Sunday, April 22, 2018
Colleges

Not-so special teams club includes USF, FSU

Florida State isn't alone. A lot of teams have stunk on special teams as the season has gotten under way and anxious coaches around the country are in fix-it mode.

No one has had more trouble than No. 21 USF, starting when its season-opening kickoff went out of bounds against San Jose State. Through two games the Bulls have had two punts blocked — one going for a touchdown and the other setting up a TD —a second kickoff has gone out and there has been an 18-yard punt from out of the end zone after a delay-of-game penalty.

"It's going to get better," USF coach Charlie Strong said. "Across the country there were issues. It's not the scheme. It's more the focus."

FSU's misadventures in its 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday were magnified because of the matchup's grand stage. There was the blocked field goal at the end of the first half when it was a six-point game, the blocked punt that led to an Alabama field goal in the third quarter and Keith Gavin's fumble on a kick return that the Tide converted into a two-touchdown lead.

"We've led the country in special teams at times or been in the top two or three," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We have to make sure we hold our kids accountable and show them the right way, go back and reteach it fundamentally and the importance of it."

Elsewhere, Purdue lost one of its two fumbles on kick returns against Louisville, Tulsa recovered a muffed punt for a touchdown against Oklahoma State, Nebraska gave up a punt return for a touchdown and then returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a score, Hawaii blocked three field goals by Division I-AA Western Carolina and Wyoming had an ugly punt in a loss at Iowa.

Coaches say they don't give special teams short shrift during preseason practices or any other time, either.

All the preparation didn't seem to help Texas and Maryland, both of which took turns messing up in the Terrapins' 51-41 win. Texas was penalized for violating the new "jumping" rule at the line of scrimmage on an extra point, each team ran back blocked field goals for touchdowns and Maryland gave up a 91-yard punt return for a TD.

Incredulous coaches who watched their special teams breakdown are left to do only one thing. Perhaps echoing all of them, Maryland's DJ Durkin said, "We're certainly going to get that corrected."

HEART ISSUE FOR GATOR: Florida will be without freshman receiver James Robinson, who is out indefinitely because of a heart issue. Coach Jim McElwain said "something" showed up in the former Lakeland High standout's echocardiogram. Robinson was suspended for the opener against Michigan after a marijuana possession citation.

TENNESSEE: Injured receiver Jauan Jennings is out "indefinitely," coach Butch Jones said. Jones didn't specify the injury, which kept the junior from playing in the second half Monday against Georgia Tech.

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