TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – All in all, Alabama’s special teams had a solid performance during Saturday’s 62-10 home win over New Mexico State.
Freshman kicker and Hoover, Ala. Native Will Reichard delighted the crowd by kicking field goals of 48 and 49 yards to go with nine touchbacks on ten kick-offs. He also punted once for 39 yards.
Reichard hit each upright on missed field goals in last week’s win over Duke. Saturday, he nailed both attempts and both would have been good from over 50 yards. His teammates noticed, including his holder who had a bird’s eye view.
“That was good. That was awesome," said Tua Tagovaila, Reichard’s holder. “I mean, I don’t want to bash any of the other kickers we’ve had, but I mean it’s really good to know that we have someone that we can really, really trust to put out there (to kick) and we don’t have to go four downs and we need the first down to get closer (in range).
“Having the trust with Will being able to the ball and knowing how accurate he is, I mean it helps us.”
Reichard’s day wasn’t perfect, however. He did have one kickoff travel out of bounds to end his season-opening touchback streak at eleven. By rule, that gave the Aggies the ball at their own 35.
Sophomore Skylar DeLong started at punter and averaged 41 yards on three tries with a long of 44. Redshirt sophomore backup Joseph Bulovas kicked off once for 40 yards and the visitors from Las Cruces called a fair catch.
Sophomore Jaylen Waddle had a long punt return of over 60 yards called back on a block-in-the-back penalty, but still finished with 28 yards on three tries.
It was learned that, at least for Saturday’s game, the backup punt returner is redshirt freshman receiver Slade Bolden. Bolden failed to field the ball his first time back deep only to see the pigskin roll inside the 9-yard line. It’s something Bolden will hear about from both his head coach (Nick Saban) and his special teams coordinator (Jeff Banks) during film study, for sure.
When New Mexico State punter Payton Theisler decided to switch to rugby-style to keep the ball away from Waddle, Saban and Banks inserted senior Trevon Diggs to join waddle deep and it worked. Waddle was able to scoop a line-drive punt and reverse field for a 23-yard return.
Junior Henry Ruggs III was joined deep on kick-off returns by junior blocker Brian Robinson. Ruggs returned the opening kick-off19 yards. Late in the game that duo was replaced by freshman Keilan Robinson and redshirt freshman Jerome Ford on kick returns.