The 2017 season didn’t exactly start smoothly for N.C. State’s special teams unit. On the opening kick of the Wolfpack’s first game, South Carolina returner Deebo Samuel returned the kick 97 yards for a touchdown.
The Wolfpack have continued to struggle in the kicking game since. Coach Dave Doeren addressed some of those struggles Wednesday in a Raleigh News and Observer story by Joe Giglio.
N.C. State has two kickers who see regular action. Kyle Bambard handles the kickoff duties while Carson Wise makes place kicks. Both Bambard and Wise have struggled through the Wolfpack’s first two games.
After allowing Samuel’s return touchdown in Week 1, Doeren said the team practiced kick coverage extensively in the week leading up to its Week 2 showdown with Marshall. Marshall return man Keion Davis had two return touchdowns in Week 1, so Bambard was instructed to kick the ball away from Davis.
For the most part, Bambard did so. But in the third quarter, Davis took a kickoff 94 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown. Fortunately for the Wolfpack, the play was called back due to a holding penalty. The only other time Davis touched the ball on a kickoff, he returned it 34 yards and could have gone farther if not for a tackle by Bambard.
Doeren said Bambard shares the blame with the coverage unit for Davis’ big returns.
“We can’t kick the ball down the middle and land it on the 10-yard line on a kickoff,” Doeren said. “We need to put the ball where it needs to go and leverage it and tackle the way we did throughout the game.”
Meanwhile, Wise has had issues this season as well. Wise missed a 29-yard field goal against South Carolina. Against Marshall, he made a 31-yarder but missed an extra point and had another extra point hit an upright before bouncing through.
According to the News and Observer, Doeren said extra points should be “gimmes” but did not indicate that he would replace Wise at place kicker.