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October 17, 2012
There has not been a whole lot of noise surrounding NC State's special teams with the exception of a punt block by redshirt freshman defensive end Mike Rose to spark the game-winning drive in the 17-16 win over No. 3 Florida State.
And that's probably how special teams coordinator Jerry Petercuskie wants it. In fact, there is just one area that he would like to see some measurable improvement for the second half of the season.
"I'd like to see our kickoff returns step up a little bit," Petercuskie noted.
Fifth-year senior receiver Tobais Palmer is averaging 19.5 yards a runback, but Petercuskie also noted that State in its last two games has played against two of the best kick coverage teams in the country in Miami and Florida State.
"Even so we busted one for 50 against Miami which was a nice return," Petercuskie pointed out. "[FSU is] daring you to return the ball. [FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins] hanging it up there high, they got four guys that are inside the 25-yard line by the time the ball is caught. They're fast, and they are not little guys."
On punt returns, redshirt junior receiver Rashard Smith is averaging 11.1 yards a runback and has a 73-yard touchdown against The Citadel.
"Rashard has done a fantastic job of tracking the ball down and making the right decisions," Petercuskie said. "The time will come when we get the right punt, and he'll get a chance to return it like he has one time this year."
Kicking-wise, sophomore Niklas Sade is 5 of 8 on field goals with a long of 50 yards and has booted 21 of his 32 kickoffs for touchbacks. He is 21 of 22 on extra points.
What's been most pleasing is that Sade has come through in the clutch. Down three at Miami with 1:58 to go in the game, Sade nailed that 50-yarder, atoning for a missed extra point earlier in that contest that Petercuskie noted that misfire was partly caused by the snap coming sooner than when Sade was ready.
"We won't put him on the field unless we feel he can make it," Petercuskie stated. "He was hitting from 52, 53, he hit a 56-yarder in pregame warm-up. That ball travels down there. There was a mess up in communications [on the extra point], so we started the operation a little bit too quick for him and he wasn't ready. He's still got to make an extra point, that's no excuse, but it wasn't totally on him.
"I think he's come on now. He's done a good job since early in the season. He grinds at it hard. He understands the art form of what he is trying to accomplish. He's got a lot of physical abilities."
Sophomore punter Wil Baumann is averaging 40.9 yards on his 31 punts.
"Overall he's had a nice year," Petercuskie said. "He's gained confidence in himself. He recognizes when the rush is on, he's got to speed it up a little bit. He's done a great job progressing and understanding situations when he has to perform certain types of kicks. He's done a good job at that."