The UTSA Roadrunners are five games into their season, and one thing is certain; the special team’s unit is elite. Special teams are often overlooked. However, the group’s recent performances have turned heads. On a team that has been riddled with mistakes, the special teams unit have stepped up. They have undoubtedly been a driving force in helping the Roadrunners get their first two victories. With improved play from other areas of the team, this group of young men could prove to be a clear powerhouse in Conference USA. The continued excellent play of the special teams will ultimately determine the success of the season for the Roadrunners.
UTSA: Special Teams Powerhouse
The energy and play of the special teams have been infectious throughout the unit. As the play of the placekicker has improved, so has that of the punter. This has proven to be true for the returner unit as well. They have such a profound impact on the team that without their play, starting field position would be unimpressive. The special teams have been efficient in all that they have done this year and you can expect to see even more proficiency as the year continues.
Kicker Jared Sackett has been a workhorse this year for the Roadrunners. Sackett was a 2017 Freshman All-American last year. He was also a top 20 semifinalist for the Lou Groza award; an award given to the nation’s top placekicker. And, to top off his already impressive accolades, he set UTSA’s single-season record for field goals made with 19 in 2017. As a freshman, it was evident that he would be an impact player. However, most did not expect this kind of performance. Last year, Sackett hit 19 of 22 field goals at an 86% rate. This efficiency is what helped make him one of the nations most recognized kickers.
This year, Sackett has continued his efficient ways. He has made nine out of 11 field goals, an 82% rate. Also, he is perfect in PAT’s, going 10/10. Individually, Sackett has contributed to 37 of 99 total points scored by the team this year. Overall, he has contributed to nearly 40% of the team’s total points and has been the core factor in the team’s success in the last two games. In the game this week against UTEP, Sackett drilled a 51 yarder, the longest of the season, to go along with another long field goal from 47 yards out. Having this reliable position player to back up the offense when they cannot convert in the end zone is very reassuring to a coach. This also gives the offense confidence as they have a tremendous kicker who feels comfortable from 53 yards out.
Punting and Defense
Yannis Roustas, the team’s punter, has been kicking some absolute bombs all season. He has been forced into action frequently as the offense is still having some difficulty getting the ball vertically down the field. Roustas has sent off 27 punts and averages five a game. Through five games, he has constantly made it difficult for opposing teams by unleashing deep balls. Although he has not put any punts this year inside the 20, the offense has repeatedly been kept from crossing the 50-yard line, making it difficult to place punts down by the goal line. Roustas is averaging 43 yards per punt this year with his longest punt being 62 yards long.
This year, the special teams’ coverage unit has been stout. Opponents have returned 15 kicks through five games. On these kicks, the Roadrunners have given up a total of 227 return yards. Teams are averaging about 15 yards per return on kickoffs. This means that the defense is able to get down the field quickly and cover the returner without allowing him to break containment. As for punt coverage, on 12 returned punts, opponents have gained 110 yards. They are averaging only nine yards per return. Also, through five weeks, the coverage team has not given up a touchdown to opponents. This type of hard play will keep the ‘Runners into close games down the road.
The Roadrunners have not returned any kickoffs or punts for touchdowns this season. However, this does not take away from the success they have had on returns. There have been multiple kick and punt returners this year giving the special teams different looks every week. On eight punt returns, the ‘Runners have only earned a meager five yards per return. As for kickoff returns, the story is different. On 18 kickoff returns, the team averages 18 yards per return. Special teams are so crucial to winning ball games, so having individuals that contribute as much as UTSA’s players do is extremely beneficial.
Without the help of the special teams, UTSA could very well have a record of 0-5. However, the incredible production that they get across the board has helped them to a two-game winning streak. This success will need to continue in order to win conference games. Many games will come down to the wire, so having players that can create and help the team win, will likely push them towards the victory. This coming week, UTSA will face the Rice Owls in Houston. The ‘Runners will be looking to extend their winning streak to three and will lean on that superb special team’s unit to help them do just that.