In high-scoring games, which Saturday's contest has all the makings of, the importance of special teams tends to be overlooked. But any knowledgeable football observer knows that the winner of the field position battle is always in a good position to win the game, which is why big performances from freshmen Marvin Hall and Jaydon Mickens could go a long way toward swinging the momentum on Saturday into Washington's favor.
Place Kicking: Senior John Bonano, a 2011 all-conference honorable mention player, is a less-than-stellar 14 for 23 (61 percent) in his career when kicking field goals, but made two clutch shots from 33 yards in Arizona's eventual overtime loss to the Stanford Cardinal. In addition, he's a perfect 26 for 26 on extra points in 2012.
Kickoffs: Bonano also handles kickoff duties for the Cats, and ranks among the huge mass of average-to-above-average college kickers who consistently boot it about 62 yards or so. Their coverage team plays particularly well, having given up only two returns 40 yards or longer out of 38 total kickoffs. Marvin Hall, as Husky fans know, has been thisclose to breaking off a handful of returns for trips to the end zone, but I don't know that I'd bet on that finally happening this weekend, even if the overall quality of the Wildcat squad is measurably less than Washington's other recent opponents.
Punts: Kyle Dugandzic is Arizona's starting punter for the second consecutive year, and through six games, his average from last year is slightly down, from 46 yards to 44.4. The Wildcats give up an average of 7.6 yards per punt return to opponents, and in one stat line that should look promising to Washington fans, has given up two returns for 20 or more yards on just 23 total punts.
Kickoff Returns: Daniel Jenkins has been the Wildcats primary KO return man in 2012, averaging an unimpressive 16.4 yards per return so far. Moreover, he's shown himself to not be much of a home run threat, as he's yet to take a return for over 20 yards. That being said, Washington has given up seven returns of more than 30 yards this year, which ranks 104th in the nation. I'm not sure who holds the advantage here, but one thing seems certain: Whatever happens in this phase of the game isn't going to be particularly pretty.
Punt Returns: Richard Morrison has fielded all 10 of Arizona's punt returns this year, averaging just 6.3 yards per return. Like Jenkins, he doesn't figure to be much of an end zone threat on any given punt. The simple fact is that Arizona's sieve-like defense doesn't procure too many punt opportunities for him, and thus he hasn't had many chances to make anything happen after the catch.
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