Experience key to special teams’ success
With Baylor’s flashy offense and improved defense, the third phase of the football team is often overlooked. Baylor’s special teams have been a model of consistency and have helped boost Baylor to some key victories. When the game is on the line, all eyes are on special teams because of the impact they can have on the outcome of a game.
Special teams errors can lead to potential points, becoming momentum changers that can energize the opposing team.
Senior placekicker Aaron Jones and junior punter Spencer Roth know all about that as each has had his share of close game experiences.
“It matters so much,” Roth said. “Special teams is so important because it’s such an advantage when we have good special teams.”
The significance of special teams was evident against Kansas State when Roth’s punt was blocked in the third quarter, shifting the momentum to the Wildcats. Kansas State went on to score a touchdown on the ensuing drive, which led to 12 unanswered points to put Baylor in a second-half deficit for the first time this season.
“We looked death in the face the other day and said not today,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “If you’re on the road and get a punt blocked, it’s about 90 percent that you do not win the football game. It not only deflates what you have going on, but it inflates the crowd.”
Roth got ridiculed and booed by the opposing fans, but that only fueled his fire. As a punter he had to trust himself and move on to the next kick. At 4th and 13, Roth responded with a 52-yard punt, despite being backed up at its own 15-yard line. Roth’s confidence and maturity allowed him to move on.
“You have to be confident as a kicker or you’ll break,” Roth said.
Roth hasn’t had much of an opportunity to punt because of how well the offense is doing. This year, he has punted 13 times, but averages 43.2 yards a bunt. Despite not having many chances, Roth doesn’t lack any confidence. His ability to be focused but keep a sense of humor is something he credits to enhancing his game.
Jones displays that same mentality, which contributes to the chemistry that the main special teams player have. When the game is on the line, Jones has his methods to keep light of the situations.
“Just to stay calm,” Jones said. “I talk to my holder Brody [Trahan] and my snapper Zach [Northern]. Those guys are great, most dependable guys that I know. I’m confident that they’re going to get the job done, so I can do my job.”
Jones is the all-time Baylor scoring leader with 375 points in his career. Jones has broken multiple school records such as most consecutive PATs made at 155 and most field goals made. For back-to-back years Jones is 100 percent on PAT’s and has connected on 58 percent of his field goals. His career long 58-yard field goal is the third longest in school history.
The pressure does not bother Jones, as he embraces the opportunity. Jones has put in time during the summer to improve his kicking and break even more records.
“Hopefully, I get the chance to break more,” Jones said. “It’s great to put my name in the record books, especially at a school like Baylor. The main goal though is to win games. That’s objective number one.”
Both players realize their importance to the team and continue to perfect their craft, so they can conquer in the critical moments.
While special teams can be a loose bunch, when it is time to make a momentum-shifting play, they are ready to impact the game.