For much of last season, “Beamer Ball” looked like a lost art.
Returns for touchdowns were absent, blocked kicks and punts were a rarity, and there were very few special teams plays that helped the Hokies win games as they so famously did in the early 2000s.
Week one against Georgia Tech, it seemed as if the team was going to continue that trend in 2012. Every team has its early season kinks to work out, but based upon the special teams play on Labor Day night, it didn’t appear Tech fans had anything to be excited about.
But last Saturday against FCS opponent Austin Peay, the team seemed to get its groove back. Maybe it was because the quality of the opponent was drastically reduced, but regardless, Saturday’s game gave fans plenty of reason to get excited about Beamer Ball’s potential return.
“I think we just have to keep working at it," said head coach Frank Beamer who also focuses primarily on the special teams unit. "We spent a lot of time on special teams in preseason and it paid off on Saturday and am hopeful that it will help us win football games.”
Punter A.J. Hughes looked every bit like the true freshman he is against Georgia Tech. He looked rattled and overwhelmed at times which led to a fumbled snap on an early punt.
But last week against the Governors, Hughes looked relaxed and confident on fourth down, and it reflected in his play. He averaged nearly eight yards more per punt, and showed his great leg strength with a 53-yard boot.
“I think we took a step forward with our kicking game today,” Beamer said.
On kick returns and punt returns Tech has experimented with Holmes and Dyrell Roberts, but it might be it might be sophomore Kyshoen Jarrett earning the job.
Jarrett is known around the Tech locker room for having great speed and even better agility, but he really put it on display on a great 46-yard return all the way to the Austin Peay six-yard line, setting up a Michael Holmes touchdown for the first score of the day.
Then there was everyone’s favorite play of the game: the blocked punt.
With the offense sluggish and the game still frighteningly in Austin Peay’s reach, Tony Gregory timed a jump off the line brilliantly and made it to the backfield untouched to block a punt in the first quarter. It was the first blocked punt for the Hokies since week one of 2011 against Appalachian State, which Gregory also accounted for.
And while Gregory is still fighting for carries in the Tech backfield, Beamer said he could become the player who makes a big difference on special teams this year.
“He’s got a burst on the backside,” Beamer said. “He almost got another one. He’s got a burst of speed and I think a good knack for blocking kicks too.”