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Commentary: Special teams need to become a priority

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

This time last year, I was sitting in front of my TV, wondering why Ohio State’s special teams play was terrible.

Today, I’m sitting in the press box wondering the same thing.

In the off-season, coach Luke Fickell assigned special teams coaching duties to coach Dick Tressel. Last year, the team was without a special teams coordinator. Last year, OSU kept teams in games because of special teams mistakes on several occasions..

This year seems to be no exception.

In the first half of Saturday’s game against Toledo, OSU had a punt blocked that was returned inside the 1-yard-line. That folly led to an 8-7 Toledo lead.

The woes didn’t end with the punting game.

Sophomore kicker Drew Basil has now missed both of his field goal attempts on the season. Each kick was in the 40-50 yard range.

OSU did have some special teams successes on the day, including one that ultimately kept it in the game.

Wide receiver and third punt returner Chris Fields took a line drive punt from Toledo’s Vince Penza to the end zone to put OSU up, 21-15.

In the third quarter, defensive back Vincent Petrella tackled Toledo’s holder for a loss after a bobbled snap on a 50-yard field goal attempt, giving the Buckeyes great field position.

The ensuing drive led to a TD by running back sophomore Carlos Hyde.

With wide receiver and special teams specialist Eric Page creating almost all of Toledo’s offense on the day, I’m more than a little surprised he did not return a kickoff for a touchdown.

Page did, however, give the Rockets great field position with almost every kick return, either because of his effectiveness or the fear of kicking to him. Basil deliberately kicked short, line drives on kickoffs to the Rockets to keep the ball out of Page’s hands.

Special teams needs to become a priority for the Buckeyes. The touchdown resulting from the blocked punt sparked the Toledo offense and gave them the passion they needed to keep the game interesting. The Rockets were one score away from handing Ohio State a big loss early in the season. 

Last year the kickoff coverage was the problem for the Buckeyes. This year it seems the entire special teams unit could use an overhaul. 

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