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Monday, October 30, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 66, Issue 50 

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UH special teams lacks consistency

By Keenan Singleton
Daily Cougar Staff

Games can be won with great defenses and bad offenses or vice versa. But games can't be won if the special teams unit isn't "special."

Besides kick-offs, field goals and punts, the special teams establishes one of the most important elements in football: field position.

UH's 6-3 loss to No. 14 Southern Miss was a game where neither team's defense wanted to surrender a yard.

"Field position is a crucial part of football, especially in such a low-scoring game as this one," head coach Dana Dimel said. "We didn't take advantage of our good field position when the wind was at our back."

The stiff 15-mph breeze at Robertson Stadium battered kicker Mike Clark's missed 46-yard field goal with less than one minute remaining.

"It was a tough field goal at 46 yards the way the wind was blowing," Dimel said. "He had a clean shot, but a 46-yarder's isn't a high percentage kick. He kicked it true but it sailed a little to the left."

The odds of making the kick would have been much better had the wind not shifted, or if quarterback Jason McKinley hadn't been sacked at the 29-yard line.

"We had good field position and lost the wind advantage," Dimel said. "Our offensive line made a crucial mistake by giving up that sack to force us back a bit."

All has not been bad for special teams this season.

It has had several game-altering plays: Emile White's blocked field goal with six seconds left to beat Army and Alvin Lee's blocked punt in the same game.

But more often than not, the big plays have come against UH.

Five of Clark's field goal attempts have been blocked, while punt returners have managed only 41 yards this season. Long-snapper Mike Zajac had trouble getting the ball up in the first half as four snaps skidded on the grass.

"We had three or four snaps hit the ground, but we put in Lance Phillips and he got the job done," Dimel said. "Our punt protection was outstanding. They got tested and our whole special teams played better as a unit today."

Dimel said responsibility for muffed punts and blocked field goals should fall equally on Clark and the unit.

"We've got to get him doing some things better," Dimel said. "We have to get the ball down for him."
 

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