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Special Teams Make for Special Games: LSU undefeated while the Saints pick up the pace

By Stefan Muro

 

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Photo credit New Orleans Advocate

 

As you already know, the LSU Tigers have become a dominant football team with arguably the best running game in the country as well as a stout run defense to complement them. The Saints have won two of the last three games with pride – in receiving and defending the pass. Besides the inaccuracy of rookie kicker Zach Hocker, special teams has been the least important facet of the game until recently.

 
Going into the Thursday Night Football game against the previously undefeated Atlanta Falcons, the Saints were (1-4) for the year while being (0-2) in the NFC South. Needless to say even in the fifth week of the season, the 2015 campaign is already on the line. A loss at that point would’ve virtually put the Saints out of playoff contention along with a speculated dismissal of defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. Michael Mauti, son of former Saint Rich Mauti, blocked a punt in the first half that put the Saints up by two possessions. Not only did it fuel them to a much-needed victory, it possibly resurrected a season much like the one all Saints fans know from almost a decade ago.

 
Steve Gleason’s blocked punt meant so much to us; it propelled a then much-improved Saints team to inspire a city in anguish. It also inspired a young Michael Mauti to become a football player, especially because he was in the stands as a fan for that magical night in 2006. Nine years later, Mauti’s blocked punt inspired a restored city to keep faith in its football team in a time of despair. These plays were so similar; both teams even wore the same uniforms and the Saints won by the same 10-point margin. Ironically, Steve Gleason was on the sidelines to witness Mauti’s
blocked punt.

 
At the time, the #6 LSU Tigers hosted the #8 Florida Gators for an SEC showdown that most Tigers fans knew would be a close one. The Gators’ physical defense was the biggest test Heisman hopeful, Leonard Fournette, had faced all season. The smarts of quarterback Brandon Harris kept the Tigers in the game, but it was special teams play that created the game’s biggest impact moments.

 
After LSU’s 28-point run in the second quarter, the offense ceased to create an impact in the second-half and the Gators climbed their way back into the game. Tensions began to rise after a punt return from wide receiver Antonio Calloway, went all the way to the end zone to tie the game. Tiger fans then saw themselves on the edge of their seats after a failed 3rd down conversion on Florida’s 25-yard line. Instead of a field goal, Les “The Mad Hatter” Miles struck again.

 
Les called a fake field goal, for kicker Trent Domingue to run the ball in for the first down. Instead of a first down, he made it all the way to the end zone unscathed for the winning touchdown. The defense did prevent the Gators from scoring on the final drive, but it was the special teams that put the ball over the goal line rather than the Heisman front-runner in Leonard Fournette. The Saints and Tigers may lead completely different seasons with different tactics, but the special teams units shined in the moments we needed them the most.

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