Auburn Defense and Special Teams vs Kansas State: Position Grades

5 of 5

Sep 18, 2014; Manhattan, KS, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage as the Auburn Tigers defeated the Kansas State Wildcats, 20-14 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams

The Auburn defense played great, and the offense was not the well-oiled machine we are used to seeing. The special teams? “Shaky” is the first word that comes to mind.

It began on fourth down of the game’s opening drive. Auburn stalled on offense, and the Tigers turned to Matthew Shiel to punt. The play was a near catastrophe as Shiel couldn’t handle the snap and narrowly avoided a disaster by rugby punting the ball 35 yards.

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Everything turned out okay, and the punt even backed up the Wildcats deep in their own territory, but the coaching staff decided it was best to let Daniel Carlson handle the punting duties the rest of the way. Carlson punted four times for 157 yards and an average of 39.2. It was not his best performance of the season, but decent enough.

The trouble came after the ball was kicked. Tyler Lockett, K-State’s All-American receiver, was the primary punt returner for the Wildcats. He fielded three punts and returned them for a total of 71 yards – including one that went 30 yards and was nearly broken for an even bigger gain – and gave the Wildcats’ offense possession in Auburn territory twice.

The Tigers were much better covering kickoffs. Carlson handled kickoffs as well as he usually does (other than one that went out of bounds), as two of the four he attempted were not returned and resulted in touchbacks. Alex Kviklys kicked off once as well.

Fortunately for Auburn, Jack Cantele missed field goals from 41, 42 and 22 yards. We can give some credit to the field goal block unit, but most should go to Cantele and the wind. Carlson connected twice for field goals.

Strangely, in a game that featured three Kansas State kickoffs, and three punts by the Wildcats’ Nick Walsh, Auburn did not return a single one.

As a whole, there is obviously much room for improvement from the special teams units. However, as was the case with the offense, the performance was good enough to escape the Little Apple with a victory.

Grade: C