Auburn Tigers vs Kansas State Wildcats: Keys to Victory

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Apr 19, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver Quan Bray (4) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the A-Day spring game at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Win Special Teams

We talk a lot about offense and defense, but special teams cannot be overlooked, especially in close games.

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  • When it comes to kickers and punters, Auburn and K-State are fairly evenly matched. Nick Walsh is averaging 46.5 yards per punt for the Wildcats through two games, and Jack Cantele is 4-for-5 on field goals, with a long this season of 43.

    Daniel Carlson, who handles both duties for the Tigers, has a 48 yards per punt average through two games, and has converted two of his three field goal attempts. Carlson’s longest field goal has been 45 yards, and he has also shown considerable leg strength on kickoffs. Of 14 kicks, eleven have gone for touchbacks.

    Coming into the game, however, there is one distinct area in which the Tigers have an advantage on special teams. The Wildcats allowed an 82-yard punt return to Iowa State’s Jarvis West in the last game they played. It was a huge play that pumped up the home crowd in Ames and built momentum for the Cyclones during a 28-point run in the first half.

    On the other hand, the Auburn Tigers had a punt return for a score of their own by Quan Bray. The senior receiver fielded a San Jose State punt and raced 55 yards to the end zone, juking and eluding Spartans along the way. West didn’t have to work nearly as hard for his touchdown. He caught the punt and raced up the middle of the field. The return team did the rest.

    The Wildcats have an explosive playmaker on special teams in Tyler Lockett. The senior receiver is the reigning Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year, but he has not been utilized as a returner thus far in 2014. Morgan Burns has been the kickoff returner, and Judah Jones has handled punt returns. Expect that to change on Thursday.

    Creating a score on special teams is one of the biggest momentum boosts a team can have on the football field. Allowing a touchdown in the kicking game is similarly deflating. K-State was able to overcome West’s punt return last week, but they cannot expect to do the same two weeks in a row.

    If Bray can get loose, or if the Tigers come through with a big kick return or block a kick – or at the very least win the field position battle – Auburn will have a huge advantage in the game.