WSU special teams has a big mistake, recovers

IT LOOKED LIKE a long night was brewing for Washington State's special teams when Utah's Kaelin Clay reeled in a punt and returned it 58 yards for a first-quarter touchdown. But the Cougars bounced back, as punter Jordan Dascalo had a solid game to highlight WSU special team's play in Salt Lake City.

That punt return by Utah became the fifth significant special teams misplay by the Cougs in five games. Defenders collapsed on the ball, abandoning their lanes, and when Utah's return man reversed field, there was nothing but green in front of him. But WSU, though they didn't explode the rest of the way, clawed back as the game went on.

Dascalo had plenty of punts on the night, booting six for an average of 38.7 yards. However, he only allowed Clay to field the ball one other time, a punt return for a manageable eight yards.

Tana Pritchard was the player who tackled Clay in the second quarter on his second and final punt return. Pritchard only had one tackle on Saturday, making his presence known on special teams as Jeremiah Allison started at the WILL linebacker position for the second straight game.

The Cougars frequently ran Dascalo onto the field during the game's outset. Five of his six punts came in the first half.

Meanwhile, WSU struggled in the return game. Rickey Galvin was not given much room to run when he fielded punts from Utah’s Tom Hackett. The Utes’ cover team easily blew past WSU’s punt return unit and ram into Galvin as soon as he received the ball. As a result, Galvin turned his three punt returns into 18 total yards, with his longest return of the night going for 14.

Kick returner Jamal Morrow fared slightly better. Morrow fielded two kickoffs for a return average of 24 yards.

Utah wasn’t able to do anything on kickoff returns, thanks to an aggressive group on the coverage team that included Frankie Luvu and Parker Henry. On Thursday night, defensive coordinator Mike Breske said Luvu would travel with the team, and the freshman linebacker made sure spectators knew where he was with a tackle of Devontae Booker on a kick return in the fourth quarter. Henry tackled Clay on his longest return of the night, a 24-yarder before the hit from the redshirt sophomore.

The Cougars did not attempt a field goal, as each of their four scores came on touchdowns. They were 2 for 3 in the red zone, too, but both those trips were touchdowns so kicker Quentin Breshears was not needed on a windy and rainy night in Utah. Utah's kicker was 2-3 on the night in the one-point win by WSU.

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