Georgia State’s special teams key against Tennessee

Excellent play by Georgia State’s special teams is one of the ways the Panthers can try to keep Saturday’s game at Tennessee close.

They can’t miss field goals and they can’t give up unnecessary yards on kick returns and punt returns.

Georgia State’s special teams, other than the field-goal unit, played fairly well against South Carolina State, providing some hope for this week.

Matt Hubbard averaged 62.2 yards per punt, including an 80-yard bomb. He said on Wednesday that he’s never kicked a punt that long in the game. His effort resulted in the Colonial Athletic Association special teams player of the week. The average would have set an FCS record, except the NCAA doesn’t recognize the effort because Georgia State is in year one of a two-year transition to FBS.

Hubbard said the 80-yard punt felt good coming off his foot, but even he was surprised that it traveled some 60-yards in the air. He credited the gunners on the outside for getting down the field quickly not just  on that punt, but on his four others, which helped his average.

Hubbard, a sophomore and native of Peachtree City, was one of the bright spots on the special teams last year after he averaged 41.9 yards per punt.

Hubbard grew up playing goalie on soccer teams, and then transitioned into football. Once he got serious about punting, he got a punting coach. He credits graduate assistant Brandon Lupo for helping him with his fundamentals at Georgia State. He said Lupo is teaching him to keep his stride into the punt short, which produces more power.

In addition, Georgia State’s kick-return team limited South Carolina State to 20.5 yards per return, and it averaged 24.1 yards per return. Georgia State averaged 18.8 yards per return last year, and opponents averaged 20.5.

Benvenuto’s back

While Hubbard was solid, Georgia State’s field-goal teams weren’t as good. However, they could get a lift from the return of Christian Benvenuto. He was suspended for the opener as a result of an offseason arrest.

David Miller won the kicking job during Benvenuto’s suspension, but was scratched from the South Carolina State game because of a foot injury. Matt Ehasz came on and missed two of his four attempts against South Carolina State, including a 24-yarder that hit the upright.

Despite dealing with hamstring and hip-flexor injuries last year in his right (kicking) leg, Benvenuto was the team’s most accurate kicker, hitting nine of his 17 attempts. Six of his misses were from 45 yards or longer. He said he is 100-percent healthy.

Coach Bill Curry said the starting kicker for this week’s game will likely be a game-time decision because he said they are all kicking well.

“I’m really excited to come back and show the guys I want to be here,” Benvenuto said. “This is what I want to do and what I came here for.”

Benvenuto said he never thought about quitting the team after the April arrest, because he said “it feels like home.”

But he did learn a lesson.

“Coach Curry says that adversity reveals if you are a true man,” Benvenuto said. “I’m not saying I’m a grown man or done maturing. But after something like what happened to me happened, you have two choices: You can go back home and stay home, say I’ve had my shot and it’s over.

“Or you can come back, which is what I’ve done, try to come back with a vengeance and showcase what we can do as a unit.”

Woodard shines

Curry and defensive coordinator Anthony Midget said they were pleased with the play of the defensive linemen and linebackers in the loss to South Carolina State. Curry repeatedly singled out nose tackle Terrance Woodard, saying he played the best game of his career. He finished with a  five tackles, including a tackle for loss.

“My point of emphasis is just to get off the ball and create havoc in the backfield to give the defense an opportunity to make a big play,” Woodard said.

He credited having four down linemen in the new 4-2-5 system for helping him produce a career-high in tackles.

“It makes it easier to get through,” he said. “There’s less people to worry about.”

Georgia State’s defensive linemen will face one of their biggest challenge against Tennessee on Saturday. The Vols’ starting offensive line averages 319 pounds. Georgia State’s defensive line averages 278. Woodard didn’t seem worried.

“Getting off the ball is everything,” Woodard said. “If I can get off the ball and get into them I can beat them.”

Woodard also credited losing weight (he won’t say how much) with improving his quickness, which is improving his results. He was listed at 320 pounds in last year’s media guide and this year’s.

“I feel two-times quicker,” he said.

Other stories for you (click on the headline)

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– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu

32 comments Add your comment

Twayne Slavvoe

September 6th, 2012
8:31 am

Red Panther

September 6th, 2012
8:49 am

Let’s go Panthers; great opportunity to make your mark

Maddog

September 6th, 2012
9:06 am

I’ll say this… good thing Ga State has a decent punter. Hope the team gets out of it healthy. Also, what’s Curry doing with this guy coming off an arrest and just a 1-game suspension? Seems the team has quite a few suspended players.

