We know why we all love football. The big hits by middle linebackers on 3rd down at the goal line, the athletic over the top catches by wide receivers, the running back pops and hurdles, and the Hail Mary quarterback passes - but the reason many of these games are kept close and competitive is thanks to the undervalued contributions on Special Teams - the players who aren’t typically household names, but seem to bear all of the burden when things go awry. But today, we’ll choose celebrate the players whose contributions are invaluable to their teams’ success. So, without further adieu, here are a few of the top Mountain West Conference performers through Week 10, on Special Teams.
1. Jose Pizano, K - UNLV
Pizano has been everything you can ask for and more in a Place Kicker for the Runnin’ Rebs this season. The reliable Pizano has accounted for an astonishing 94 total points for UNLV already this season, nailing 19/20 FGs as well as a perfect 37/37 on extra point tries. His field goal conversion on September 30th against Hawai’i went for his longest of the year (52 yards), and he has been one of the highest scorers so far this season in the Mountain West.
2. Jack Browning, K/P - San Diego State
Jack hasn’t necessarily been relied on by his team as heavily as Pizano, however, he does out-launch him for the furthest mark this season among Mountain West kickers. While his FG conversion rate of 61.1% (11/18) is a bit more pedestrian, one of those conversions was a 61 yarder earlier in the season against Air Force, which is no small feat. Not only is he relied on heavily as a kicker for SDSU, but he takes over the punting duties as well. Someone take the rocket-launcher off of this guy’s leg!
3. Brandon Talton, K - Nevada
Talton’s numbers may not jump off the page from a casual viewer’s perspective, (10/14 FGs, 16/16 XPM, 46 TP) but surely Head Coach Ken Wilson realizes the level of impact he brings to the team’s success. Amidst the Wolf Pack’s offensive struggles this season, the Nevada kicker has accounted for over 30% of his teams total points this year, including the only points (6) in their first victory of the season over San Diego State just a few weeks ago. Now that is of tremendous value if you ask me.
4. Jakorey Hawkins, S - Wyoming
No, Hawkins isn’t a kicker, but he came up with one of the clutchest plays in Wyoming’s Week 4 victory over Appalachian State, returning a blocked field goal 60+ yards to the house with just under two minutes remaining to help seal the game for the Pokes. This is a prime example of how special teams can make or break a game, or even a season at times. This play helped Hawkins be named Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week too!
5. Malik Sherrod, RB - Fresno State
While Malik Sherrod is mostly known for his contributions on offense, he came up with a huge play on Special Teams for the Bulldogs last week in their one score victory over Boise State. In addition to the elusive running back’s 132 yards on the ground on offense, he also housed a 95-yard kick return at the end of the first half, which ended up being the difference in his team’s 37-30 victory over the Broncos in Week 10. Not a whole lot that the kid can’t do is there?