Team Play Key To Special Teams Success

When head coach Bill Stewart stressed the importance of team after two Mountaineer losses, those words spoke in particular to junior defensive back Nate Sowers. The former quarterback, who is now a staple of specials teams, realizes the importance of the part of the team which many people look past.

"(Special teams) is one-third of a part of the game. A lot of the defensive guys on our team are on that side so two-thirds of the game is played on our hands. It's really important. It's just as important as offense or defense. Offense and defense do different things. Field position is everything and that's why having (Pat) McAfee, a great punter who can really boom it, is such a weapon for us," Sowers said.

After displaying excellent kickoff coverage during the Mountaineers loss against Colorado, special teams made what Sowers describes as "mental mistakes" when they played in-state rival Marshall.

"(We had) a lack of communication. We're working on that this week," he explained. "We definitely can't have that against Rutgers. Everybody didn't do their job and the thing is on kickoff, if one person doesn't do their job it seems like the whole team did something wrong."

The Scarlet Knights will enter Morgantown on Saturday with a chip on their shoulders and a hunger to win. Head coach Greg Schiano has never beaten the Mountaineers, and his team is trying to bounce back from a mediocre start to the season. Despite Rutgers' slow start, Sowers recognizes its talent.

"They have a lot of talent. They have a lot of power backs that can really gun it up the middle. Their offensive line looks pretty decent and their tight ends. I think they are more of a power team as far as what I have seen," said Sowers. "(Quarterback Mike) Teel is a third year starter. He's been playing for three years so he can definitely throw the ball. They definitely have a lot of athletes. They're pretty balanced."

Sowers, who has been at quarterback and wide receiver at WVU before settling in at defensive back, is seeing time as a backup strong safety as well as all of his time on special teams. Although he says that the team is working on improving from the poor kickoff coverage from last week, he still credits punts as the "most important play in college football." WVU's ranking among the top teams in the nation in net punting gives the Mountaineers a big advantage in field position, and bears out Sowers' view of that area of the game.

With the variety of players seeing time during each part of the special teams game, Sowers believes that they are bonding as a group and improving every day.

"Each week we're just getting better and better, except for kickoffs last week," Sowers said. Sowers believes that any wrinkles from the Marshall game will be ironed out by Saturday, which he hopes will allow Mountaineer fans to breathe a sigh of relief when Pat McAfee kicks off the ball.

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