Monday, December 29, 2008

VANDERBILT SEASON REVIEW: Top 12 special teams plays of the year

We just got through counting down the top 12 offensive and defensive plays of the year for the Commodores. But, you may be wondering, what about special teams?

Good question. Here are our 12 Special Team Plays of Christmas:

1. UPSON PUTS GAME OUT OF REACH (AUBURN 10/4): Punter Brett Upson boomed a 55-yard punt that was downed at the 3 yard line with 2:16 left in the game and Auburn down one point. Myron Lewis would make an interception on the next play to end the game.

2. BOUNCE GOES VANDERBILT’S WAY (SOUTH CAROLINA 9/4): Early in the second half against South Carolina, with the Commodores unable to move the ball once again and forced to punt, the ball bounced off the Gamecock return man’s leg and was recovered by Ryan Hamilton at the SC31. The Commodores scored on the next play to tie the game.

3. D.J. RETURN GETS THINGS ROLLING (AUBURN 10/4): With Vanderbilt struggling to move the ball against Auburn, D.J. Moore reeled off a 25-yard punt return to the AU30 late in the first half. The stage was set for Mackenzi Adams’ passing heroics.

4. STOKES BLOCKS FIELD GOAL (SOUTH CAROLINA 9/4): After Vanderbilt tied the game 10-10 in the third quarter, South Carolina drove 70 yards to set up a field goal attempt by ace kicker Ryan Succop. The kick was blocked by John Stokes, who picked it up and ran 17 yards. Five plays later, Vanderbilt scored a touchdown to take the lead.

5. TIGER MISS TURNS OUT TO BE DIFFERENCE (AUBURN 10/4): Vanderbilt forced Wes Byrum to miss the PAT after the Tiger’s second touchdown of the first quarter. It would be the difference in a 14-13 game.

6. D.J. NEEDS 92 YARDS, GETS 91 (MIAMI-OHIO 8/28): Seconds after sacking the Miami quarterback to force fourth down, DJ Moore took a punt 91 yards to the Redhawks 1 yard line, which led to a Chris Nickson touchdown run and a 17-3 first quarter lead for the Commodores.

7. UPSON PUNTS, HAMILTON RECOVERS (AT OLE MISS 9/20): With the Commodores pinned back to their 3 yard line and forced to punt at the start of the half, Brett Upson boomed a 48-yard punt that was recovered by Ryan Hamilton at the Rebel 47. The Commodores didn’t capitalize, but after another Upson punt they were once again ahead in the field position battle.

8. UPSON PINS OWLS (RICE 9/13): With the Rice offense smoking hot and the Commodore offense struggling, punter Brett Upson pinned the Owls back on their own 2 yard line with a 40-yard punt in the first quarter.

9. HAHNFELDT GIVES BREATHING ROOM (RICE 9/13): Bryant Hahnfeldt booted a 48-yard field goal, his longest of the season, to give Vanderbilt a 31-21 lead and a little breathing room in the third quarter against Rice.

10. UPSON BACKS UP REBELS (AT OLE MISS 9/20): With Vanderbilt losing the game and the battle for field position in the second quarter against Ole Miss, Brettt Upson boomed a 52-yard punt that pinned the Rebels back to their 16 yard line and sent the message that Ole Miss wasn’t going to score again.

11. D.J. MAKES FAMILIAR LANDING (RICE 9/13): DJ Moore returned a punt 52 yards to the Rice 1 yard line, his second punt return in three games to fall a yard short. Nickson would score on the next play to give Vanderbilt a 38-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.

12. RETURN OF HAHNFELDT (AT KENTUCKY 11/15): Just before the half, Bryant Hahnfeldt hit a 39-yard field goal to give Vanderbilt a 24-7 lead. It was his first field goal in two months.

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