Kansas game notes and analysis: special teams

Notes and analysis on the Horns' special teams performance in their 59-0 win over Kansas:

The Texas punt return team put points on the board for the first time since the North Carolina game. This time, rather than a Nathan Vasher return, Michael Ungar registered a safety by tackling Kansas punter Chris Tyrrell in the end zone after a fumbled deep snap. Ungar also partially blocked another KU punt, setting up the Longhorn offense with a short field, which it quickly took advantage of on the shovel pass TD to Cedric Benson. The Horns tipped another of Tyrrell's efforts later in the game. With the return unit going for the block on just about every Kansas punt, Vasher only had two return opportunities on the day. He caught one and returned it seven yards, but he let the other low but catchable punt bounce in front of him, as he has done several times this year, costing the offense about 15 yards in field position. The other five punts by the Jayhawks either sailed out of bounds or were too short to field.

Punter Brian Bradford turned in his best performance of the season, averaging 45.5 yards on his four punts. Even more encouraging than the gross average was the net average of 45.25. The Jayhawks managed just one yard on three returns because of Bradford's high hangtime punts plus great coverage by Ungar and Ervis Hill. The junior punter also pinned Kansas at the six with the one punt that the Jayhawks did not return. Considering the importance of the field position battle (particularly in front of a hostile crowd in College Station and against a good team in a bowl game), Bradford's improved distance, hangtime and consistency over the last couple of weeks may be the most encouraging thing to come out of the Baylor and KU games. Redshirt freshman Justin Smith also punted once, nailing his attempt 49 yards.

The kickoff situation remained about the same, which is to say troublesome but not terrible. Dan Smith got the starting nod and sent his four attempts to the five, the two, the seven and out of bounds at around the 30. Dusty Mangum kicked off twice, angling a high kick to the 12 and another to the 22. David Pino took over the kickoff duties in the second half and on his three attempts kicked out of bounds at the six, to the goalline and to the seven. After the Horns took an early 7-0 lead, Smith's first kick, to the five, was returned by KU's Byron Gasaway all the way to the 41, a potential momentum changer against a better team. The Jayhawks also had returns of 22 and 27 yards later in the first quarter before the coverage team held the KU returners to a more reasonable 16.25 average on their final four returns of the game. Overall, though, the Jayhawks' starting field position after kickoffs was almost the 31 yardline, father out by at least several yards than ideal.

Mangum made both of his field goal attempts, one from 26 and the other from 20 yards. The true freshman was also perfect on his five extra point attempts, including one from 35 yards after Major's unsportsmanlike penalty for heaving the ball into the stands following his QB sneak TD. Pino made both of his point after attempts.

Victor Ike and Hill each returned one kick, Ike for 13 yards and Hill for 21.

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