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More Special Teams’ Stats than You Can Shake a Stick at

Seriously, put that stick down.

Jonathan Krause is rather dangerous with the ball in his hands. I'm sure we'll kick it to him anyway.
Jonathan Krause is rather dangerous with the ball in his hands. I'm sure we'll kick it to him anyway.
Grant Halverson

N. C. State senior Tobias Palmer racked up 954 kickoff return yards for the season, fourth most at the FBS level, which tells us two things: 1) Palmer is a dangerous return man, and 2) Wolfpack opponents were kicking the ball off far, far too often. Palmer averaged a solid 25.2 yards per return and took one kick back 100 yards to the house that Chuck Amato built. Niklas Sade ranked fifth nationally in average kickoff distance and 11th in touchback percentage at a touch over 60%, making the kick return and kickoff units strengths for the Wolfpack, but overall Vanderbilt has a decided advantage in special teams.

In fact, the Football Outsiders rank State's offensive (70th to 86th) and defensive efficiency (38th to 42nd) ahead of Vanderbilt, but the Commodores enjoy a higher overall ranking (52nd to 56th) thanks to a special teams unit that ranks 6th nationally in efficiency. The Pack come in at 65th.

Commodore Jonathan Krause is one of just eight FBS returners to take multiple punts back for scores, and his 11.2-yard return average ranks 24th nationally. Punter Richard Kent's boot will soon have its own line of kung fu movies. Kent ranks 12th nationally with a 44.8-yard average and has deftly put 19 kicks inside the 20 with only three touchbacks. Kent has 16 boots of 50+ yards, which is basically two Wil Baumann punts put together.

Commodore placekicker Casey Spear nailed 19 of 22 field goal attempts, good for the 10th best accuracy in the FBS, and he was an impressive seven-for-10 from beyond 40 yards. Coach Franklin apparently has a soft spot for redshirt senior Ryan Fowler, who shared extra point duties with Spear. Spear was perfect in his 24 attempts but Fowler missed a couple.

Missing kicks has been something Pack fans have come to expect in recent seasons after having been spoiled for many years with accurate and sometimes even NFL-level placekickers (Cofer, Hauschka). Sade, while excellent on kickoffs, managed to connect on just over half of his field goal attempts and had two blocked. He also botched a pair of PATs. Baumann, who also had a kick blocked this season, is 90th in punting distance at the FBS level, which contributes to putting the Pack in a hole in a battle of field position.

If Vanderbilt has a special teams' weakness, it is in the kickoff and return game. Brian Kimbrow was 89th in return average and managed a long of only 43 yards. Spear only managed a touchback on a little over a third of his kickoffs, though that may have been a strategic decision to try to pin opponents inside the 25. While Palmer's 140.6 all-purpose yards per game is impressive (he ranks fourth nationally), hopefully he will not get too many opportunities to return kicks on December 31st.

See the chart below for special teams' statistical leaders for both Music City Bowl combatants:

N. C. State

Special Teams Stats


Punt Return Stats

Smith (33)

Punt returns

Krause (25)

Smith (311)

Punt return yards

Krause (281)

Smith (9.4)

Punt return average

Krause (11.2)

Smith (73)

Long punt return

Krause (83)

Smith (1)

Punt return TD

Krause (2)

Kick Return Stats

Palmer (38)

Kick returns

Kimbrow (20)

Palmer (957)

Kick return yards

Kimbrow (413)

Palmer (25.2)

Kick return average

Kimbrow (20.6)

Palmer (100)

Long kick return

Kimbrow (43)

Palmer (1)

Kick return TD


Punting Stats

Baumann (39.3)


Kent (44.8)

Baumann (4)


Kent (16)

Baumann (60)


Kent (67)

Baumann (5)


Kent (3)

Baumann (36)

Fair catches

Kent (16)

Baumann (16)

Inisde 20

Kent (19)

Baumann (1)



Kicking Stats

Sade (12)

FG Made

Spear (19)

Sade (21)

FG Attempts

Spear (22)

Sade (57.1)


Spear (86.4%)

Sade (4/8)


Spear (5/7)

Sade (1/3)


Spear (2/3)

Sade (50)

FG long

Spear (52)

Sade (2)

FG blocked

Spear (1)

Sade (41/43)


Spear (24/24)

Sade (63.9)

Kickoff average

Spear (61.1)

Sade (40)


Spear (22)