Grading the Canes: Special Teams

Miami's special teams units have been far from special so far this season and this past Saturday against North Carolina was no different.

Kicking: D
Matt Bosher's missed field goal from 43 yards out in the first half, his first miss of the season, turned out to be a huge missed opportunity for the Canes. Bosher's ability to connect on field goals had been a strength of the team going into this game and that turned out to be a big miss. He was able to come and nail a 34-yarder later. He kicked off five times and the results weren't real good. He averaged kicking the ball to the 10-yard line on his first three kicks before kicking his fourth one out of bounds, which gave UNC excellent field position. His final kickoff was a pooch kick. So one way of looking at it is that Bosher had six opportunities in this game (two field goal attempts and four legit kickoffs) and the end result wasn't good on four of the six (missed FG, and kickoffs that landed at the 15, 13, and out of bounds).

Punting: B
Bosher had a chance to punt the ball five times in this game. One of them didn't count because UNC ran into him. He had four official punts, with one of them getting deflected. That turned out to be one of the biggest and most important plays for the Tar Heels. Aside from that, his other three punts were excellent -- he averaged 42.3 on his first three punts and all of them were placed inside the 20. The Canes had an A+ performance in the punt game until the block in the fourth quarter, which, as mentioned, was huge.

Returns: C+
The Hurricanes have been one of the worst teams in all of college football in returning kickoffs so far this season and the North Carolina game wasn't much different. The Canes returned two kickoffs for 36 yards but also muffed a kickoff (when Darryl Sharpton dropped a kickoff) and had a block in the back penalty on the game's first play (JoJo Nicolas) that forced the Canes to set up shop at their own 10 yard line. Plus, when the Canes needed a big play the most under a minute left after UNC scored the go-ahead touchdown, Ryan Hill was only able to net 16 yards on the return.

The punt return game was much better, like it has been all season. Travis Benjamin returned three punts for an average of 18.7 per return. We saw outstanding blocks on his first return by Chavez Grant and Colin McCarthy that helped spring a big play and also helped motivate the entire team. The Canes did have an illegal block (Romeo Davis) on one of the returns but for the most part, the punt return game was solid.

Coverage: B+
North Carolina's Brandon Tate was averaging over 31 yards per kick return heading into this game. He was emerging as one of not only the top kick return guys in the ACC but also the nation. He returned three kickoffs for an average of 22.3 yards against the Hurricanes so Miami did a better job against him than UNC's previous opponents had been doing. The Tar Heels didn't return any punts, thanks to Bosher placing them so well. Sam Shields made an excellent play at the one yard line, catching Bosher's third punt of the night.

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