ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Poor field position result of kick-return

By Ben Pherson

bpherson@postbulletin.com

The Post-Bulletin

; The Packers had major breakdowns in their kick-return unit throughout Friday's 35-0 loss to John Marshall. The miscues resulted in poor field position.

Austin committed three penalties on kickoffs -- two blocks in the back and a holding call. John Marshall kicked off six times, and the Packers' average starting field position on those kicks was the 14-yard line.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We put ourselves in a hole every time; I would like to hear what our starting field position was on kickoffs," Austin coach Tim Hermann said before the numbers were totaled.

Austin never started farther up than the 22-yard line on any kickoff, and started one drive at the 8-yard line.

Fresh number

Austin senior linebacker Dan Day sported a new number for Friday's game.

For Austin's first two games, Day wore No. 66, but he switched to No. 44 on Friday.

No, Day didn't just feel it was time for a change. The switch came because the Packers have suffered so many injuries, and Day was forced into action at tight end. He needed an eligible number so he could touch the ball, though a pass never came his way as he was used mainly as a blocking specialist.

Day, who is one of the team's defensive leaders, joins a growing list of Packers who are playing on both sides of the ball due to injury.

A new look

ADVERTISEMENT

Dustin Winsky saw action in a different role Friday night. Winsky, one of the team's defensive linemen, has seen time at fullback, but he was used in an h-back type role against John Marshall. On many of the Packers' inside runs, Winsky lined up as a receiver, then came in motion before stopping behind quarterback Zach Roberts. Winsky provided extra blocking for running back Chris Zink.

Not in the book

One big play that will not appear in the box score was a failed onside kick attempt by the Packers to start the second half.

The Packers lofted a short kick toward the home sideline at Art Hass Stadium. The ball appeared to be headed out of bounds, and in anticipation, a line judge threw a flag for illegal motion (the penalty called when a kickoff goes out of bounds). But the ball took a pro-Austin bounce, and appeared to stay in bounds. The Packers recovered the ball, but the official already had thrown the flag, though, and did not overturn his call.

No air time

The Packers continue to struggle in the passing game. Often Friday, receivers were open, but protection would break down, passes were dropped or balls were overthrown.

"Passing has to be more precise," Hermann said. "But you can't blame the quarterback. There were other things going on, too."

Hermann said the passing game has been one of the coaching staff's biggest frustrations this season.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We'd love to be more physical and to move the ball in a different way," Hermann said. "But we need our passing game to be better for us to be successful."

Quarterback Zach Roberts completed 8 of 19 passes for 37 yards. In three games this season, the Packers have only 72 yards passing and they have completed 14 of 42 attempts.

Filling in

Zavala and Will Hagan handled kick-return duties, filling in for injured starter Jon Gray, who is out for the season with a knee injury. John Marshall did not punt during the game, so Gray's replacement at punt returner did not see action, though Zavala likely will fill that role. Neither Zavala nor Hagan had a significant return during the game.

What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.