ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan completed its second consecutive 10-win season, but did so on a down note with a 33-32 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.
Landof10 is taking a look at how Michigan (10-3, 7-2 Big Ten) fared this season, and today’s review is on special teams.
While much of the focus on Michigan’s special teams was on where and how Jabrill Peppers could possibly return the ball, Michigan finished in the top four in the Big Ten in five special teams statistical categories and had a quiet standout in that unit in kicker Kenny Allen.
Allen handled all three phases of the kicking game, and thrived after struggling Oct. 1 in a 14-7 win against Wisconsin where he went 0-for-2 on field goal attempts
|By the numbers||2016||Big Ten rank||NCAA rank|
|Field goal %||79.2||4th||T-37th|
|Extra point %||100||T-1||T-1st|
|Kickoff touchback %||55.79||3rd||25th|
|Kick return yards/return||18.69||14th||110th|
|Kick return yards/allowed||22.10||11th||92nd|
|Punt yards return/return||14.28||1st||8th|
|Punt yards return/allowed||6.52||7th||47th|
When it came to Michigan’s special teams, the first question that always seemed to be asked was, “what will Peppers do?”
But the most productive player on special team was Allen. Motivated by his underachieving performance and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s public declaration that the field-goal kicking competition had re-opened at midseason, Allen reclaimed the job, and strengthened his hold on punting and kickoff duties.
Allen finished 15-for-15 on field goals in Michigan’s final seven games, averaged 64.2 yards on kickoffs and 43.7 yards on punts.
That’s not to say Peppers didn’t have an impact on special teams. The Heisman Trophy finalist led Michigan in punt returns (14.8 yards, TD) and kickoff returns (26 yards). He also played on the special teams coverage units, with a memorable special-teams play in a 32-23 win at Michigan State.
Michigan led the nation with four blocked punts, was second in the nation with seven blocked kicks and didn’t allow any kick returns for touchdowns.
Special teams efficiency also has trickled down to Michigan’s younger players. In the Orange Bowl against Florida State, Josh Metellus’ 2-point PAT return with 36 seconds left brought Michigan within one point of Florida State and gave it a chance for a final comeback.
Overall special teams: A-minus
Check out the grades for other aspects of Michigan’s 2016 season: