By David Collier is a junior broadcast journalism major in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.
Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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When Ole Miss battles Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl Saturday, the outcome of the game could come down to the little things, and probably will.
One thing that could change the game is the third area of a team that frequently goes under the radar: special teams. Today, we will take a look at the Panthers kicking game and return game to see if that could give them an advantage in Saturday’s contest.
This is the seventh and final part of a seven-part series where I will break down each position for Pittsburgh every Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the bowl game.
Senior Kevin Harper will be responsible for kicking field goals for the Panthers. On the year, Harper has made 19-of-26 attempts (73.1%) and 38-for-38 on extra points.
Harper leads the Big East and is tied for 13th in the country with an average of 1.58 field goals per game.
His season-long field goal is from 45 yards and his career-long is a 52-yard field goal last season, so Harper has the leg to boom one from long-range.
Harper is also the Panthers’ kickoff specialists, and he has 12 touchbacks on 66 kicks.
At punter, the Panthers have junior Matt Yoklic. He averages 41.1 yards on 55 punts and has landed 19 punts inside the 20-yard line. His career-long punt is a 62-yard kick against South Florida this season.
Ole Miss’ kickoff team will have to stick to their assignments going up against Pittsburgh’s leading kick returner in Lafayette Pitts.
Pitts, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound freshman defensive back, is averaging 25.77 yards per return, which ranks second in the Big East and 29th nationally. He marked his career-long return this season with a 64-yard kick return against Gardner-Webb.
On punt coverage, the Rebels will be up against senior Cameron Saddler.
The 5-foot-7, 160-pound wide receiver is Pittsburgh’s leading punt returner, averaging 7.4 yards on 17 returns. Saddler matched his career-long return against Notre Dame this season with a 31-yard return.
Saddler is also a primary kick returner, and he has averaged 19.7 yards on six returns in that role of duty this season.
Past Scouting the Panthers