Special teams: good, bad and ugly

Badger specialists make some big plays but cause Wisconsin significant headaches as well

TUCSON, Ariz.—Wisconsin kicker Mike Allen wanted another chance. So did his holder, Ken DeBauche.

Allen missed an extra point early in the fourth quarter Saturday that would have tied the game a seven apiece. Instead, senior long snapper Matt Katula's snap was high, freshman punter DeBauche's hold was slow and Allen's kick sailed wide right.

"It was wet, bad snap, bad hold and bad kick. All three phases were not there," Allen said.

"I really don't think it was the rain that messed us up," DeBauche said. "I think we were thinking that the rain was going to mess us up but it didn't. I really can't pin down whether it was the snap or the hold but it just threw off Mike's timing, which made him miss it.

"It was between me and Katula. It is kind of like a basketball player going up for a layup. He thinks he is going to get fouled, but he doesn't, and then he ends up shooting it over the backboard. I thought the rain was going to bother me and I think I overcompensated and it screwed up the timing."

Allen, DeBauche and Katula, however, would get another chance with 3:47 left in the game. This time Allen's 23-yard field goal attempt sailed through the uprights, providing Wisconsin its 9-7 victory.

"I was real confident he was going to knock that one through," Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez said facetiously.

"To me it wasn't a winner; it was just a field goal," Allen said. "You think of it as just a regular old field goal. Each one is just as important as the next."

Still, Allen, who is now just 3-for-6 on field goal attempts this season, conceded how important the connection was. He missed two field goals a week ago, including one from just 23 yards out.

"I needed that bad," he said. "I came off a horrible game last week. ….with the missed extra point, yes, the conditions were horrible and other things come into play but, still, there are no excuses for anything like that. I need to make everything."

The two kicks were the most visible moments of an up-and-down game for Wisconsin's special teams.

DeBauche was the Badgers' pre-rain-delay MVP, with punts of 47 and 57 yards, each landing inside the 20 and helping to bail out a sputtering UW offense. DeBauche's third punt, however, went off the side of his leg and sailed out of bounds for just 30 yards. His final punt traveled 37 yards, again pinning Arizona inside the 20.

For the season, DeBauche is averaging 41.75 yards on 12 punts, seven of which have culminated inside the 20. For the third game in a row not a single punt was returned.

Punt returner Jim Leonhard moved further up the Big Ten's all-time yardage list, with three attempts for 46 yards. He now has 1,076 punt return yards in his career, the fourth most in conference history, just 95 yards shy of Penn State's Bruce Branch (1998-2001) for the all-time mark.

The Badgers returned just one kickoff, with Matt Bernstein fielding a short kick in the rain and returning it two yards.

Freshman kickoff specialist Taylor Mehlhaff knocked his first attempt with the wind at his back into the end zone for his sixth touchback of the season. His next kick, though, with the wind against him, carried to just the 15-yard line. His third and final kick of the game sailed out of bounds.

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