UConn at Syracuse: Analysis of Special Teams

The Syracuse special teams has been an area that has struggled all season. However, against Connecticut, the made their best performance of the season. CuseNation.com breaks it all down inside.

Syracuse's special teams unit has had major issues in 2012. However, they stepped up and contributed to the Orange's 40-10 win over Connecticut.

The Kicking Game

Ross Krautman has had a year to forget entering Syracuse's contest against Connecticut. He has struggled with accuracy, and had a field goal blocked. He put all that behind him Friday night.

Krautman had arguably his best game in an Orange uniform making all four of his field goal attempts. One was a 47-yarded that looked like it had five more yards of leg behind it. 

It was a bit of redemption for Krautman, who said the key was forgetting about what has happened earlier in the season.

"It felt good," he said. "I always have to just focus on the next kick no matter how far it is out. No matter how many attempts I got, the last one's in the past. Forget about it and move on to the next one. 

"Every week's a new week. Kicking is such a mental game. Whether I miss a kick or make a kick, I always move on to the next one. Yeah I missed a few this season, but I look at it on film the next day or in practice. Or if it's a game, the next day on film. See what I did wrong and come right back. No matter what it is, my head's always in the right place to keep my emotions in check."

Krautman wasn't the only kicker who had a good day. True freshman Ryan Norton was phenomenal on kickoffs. On nine kickoffs, seven were touchbacks. The other two, the ball was kicked into the endzone and could have easily been touchbacks. Norton's kickoffs kept UConn with poor starting field position all game, including one instance where they started at their own six. 

Punter Jonathan Fisher also had a solid game. While he only averaged 34.7 yards per punt, he didn't allow a single return. Two of Fisher's three punts were inside the UConn 20. 

The Return Game

Punt returns. The decision made by the Syracuse staff to move strong safety Ritchy Desir into the punt returner position and move running back Steve Rene out proved to be beneficial in all aspects.  

Desir did not fumble any of the four punts he received, which was an issue the previous week against Rutgers, when Rene did not hold onto the ball, resulting in a fumble that led to a touchdown by the Scarlet Knights.  

Rene had also had trouble judging where the ball was going on punts, catching the ball deep in his own territory when the ball would have most likely gone out of bounds. He also would not call for a fair catch, leaving himself open to injury and the team with, at best, no gain from where the drive would have started had Rene called for a fair catch.

Against the Huskies, Desir fair caught the ball at times and when he chose to run, he made moves, shredding tackles in traffic to the Orange upfield.  

His best return came in The Opening quarter, when he began at his own 46-yard line and returned the punt all the way to the UConn 21, one yard shy of the redzone and well into his opponent's territory. Syracuse would connect on a field goal from that drive.  

Not just versus UConn, but through his total body of work, Desir is more productive returning punts than Rene who had formerly been in the position. Rene took eight punts ahead for a total of one yards, with an average of about a tenth a yard per return. Desir has amounted 59 yards on nine punt returns, averaging a little over six yards per return; Desir's average per punt is more than five yards above the total yards accumulated by Rene.  

Kick returns. With Rene ineffective in the punt return game, he was given the opportunity by the Syracuse staff to return kickoffs. Against UConn, Rene only attempted one, but it was a respected run for 22 yards. That 22-yard gain advanced Rene above all Orange players for the most yards gained on kickoff returns this season; Rene has 193 yards on just nine returns, averaging a little over 21 yards per return. No other player on Syracuse has a better average so far this season.   

Overall. With Rene proving to be more productive on kickoffs and Desir finally getting Syracuse yardage in their punt return game, it would make sense to say that both of these players will stay in the positions they were in versus UConn.  

Credit should also go to the special teams' blockers who helped Syracuse to gain more yards on punt returns in this single game than they had all season coming into the match. The Orange entered the game against UConn with 21 cumulative punt return yards through six games. Versus the Huskies, they amounted 39 yards.

CuseNation.com's Mike McAllister & Dan Tortora contributed to this report

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