The special teams unit played a key role in the football team’s success down the stretch during the 2009 season. As the Blue and Gold prepare to kick off the 2010 season, the team will look to its special teams to help control the flow of the game.
“The most important factor is field position,” Head Coach Mike Welch said. “Special teams dictate field position, and you have a very high percentage of winning if you win that part of the game.”
While covering on special teams last season, the Bombers held opponents to a mere 3.2 yards per punt return, thanks in large part to the type of players contributing in coverage.
“[We have] guys with speed and [who] can cover, [and who] can operate in space,” Welch said. “Typically [they’re] defensive backs, linebackers, fullbacks and wide receivers. Those typically are our special teams players.”
In last season’s annual Cortaca Jug against SUNY-Cortland, the special teams showed how they could change the outcome of a game.
It was junior place-kicker Andrew Rogowski who made the largest impact in the Bombers’ drive for their third consecutive victory against Cortland. Rogowski kicked three field goals, and contributed two punts of 54 and 55 yards that helped pin the Red Dragons deep in their own territory in the season finale for the Bombers.
The Blue and Gold pulled out a 23–20 victory and won back-to-back games for the first time all season, with the special teams accounting for 18 of the team’s 54 total points in those victories.
Along with his accomplishments in the Cortaca game, Rogowski set the Bombers’ all-time record for field goals in a season with 12 last year, in addition to converting 31 of 33 extra point attempts.
“[Rogowski] has bailed us out and now he’s really maturing into a really outstanding kicker,” Assistant Coach Mark Ross said. “He’s got a good leg and he’s certainly earned our trust. We’ve got a lot of faith in him when we put him on the field.”
Rogowski’s outstanding performance on the field earned him recognition not only from coaches, but also in the national spotlight. The Bombers’ kicker was named one of the 40 finalists for the national Fred Mitchell Outstanding Place-Kicker award.
“It’s a pretty big honor,” Rogowski said. “They only picked about 12 Division III kickers I saw [on the list], so it’s exciting.”
The Blue and Gold have several other players, aside from Rogowski, who can impact a game when the offense and defense are on the sideline.
Welch and Ross said senior kick and punt returner Dan Ruffrage is an impact player on special teams. Ruffrage led the Bombers in punt return average last year with 14.8 yards per
return and ranked second on the team in kickoff return average at 18.3 yards per return.
Sophomore wide receiver Andre Jamison is another player looking to contribute on special teams this season. Welch said Jamison’s current skill set is “very, very good,” and Ross said he has “nasty speed.”
For the Blue and Gold to get back to the NCAA playoffs it will take solid play from the team all around.
“Generally, [special teams] were very solid [last season],” Welch said. “[Special teams] were a key factor in many of our games so we want to continue that or even bring it up another notch.”