Mizzou game notes and analysis: special teams

Notes and analysis on the Horns' special teams performance in their 35-16 win over Missouri:

Dan Smith handled five of UT's six kickoffs Saturday in a relatively wind-free Columbia. The junior kicker didn't get even one of his attempts near the goalline, sending his kickoffs to the nine, the 10, the 13, out of bounds at the 10 and to the 11. True freshman David Pino didn't do any better, knocking his one attempt to the 15. The kickoff coverage was about as bad as the kickoffs. The Tigers had returns of 29, 16, 33 and 19 yards and started, on average, at their 32.5 yardline. That number is skewed downward because of the second quarter kickoff that Missouri return man Marcus James lost in the sun and let drop in front of him, giving the Tigers their worst starting field position of the day at the 15. Unfortunately, it looks like the Horns will just have to play out this season without a reliable deep kickoff man and hope the short and out of bounds kicks and subsequent field position problems won't allow a team to keep a game close when it wouldn't be able to do so otherwise or worst-case scenario cost the team a game. With the upcoming level of competition, that shouldn't be an issue over the next couple of weeks, but it certainly could be in College Station on the day after Thanksgiving and in whatever bowl game Texas plays in.

Place kicker Dusty Mangum missed wide left on an extra-point-length field goal at the end of the Horns' 78-yard, 19-play opening offensive possession. The kicker was perfect, though, on his five extra point attempts. Mangum is now 11 of 15 on the season on field goal attempts and is 35 of 36 on point after attempts.

Brian Bradford punted three times on the day and averaged just 29.3 yards per attempt. His first punt, into a minor wind, traveled an equally minor 27 yards. Instead of pinning the Tigers inside their 20, Bradford's bad punt gave them the ball at the 24 and they promptly traveled 76 yards for the game's first score. In the second half, though, the junior did a much better job of pooch punting from near midfield, pinning the Mizzou offense at the 10 and the 11 on his final two attempts.

Junior return man Victor Ike, with a 27-yard return to the 36, set the Horns up with good field position after the Tigers took their second quarter 7-zip lead. Ike also returned the second half kickoff, taking it out 21 yards to the 27. Brett Robin returned Missouri's only other kickoff, a fourth quarter squibber after the Tigers cut the UT lead to 28-16. Up-man Robin wisely fielded the bouncing ball at about the 20 and returned it to the 40, setting up the offense with a short field for its game-clinching TD drive. FYI, the Horns answered each Missouri score with a scoring drive of their own, and that fact is partially attributable to the good field position and momentum gained with solid kick returns.

Despite the short hang time punts of MU's Jared Gilpin, UT's Nathan Vasher couldn't shake free of the Missouri punt coverage, averaging about seven yards on his three returns.

The Horns executed a fake field goal on their opening drive. Facing a fourth-and-one at the nine on its opening drive, Texas lined up for a field goal. Holder Beau Trahan, though, took the snap and ran the ball straight up the middle, gaining two yards and the first down. Some press box observers said Trahan and Mangum on the play lined up closer to the line of scrimmage than normal in what if not changed could be a tip-off to the opposing team on any future fake attempts.


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