WSU special teams rewind: Kicking the bucket

THE METAPHORICAL GHOST of Andrew Furney haunted the Cougars in the Nevada loss. Kicker Erik Powell missed two field goals, which didn’t end up mattering mathematically as Wazzu lost by 11. But they did matter. If the Cougars had earned those six points, they likely would have been within one touchdown for the final drive and it would have affected the rest of the play calls - on both sides.

The field goals might have changed the momentum, field position, the way the Cougars conducted their final drive, and ultimately the outcome of the game.

Furney missed four field goals during the entire 2013 campaign, and Powell missed half of that in one game. Powell was good from 25 yards on his first field goal of the night, but then proceeded to miss twice in the third quarter from virtually the same distance. One miss was from 37 yards away and the other miss was from 38 yards out.

"There's a good chance we have a new kicker," head coach Mike Leach said after the game.

The other notable absence besides Furney was the normal placeholder for the Cougars, wide receiver River Cracraft. Cracraft sat out the game against Nevada, similarly to how he mostly stayed out of the final three practices leading up to Friday. Cracraft was limited at best in those three practices, and the fact that he was not able to hold the ball for Powell might have altered the rhythm, timing and accuracy of the kicker.

Cracraft was not missed terribly in the punt returning department, though. Rickey Galvin who returned punts in practice this week, filled in nicely for Cracraft. In the two opportunities Galvin received, he returned the ball for 21 yards, and a long of 14. That compares nicely to Cracraft’s three returns for five total yards against Rutgers last week.

Backup kicker Quentin Breshears was given a chance to kick a field goal as a result of Powell’s 1-for-3 night. Breshears kicked the ball from the right hash mark, which worked perfectly for his natural hook to the left shown countless times during practice. The kick was good from 38 yards out.

Jordan Dascalo was the sole punter for WSU once again, and did not disappoint. He averaged 40.3 yards per punt on his three attempts, with a long of 51. He was passed up by Nevada punter Alex Boy, who launched one of his four punts for 57 yards. To put that in perspective, that long punt by Boy was not caught by a WSU returner, but instead was allowed to roll until it stopped inside the WSU 20-yard line.

Jamal Morrow tried his hand at kickoff returns on Friday night, and gained 61 yards on two attempts. Kristoff Williams and Marcus Mason each had a return for 20 and 19 yards, respectively. Morrow had the longest return of the night between both teams, breaking off a 36-yard return at one point.

Two games, and two times where the Cougs did so many things right on special teams, only to see one big minus overshadow it all. Right now, WSU needs everything to go right, and special teams could be the unsung tipping point in the games to come.

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