Football coaches love to talk about the importance of all three phases of the game, but special teams often sounds like lip service. When Muhlenberg is involved in the conversation, special teams is a relevant topic.
Since 1999, the Mules have scored 25 touchdowns on special teams. In last Saturday’s 58-0 demolition of McDaniel, Muhlenberg blocked a 37-yard field-goal attempt and returned it 72 yards for a score and blocked a punt that the offense turned into a touchdown.
That aspect of the Mules (2-1 overall and 1-1 in the Centennial Conference) is a worrying point for No. 13 Johns Hopkins (3-0, 2-0).
“Special teams are very important,” Blue Jays coach Jim Margraff said Wednesday morning. “They have 25 special teams touchdowns in how many years. … They win in so many different ways that you’ve got to be fully prepared to play them.”
Margraff said the Muhlenberg’s high-risk, high-reward nature on special teams stems from head coach Mike Donnelly.
“He’s a gambler,” Margraff said. “He’s faked punts on his own 15 sometimes. They played McDaniel last week and blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown with a lateral somewhere in there. And they also blocked a punt. Many times, they’ll find their own way to change the game. They’ll manufacture a win in their own way sometimes. They’re just very good about that.”
The Mules are also adept inside opponents’ 20-yard line. The offense has scored touchdowns on 68.4 percent of its trips (13-of-19) into the red zone.
Senior quarterback Joe Carlucci has tossed three of those scores, and junior tight end Michael Long has been on the receiving end of two of those throws. Four of the 10 touchdowns have been recorded by senior running back Kevin Van Laar.
“They’ve been going both ways right now,” Margraff said. “They’ve done a nice job. They have a nice play-action package. They have a tight end that they feel is a great player. So he’s caught a couple inside the red zone. So they’ve been effective.”
Disrupting that rhythm will fall on the Johns Hopkins defense, which has allowed opponents to reach the end zone four times in six attempts this fall.
“They’re a good, tough team,” Margraff said. “They’re very well coached. I think they’ll be the first huge challenge for us right now. It’ll be an interesting game. They’re very efficient, they’re very good. So we’re looking forward to the challenge.”