15 Nov 2021 | 03:45 | Rugby
NEWARK, DEL. – When someone thinks of the keys to a winning football team, the two biggest components are offense and defense. However, any coach will tell you that it is the play of the special teams that can do the most to determine the team’s success. For the University of Delaware football team, that is exactly the case as the Blue Hens’ specialists have been among the best of not only the CAA, but all of FCS football.
“We have always believed that the special teams phases of the game are the most important, because every single play impacts field position and momentum, as well as point production,” said Head Coach Danny Rocco. “The specialists spend countless hours working to master their trade. Our style of offense and defense allows us to prioritize linebacker and tight end body types onto our roster, which greatly impacts the depth of our special teams units and brings all phases of our team into focus at one time.”
When it comes to placekicking, junior Ryan Coe has become one of the most productive kickers at the FCS level. Not only does he kick with extreme accuracy, having connected on 31 of his 34 of his total kicks this year, but he can also kick accurately from long distances. Coe has attempted eight field goals from beyond 40 yards this season and has been true on six of them. He tied a career high with a 53-yard field goal at Rutgers earlier this season and is one of just five kickers nationally to have kicked two field goals of over 50 yards. On kickoffs, Coe has reached the end zone 30 times for touchbacks, a number that ranks third in the country and is nearly double any other team in the CAA.
“Ryan is having a great year,” said Special Teams Coordinator Dave Legg. “As with all kickers, you are only as good as your last kick and he is very competitive and takes a lot of pride in his job. Ryan is a weapon for our team in that we are able to try some field goals from distances that other teams cannot. His kickoffs are a luxury that we are excited to have.”
Sophomore Tyler Pastula has quickly become one of the top punters in the country, ranking 18th nationally with an average of 42.8 yards per punt through Delaware’s first nine games this season. That average is atop the CAA and he leads the conference with 12 punts over 50 yards as well as having 20 kicks pin the opponent inside their own 20-yard line. Pastula, who also serves as Coe’s holders on field goals and PAT attempts, has earned back-to-back CAA Special Teams Player of the Week honors in wins over Dixie State and William & Mary, averaging 47.8 yards on five punts in the Blue Hens’ 24-3 win over the Tribe.
“We are really happy with the job that Tyler has done,” Legg said. “Some of the stuff that doesn’t come up in the stats is his awareness about certain situations. His numbers have been coming up as the season goes on and he has had a couple of really good performances in the past few weeks. We need him to continue that over these next couple of games.”
Coe and Pastula have had the benefit of having a mainstay at long snapper in redshirt senior Jake Reed. Reed, an Odessa, Delaware native, has appeared in all 29 of Delaware’s games over the past three seasons, providing accurate snaps on the team’s punts, field goals and PAT attempts. His job doesn’t end there as he is often one of the first Blue Hens down the field on punt coverage, contributing three tackles this season including a forced fumble against William & Mary that set up a Delaware touchdown.
“Jake has been doing an outstanding job for us,” said Legg. “He has been extremely consistent with his snapping, and even when he has a poor one, we have no hesitation in putting him right back out there.”
Junior Jourdan Townsend has handled punt return duties for the Blue & Gold since arriving on campus for the 2019 season. He has become one of the top returners in the CAA as he ranks third in the conference this season with an average of 7.1 yards per return. He had a 38-yard punt return earlier this season against UAlbany, giving the Blue Hens great field position that led to the go-ahead touchdown in Delaware’s 20-15 victory. Townsend has also been a force in kickoff returns in his career, averaging 20.1 yards on 19 returns in his three seasons.
“Jourdan has been a very reliable and durable punt returner since his very first week here,” said Legg. “This is a rare thing, but he was returning punts in his first game as a freshman. He was an outfielder as a high school baseball player and, while the routine fair catches are never routine, he has the ability to make them look easy.”
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