Scouting Report: Cincinnati Special Teams

Vanderbilt will be facing a unit with strong special teams when it meets the Cincinnati Bearcats in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Saturday. In our third segment scouting the Bearcats we break down the UC special teams.

The Bearcats are a solid punting squad averaging 39.09 net yards per punt, good for 17th best in the nation. Pat O'Donnell averages 43.9 yards per punt and has a long of 76 yards. Of O'Donnell's 56 punts this season, an impressive 15 have gone over 50 yards. Twenty-five punts have been downed inside opponent's 20-yards lines and only seven have gone for touchbacks. The Bearcats have had just one punt blocked all season.

Cincinnati's punt coverage unit's play has been solid as well. Opponents have managed only about 6.8 yards average per punt return with a long return of 40 yards. The Bearcats have yet to block a punt.

The Bearcats have improved over the past few games in their punt returns. Several games ago head coach Butch Jones opted to use stellar running back Isaiah Pead to return punts and it has paid dividends. Pead has averaged over 12 yards per return after the two previous returners managed just seven yards or less average per return. Pead's longest return of six attempts went for 34 yards.

FAST FACTS
UC SPECIAL TEAMS
  • Tony Miliano 16 of 22 field goals; long of 48.
  • UC No. 17 in net punting; 39.09 YPP.
  • Isaiah Pead average 12 yards per punt return.
  • R.D. Abernathy 24.7 yards per kickoff return.
  • Five UC kicks blocked by opponents in 2011.
Speedy R.D. Abernathy has 37 returns for a 24.7 return average. Abernathy has a long return of 74 yards but has yet to take one all the way for a TD.

Pat O'Sullivan has made the majority of kickoffs for the Bearcats in 2011 but UC has used kicker Tony Miliano for about 25 percent of kickoffs. In the recent win over Connecticut, for instance, O'Sullivan kicked off four times while Miliano had one kickoff. Of the 79 Cincinnati kickoffs nine have been touchbacks. The UC kick coverage unit has allowed an average of 19.1 yards per return with a long return of 42 yards. None have gone for touchdowns.

Miliano walked on at UC in 2010 and then took over as the starting kicker for the Bearcats for the 2011 season. He's been solid, making 16 of 22 field goal attempts. Miliano was named the National Placekicker of the Week after making four field goals in the Bearcat's victory over Pittsburgh. The freshman has a long boot of 48 yards and has made 7 of 10 from the 40-49 yard range.

Despite the solid performance Miliano is not without fault. While he is solid from long distances he has connected on only 2 of 5 attempts from the 30-39 yard range. Additionally, the Bearcats have had three field goals and two extra points blocked. Miliano also missed another PAT.

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