As Cal and Wazzu learned the hard way each of the past two weeks, you ignore Utah's special teams capabilities at your peril. It's a lesson that Washington will no doubt take to heart as they take on the Utes this evening.
Place Kicking: Coleman Petersen has made just five of 10 of his field goal attempts this year, going 3-5 on attempts between 40 and 49 yards, including a career-long 48-yard kick against BYU. He's been quite dependable on PATs, though, hitting 30 of 31 attempts.
Kickoffs: Third-year starter Nick Marsh has done an excellent job for Utah in kicking off for the Utes, averaging 62.5 yards per kick and knocking 18 of his 44 attempts for touchbacks. In addition, the Utes have the best statistical coverage unit in the conference, and ranks fifth in the nation in allowing just 17 yards per return to its opponents.
Punts: The Utes aren't nearly as proficient on punts as they are on kickoffs, ranking 10th in the conference in giving up 10.7 yards per return. In addition, Utah is tied with Colorado in giving up a conference-worst four returns of 20 yards or more in just nine games (Cal has also given up four of 20+ yards, but they have played 10 games).
Kickoff Returns: Travis Coons has one simple task tonight: Keep the ball out of the hands of Reggie Dunn. Utah's newly unveiled secret weapon has absolutely blown the doors off of Cal and Wazzu's kickoff coverage units, taking three of four kicks for touchdowns and averaging a jaw-dropping 55.4 yards per return this year because of it. One aspect of this phase that Washington should take heart from is that in three kickoff returns against quality opponents in USC, UCLA and Oregon State, Dunn averages a much more mortal 22 yards per return, with a long of 35.
Punt Returns: Redshirt freshman Charles Henderson had a great 85-yard punt return against BYU earlier this year, but otherwise has a very underwhelming average of 2.8 yards per return. Even taking the long play into account, Utah ranks 11th in the conference with just 6.5 yards per return, and has just one return of 20 yards or more.
As always, thanks to College Football Statistics, ESPN and College Injury Report for the relevant data that went into this article. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking below.
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