With Air Force set to take on Rice in the Armed Forces Bowl on December 29th it is time to start…
Bowl Game Prep: Rice Special Teams
Punting - D
Rice get a D for their punt game because it is an under-performing unit. The punting is just terrible, Rice ranks 120th out of 124 teams in the country averaging just 37 yards per punt. The only plus side of this is that the return yards are kept down, only about 3.5 per return, and no one has scored a touchdown on the Owls in the punt game this year.
The Rice punt return game is also below average. The Owls average less than five yards a return on the season and have one touchdown. The touchdown, though, did not come on a standard return, but on a blocked punt return which Sam McGuffie took 12 yards to the house. Air Force will have to watch the Owls blocking specialists on game day.
Kickoff Unit - B
Rice rank right around the middle of the pack (55th) in kick return yardage giving up 20 yards per return. They have yet to give up a touchdown on a return yet this year though which says the tackling is solid and lanes are filled. They return kicks at a better than average clip however bringing the ball back an average of 24 yards every time it is sent their way. Jeremy Eddington returned a kick 97 yards for a touchdown against UTEP to seal the game so he has to be considered a threat.
Field Goals - B
Rice have only used one field goal kicker all season and junior Chris Boswell has been effective for the most part. He is at 81 percent for the season making 21 of his 26 attempts and Air Force will need to be especially aware of his ability to hit from long range. His long for the season is 57 yards and he is an impressive 6-of-7 from 50+. He also has no issues with fatigue as his 5-of-6 performance against SMU (including three from 50+) shows. That display may well be the best one game performance by a kicker anywhere in 2012.
Penalties - C
Rice give up 5.6 penalties per game for an average of around 53 yards. That is not bad by most standards but they are facing an Air Force team that leads the country with the fewest penalties each contest.
One hidden stat in the special teams conversation is that Rice's Cameron Nwosu had a record breaking game against UCLA early in the season. Nwosu blocked three extra points in one game, breaking the previous record of two, and with him on the field Air Force will have to pay a little more attention than usual on a seemingly simple extra point.
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