Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
After starting the season with a 3-3 record the Ohio State football team has won three consecutive games in Big Ten play, and the play of the Buckeyes’ special teams unit has everything to do with it.
First-year OSU head coach Luke Fickell said the special teams are a huge part of where the Buckeyes are at this point in the season.
“If you look at our special teams, it’s probably kept us in the games where we are right now,” Fickell said Oct. 25.
Led by sophomore kicker Drew Basil, junior punter Ben Buchanan and junior kick returner Jordan Hall, the special teams throughout the season has consistently been the most effective group on Ohio State’s squad.
“I know I have to go out there and help my team and do the best that I can,” Basil said after OSU’s 34-20 win against Indiana.
Basil has quietly connected on 12 straight field goals and converted all of his extra point attempts. To start the year, Basil missed his first two attempts, but since then, has not missed.
Basil said there is a process he now goes through that helps him battle pre-kick nerves.
“Honestly, what I do now is I just go back there and I take a deep breath before I start going,” Basil said. “Just that deep breath — it’s unbelievable what it can do. I pray to God before, during and after every game.”
Basil said during the first two games he was nervous. Now, he says those nerves are gone.
Buchanan is doing his share to boost the Buckeyes through the Big Ten. On the year, Buchanan has punted 50 times, averaging 41.3 yards per punt, with a long of 60 yards. He has placed 20 punts inside the 20 yard line.
Of those 50 punts, only one has resulted in a touchback.
Fickell said the punt team has impressed him so far.
“(Special teams has) done an unbelievable job. Punt unit especially. Ben (Buchanan) has sacrificed a lot of things as far as numbers-wise,” Fickell said on Oct. 25. “When you’re punting into the 40 yard line into the wind at Illinois, to punt that thing 19 yards, gave it to them on the 11 yard line.”
Buchanan has only had one punt blocked on the year, and that was against Toledo on Sept. 10.
Fickell spoke about the importance of special teams after OSU’s win over Wisconsin on Oct. 29. In OSU’s 33-29 victory over Wisconsin, the Buckeyes blocked a punt to set up a one-yard touchdown run from Hall.
“We had to make some plays and create momentum on the special teams,” Fickell said after the Wisconsin game. “Blocked punt is a huge, huge thing. The special teams really played well in every other aspect of the game.”
Basil, from Chillicothe, Ohio, said a lot of the credit for the kicking success goes to his snapper, sophomore George Makridis, holder Derek Erwin and the offensive line.
“They are definitely doing a great job with holding everybody up, getting the snap and hold down every time,” Basil said.
Basil said it feels good to be the number one kicker, adding that he is getting competition every week from freshman kicker Russell Doup.
“It’s nice to have a challenge.”
The Buckeye’s special teams unit figures to be a major factor as the team competes to win the Big Ten conference. If OSU wins the remaining games on their schedule and Penn State loses twice before the season ends, the Buckeyes will win the Leaders Division of the Big Ten. The NCAA’s pending announcement regarding program violations could exclude the Buckeyes from postseason play, as well as a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, however. OSU next takes on Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium Saturday at noon.