A person SMART enough to know.....

September 6th, 2012
9:25 am

A person SMART enough to know.....

September 6th, 2012
9:26 am

Excellent play by Georgia State’s special teams is one of the ways the Panthers can try to keep Saturday’s game at Tennessee close.

GaState might keep it close if the Vols don’t come out of the locker room.

A person SMART enough to know.....

September 6th, 2012
9:27 am

How can GaState keep it close?
PRAY the Vols can’t find their own stadium.

A person SMART enough to know.....

September 6th, 2012
9:28 am

How MUCH is GaState getting paid for this game?

doug roberson

September 6th, 2012
9:33 am

John Bond

September 6th, 2012
9:51 am

I will try not to tank this game for our players. No promises. So tell me more about this running back you all speak of!

Who Cares?

September 6th, 2012
9:55 am

The first line of this article made me laugh so hard I couldn’t get through the rest of it. Really?? This story is a bit of a stretch isn’t it and just pure filler I’m guessing. No way you honestly believe because the punter can kick the ball 60 yards this game will be close. If anything him kicking the ball and flipping the field will just give UT more offensive yards.

A person SMART enough to know.....

September 6th, 2012
9:55 am

Doug….$500K? damn Buffalo got $975K to play the dWags. I think GaState should have been paid more.

Doug Roberson

September 6th, 2012
10:14 am

Buffalo is FBS. I don’t think Ga. State counts as a FBS yet, though it is in year 1 of the transition.

GSUdpb

September 6th, 2012
10:22 am

Hubbard was a machine last week but unfortunately pinning the Vols deep just helps them put up even more yards against the Panthers.

outsider

September 6th, 2012
10:26 am

in response to Maddog, CBC lifted suspensions for KH and DL last year for their off field action. There are players all over this country that have been charged with felonies not misdemeanors(what CB was charged with)and serve 1 game suspensions, it’s up to each individual program to decide.

Anonymous

September 6th, 2012
10:27 am

Georgia Southern Fans = Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

urinal and constipation reader

September 6th, 2012
10:45 am

I knew it would be painful for the faithful followers, but damn, this is funny… don’t see a win this year

GaDawg

September 6th, 2012
11:33 am

Wondering if Dan Williams will play this week against Tenn due to his injury last week, if not who will start in his position?

[...] Special teams could be key for Georgia State against Tennessee [...]

Doug Roberson

September 6th, 2012
11:51 am

Williams has been practicing with the team.

Chicken Bone

September 6th, 2012
12:03 pm

Doug, Will Nermin Delic play?

Panther fan

September 6th, 2012
12:17 pm

Wil Christian takeover kickoffs? Or will it stil be the freshman Lutz?

Doug Roberson

September 6th, 2012
12:57 pm

Don’t know yet. I would imagine Lutz will. He did a good job on Thursday.

Doug Roberson

September 6th, 2012
12:58 pm

Delic hasn’t been cleared by the NCAA. Even if he had, he hasn’t been able to practice because of an ankle injury

lol@GagSt

September 6th, 2012
1:09 pm

Go Panthers!!

September 6th, 2012
1:50 pm

It very well could be 77-0.

That would not surprise me.

John Bond

September 6th, 2012
4:59 pm

77-0 is accurate and was what I was shooting for against SC State, but I accidentally put Donald Russell in the game. This resulted in longer and farther offensive plays than the normal 3 and out I am always striving to accomplish. Sorry guys, we will make sure the score is 77-0 or greater, and will ensure this by leaving all of our running backs in Atlanta.

GSU season ticket holder

September 6th, 2012
6:07 pm

I would love to see us score atleast one TD & not miss any fieldgoals under 40 yards. Hubbard is a beast

Who Cares?

September 6th, 2012
6:15 pm

Yay go team! Rah Rah Rah! I hope we have net punting yards! Yeah well I hope we set a record for biggest tv market in the world. Oh yeah, well we’re going to have everyone high 5 each other after every play! #stateofschoolspiritnotrivaledbyaconventionofhighschoolcheerleaders

urinal and constipation reader

September 6th, 2012
6:18 pm

77-0…whoa..gonna be a tail kickin but i dont think it will be that bad.. 63-6

state

September 7th, 2012
8:32 am

#STATEOFSHOCKAMIRITEBENANDPANAMA?

Willjbutcher

September 7th, 2012
7:32 pm

Alabamastan

September 8th, 2012
12:31 pm

I went to UT and my wife went to GA State. This is the first time in 21 years of marriage we’ve had a sports rivalry and it’s not on TV.