Kansas State defensive tackle Raphael Guidry was named Big 12 Conference special teams player of the week on Monday in much the same fashion as Texas A&M cornerback Dustin Harris won the award the week before.
Lately, the best way to get leaguewide recognition for special-teams work is to line up against Texas Tech’s field-goal unit. Harris blocked a Red Raiders field goal that was returned for a touchdown, and Guidry blocked two Red Raiders field goals.
Talk about embarrassing.
“After A&M, we kind of harped on it, and today we harped on it a lot,” Tech offensive guard Deveric Gallington said after Tuesday’s workout. “We did a lot extra, a lot more reps in it, so I don’t think there’ll be another problem with it.”
The blocked kicks would have been troubling in any event, but they were magnified by the outcome of the games. Tech lost the Texas A&M game 45-40 and the Kansas State game 41-34.
The Red Raiders were trying to cut into a 31-23 A&M lead when Harris burst off the flank and swatted a field-goal try that teammate Terrence Frederick scooped up and carried 65 yards for a touchdown. One of the two blocked kicks Saturday gave Kansas State field position at the Tech 46-yard line, from which the Wildcats drove for a go-ahead touchdown late in the first half.
“It’s very aggravating to know the field goals were a reason why we lost,” said Gallington, a starter both on the regular offense and the field-goal team. “We just look forward to correcting it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The blocked kicks have overshadowed what might otherwise be an encouraging start for Tech kicker Donnie Carona. Long known for a strong but erratic leg, the senior from Beaumont Kelly has made eight of 12 this season — eight of nine on the ones that weren’t blocked. And four of his successful field goals were longer than 45 yards.
Tech coach Tommy Tuberville has absolved Carona of blame.
In the A&M game, Tech’s edge protection fanned on Harris, though Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown said he thought Harris was offside.
In the Kansas State game, Guidry shoved his way up the middle to get within about 3 yards of Carona on each of his blocks. He powered between center and guard once and between guard and tackle the other time, and Tuberville said there was nothing tricky about either.
“They just out-physicaled us,” Tuberville said. “Bottom line, there wasn’t anything other than the (lack of) effort.
“Accountability will go a long way, and it’s not fun to go through when you’re going through it. But the importance now of every snap, I think every player understands that.”
Gallington said the breakdowns were fundamental in nature — something that started with bad hand placement.
“It’s little things, not paying attention to detail,” he said.
Tech’s special teams have been exciting — for somebody — ever since Tuberville took over. Eric Stephens was the Big 12’s third-best kickoff-return specialist last year with a 24.3-yard average, and Ben McRoy ranks third this year with a 27.9-yard average.
But now field goals have replaced onside kicks as the bane of the Raiders. Last season, Iowa State and Baylor returned Tech onside kickoffs for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.
Tuberville said Tech’s field-goal protection can be cured by little more than better effort and concentration.
“We don’t have a lot of offensive linemen,” he said. “A lot of our starters have to play on that. Sometimes you get to a point where (you think), ‘We didn’t score that touchdown. Let’s kick this field goal, get to the sideline and get to the next series.’ But that snap is as important as anything else.”
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