The two kickers the University of Toledo football team has used for kickoffs this season, Brett Brodbeck and Mike Krispinsky, have combined for five tackles.
If that isn't enough to convey the adventures of the Rockets' kickoff coverage unit since the tees were moved back to the 30-yard line at the start of the year, then consider this: in four of UT's first eight games, the other team averaged starting drives at its 39-yard line.
It's one reason why although the Rockets are next-to-last in the country in scoring defense, they are 106th in the nation in total yardage allowed. Time after time, special teams breakdowns have given the opposition a short field.
Last week, UT coach Tom Amstutz and assistant Andy Boyd decided that to change these trends, they would have to get a little creative. As a result, Ohio's offense averaged starting at its 25-yard line.
Amstutz gave Brodbeck kickoff responsibilities and instructed him to throw
everything in the book at the Bobcats. In addition to a few normal kickoffs, Brodbeck executed sky kicks, where he popped the ball high in the air, and also a couple power squib kicks.
The power squib, grounding the ball with force, was the trick that gave the Rockets their first touchback of the season in the fourth quarter.
"You don't see a squib kick going through the end zone every day," Brodbeck said. "That's pretty much just luck. You try to get a good kick, squib as best as you can, but it's really up to the returner whether he can field it or not."
UT recruited Brodbeck, from Brentwood, Tenn., because of his strong leg and versatility. In his freshman season Brodbeck has not yet found consistency with a deep ball, but he offers other assets.
"Eventually he will be strong enough to pound it into the end zone, but for now we're just trying to get the ball pinned down there and make the team have to go a long way," Amstutz said.
The coverage unit didn't have to change its strategy with every new kick, but it used different players. The Rockets played several starters on the coverage unit, as well as freshmen Gordon Warner and Greg Harris.
"Everybody just had a will to find that ball," senior Greg Hay said. "You've got to have the right attitude to go and knock some heads off, and find the ball."
THUMBS UP FOR NEW RULES: One coach who is happy about the new sideline rules for college basketball coaches, if they are enforced, is UT's Stan Joplin. The NCAA announced officials would be stricter this season about assessing technical fouls to coaches who use profanity or abusive language.
Coaches who have "unsportsmanlike actions, in or out of the coaching box" will be whistled for a direct technical foul without a warning.
Joplin said he believes coaches who are emotional on the sidelines have an advantage with officials. As a more-low key coach, he said he has never altered his style because, "I think that would be phony.
"I think what happens is, if one coach sees another getting away with something, he's going to try to do the same thing," Joplin said. "They would play for another call. A lot of times you would say, do I have to act like the guy down the bench or do I have to be a jerk."
AROUND CAMPUS: The UT women's soccer team has three regular-season games left and is in second place in the league. The top four MAC teams will host first-round games in the league tournament. UT, which has never hosted a MAC first-round tourney game, plays Akron today at 3 p.m. at Scott Park and Ohio on Sunday at 1. The UT volleyball team plays its last home matches of the season this weekend. The Rockets are still searching for their first MAC win. Eastern Michigan comes to Savage Hall tonight and Central Michigan tomorrow.
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