&M, while the defense certainly didn't play up to their ability. How about the special teams units? Lets take a closer look at how these units played against the Aggies on Saturday.

Kicking: B-
Matt Bosher was money again on field goals, even though both of his attempts were from just 20 yards out. He's now 4-for-4 on the season. His kickoffs continue to be average, however. He kicked off eight times but one of them was meant to be high and short. Of his seven regular kickoffs, he averaged about 61 yards per kick. That means, on average, Texas A&M was fielding the ball from their own 9 yard line. His only touchback, which went two yards deep into the endzone, came after a Texas A&M 15-yard penalty, which allowed Bosher to kick off from the 45 yard line. While he's been excellent on field goal attempts, it'd be nice to see Bosher start kicking the ball deeper on kickoffs and getting more touchbacks.

Punting: A-
Bosher punted four times for an average of 43.2 yards per punt in this game. Obviously, he didn't have any blocked and he didn't shank any like he did against Florida. He did an excellent job of giving the Hurricanes a chance to get downfield and make a play with their coverage units. His 43.2 average would put him in the top 25 in all of college football. He's been very good in this area ever since his shank against the Gators in the first quarter and it'll be huge for the Canes if he can continue it.

Return Game: A+
While the Hurricanes only had a few return opportunities in this game, they certainly made the most of them. It all started following the Texas A&M touchdown on their first offensive play of the game. The crowd was all fired up and the momentum was clearly on the Aggies side. The next kickoff, boom, it gets blasted to true freshman Brandon Harris. At this point, it's a huge play in the early part of this game. If the Aggies are able to go down and make a play to pin the Canes deep, it could have been another huge boost of confidence for their defense. For Miami, they needed to make a play. Coach Shannon always talks about challenging his players to make a play. Well, Harris made one. He took the kickoff back 41 yards to quiet the crowd and give Miami excellent field position to get in position to tie the game just a few plays later. While it's not often talked about when recapping the game, that was as big a play as Miami had in this game. Watching Brandon's teammates block, such as Patrick Hill putting a guy flat on his back, was fun to see on that play as well. That wasn't everything. Just before halftime the Canes forced A&M to punt with under two minutes left. A good punt to pin the Hurricanes deep would likely have made it very tough for the Canes to go the length of the field just before halftime, possibly keeping it a one possession game at the break. Instead, another true freshman, Travis Benjamin, took the punt back 44 yards to give Miami excellent field position to score another touchdown. That, too, was one of the biggest and most important plays of the day for the Hurricanes. Again, watching Benjamin's teammates block on that play, like Colin McCarthy laying out a defender, was fun to see. Anytime you get plays like that from your return game and finish the game averaging 26 per punt return and over 32 a kickoff return, you're putting yourself in great position to win a lot of football games and that's what the return game did in this one.

Coverage Units: C-
The Aggies returned two punts for a total of 22 yards and six kickoffs for a total of 101 yards. The 16.8 average on kickoffs seems like, at first glance, like the Canes did an excellent job covering the kickoffs. However, that was Texas A&M's best performance of the season on kickoff returns. That probably could have been avoided if the Canes had tackled better on kickoff coverage. They missed two tackles on the opening kickoff of the game and later missed another tackle in the second half on a kick return for the Aggies. Ryan Hill's personal foul penalty while covering one of the kicks didn't help either, as it gave Texas A&M outstanding field position on that particular drive. It was an average performance, at best, for the UM coverage units in this game.

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