Kiss of Death: Special Teams Horror & More

It’s time to stop overlooking the real leak in Texas’ boat.

Special teams.

Texas isn’t just bad. The Longhorns are one of the worst in the country. In fact, UT is THE worst team in Division I in kickoff return defense – 125th of 125 teams - giving up an average of 32.3 yards per return.

There was the decision to call for “punt block” instead of “punt return” the first three games of the season.

The result: not a single block, just two roughing the punter calls against UCLA.

Once “punt return” became the call against Kansas, Jaxon Shipley brings one back 41 yards to set up Texas’ first touchdown in a 23-0 victory.

Special teams penalties, from Jason Hall’s personal foul on the opening kickoff of the BYU game to his two roughing calls vs UCLA to Adrian Colbert’s pulverizing of Sterling Shepard in the OU game before the ball got anywhere near Shepard.

Texas’ special teams units are giving away field position as if it’s candy on Halloween.

And then there’s the poor tackling and lack of discipline in covering punts and kicks. A 45-yard punt return by UCLA sets up the Bruins in Texas territory on their game-winning drive. A 91-yard kick return for TD by Oklahoma’s Alex Ross right through the hole where Adrian Colbert fell down.

There were blocked field goals against Kansas and Baylor. The block by the Bears was returned for a touchdown.

These aren’t minor details. Minor details are when Jaxon Shipley calls for a fair catch at the 5 or calls for a fair catch, then misplays the ball and it rolls backward another 20 yards.

Those are minor details. What Texas is suffering is full-blown special teams-itis.

It’s time for Charlie Strong to acknowledge that this phase of the game has probably cost Texas two games (UCLA and OU) and maybe three (Baylor), because the bleeding hasn’t been stopped.

Coaches say, “We’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”

Whether it’s the way special teams are being coached or the personnel or the priority (or lack thereof) being placed on special teams - if Texas wants to go to a bowl game, things need to change. And quickly.



#1 - Iowa State WR Jarvis West, the Cyclones’ most explosive player (he’s the Daje Johnson or Tyreek Hill for ISU), missed last week’s victory over Toledo with a foot injury. ISU hopes he’ll be ready for Texas this week.

In a near upset of Kansas State this season (ISU led 28-13 before succumbing 32-28), West caught and threw for touchdowns and also returned a punt for a score.

#2 - West, by the way, is the fourth-best punt returner in Division I, averaging 23.6 yards per return with 1 touchdown. Calling Texas’ special teams …

#3 - QB Sam Richardson is coming off completing a school-record 37 passes for 351 yards in a come-from-behind victory over Toledo.

Richardson is ISU’s leading rusher (47.2 ypg, 4.0 ypc, 1 TD with a long run of 47 yards) and he’s completing 60.1 percent of his passes with 10 TDs and 4 INTs.

Yes, Richardson’s rushing numbers tell you ISU has the worst rushing offense in the Big 12 (106.8 ypg).

#4 - Under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, Iowa State had high hopes for a passing game centered around WR Quenton Bundrage and TE E.J. Bibbs, who is ISU’s leading receiver with 22 catches for 190 yards and 4 TDs.

But Bundrage, who had 48 catches for 676 yards and 9 TDs in 2013 and was ISU’s best deep threat, was lost for the season in Game 1 with an ACL tear.

With the lack of a passing game, teams have ganged up to stop the run and punished the Cyclones.

#5 - Paul Rhoads always has solid LB play. Last year it was Jeremiah George. This year, it’s Jevohn Miller, who leads the team in tackles (61). But this ISU defense is not among Rhoads’ best. In fact, it may be among his worst.

ISU is 9th in the Big 12 in rush defense, giving up 212 yards per game on the ground, and is 9th best in scoring defense, giving up 33.2 ppg.


#1 - Baylor’s ability to erase a 21-point deficit with 11 minutes to play in a 61-58 victory over TCU was outrageously entertaining if you love offensive football.

But there were a few lessons to be learned about both teams.

TCU’s defense doesn’t appear to be in the same zip code as Texas’ defense.

Against Texas, Baylor had a total of 389 yards (278 yards rushing, 111 yards passing), and BU QB Bryce Petty was 7-of-22 passing and said afterward “my head is still spinning from all the looks they gave me. I couldn’t tell you what they were doing from play to play.”

Against TCU, Petty was 28 of 55 passing for 510 yards and 6TDs with 2 INTs.

Patterson had so little faith in his defense that, with the game tied 58-58, he went for it on fourth-and-3 from the Baylor 45 with 1:17 left (and failed on a low-percentage fade route to the sideline).

Baylor’s kicker, Chris Callahan, who had been 1-of-6 on FG attempts leading into the TCU game, booted a 28-yard FG with no time left to finish the day 4-of-4 on FG attempts.

#2 - Texas Tech led West Virginia 34-20 in Lubbock with 7:32 left and found a way to lose.

Suffering 12 penalties for 115 yards didn’t help, including pass-interference flag on CB Nigel Bethel that helped sustain one of WVU’s scoring drives in the comeback.

By the way, Tech was flagged 9 times for 89 yards in a loss at K-State and 16 times for 158 yards in a loss at Oklahoma State.

Tech’s defense is dead last in the Big 12 in against the run (and 119th of 125 teams in Division I), giving up 257.5 yards per game on the ground.

That’s a big reason Tech’s D is also dead last in the Big 12 in scoring defense, giving up 39.5 ppg.

#3 - Anyone give West Virginia a chance for an upset of Baylor in Morgantown this weekend? I do.


Mississippi State

Ole Miss

Florida State

Notre Dame


Dak Prescott, QB, Miss State

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska

The Ole Miss defense


Kansas State at Oklahoma … K-State’s defense is good enough against the run to make this one interesting.

Baylor at West Virginia … WVU QB Clint Trickett to WR Kevin White is one of the underrated passing combos in college football. Mario Alford can shake things up on special teams with his speed.

Notre Dame at Florida State … Can the Irish defense and Everett Golson go into Tallahassee and give Jameis Winston their own hearing.

Georgia at Arkansas … I hope Todd Gurley’s missed game against Missouri is considered time-served for $400 in exchange for autographs and that Gurley is back in action this week.

(Heck, I thought you only missed a half a game for offenses like this. Maybe Gurley needs to hire Johnny Manziel’s attorney from last year.)

Texas A&M at Alabama … What do the Aggies have left after getting punched in the mouth by Mississippi State and Ole Miss? And after Kevin Sumlin said it’s hard to fix players “getting whipped.” Gulp.


Longhorns 2015 QB commitment Zach Gentry's junior highlights


Not a member of HornsDigest?

Get the rest of the college football season at HD for only $4.95!

Follow these three easy steps:

1. Select the "1-Month Pass" option right here.

2. Enter the promo code "TEXAS"

3. Enjoy the best content on Longhorns sports and recruiting that you'll find!


Get 10% off Longhorns tickets, tickets to other sporting events as well as concerts by joining Click here to get discounted tickets!

Horns Digest Top Stories