Blocks give special teams boost

Special to The Palm Beach Post

Sunday, November 04, 2007

BOCA RATON After struggling on special teams for much of the season, Florida Atlantic seems to have hit on something good with its new field-goal blocking unit.

In the week leading up to its Oct. 20 game at Louisiana-Lafayette, FAU inserted eight reserves onto its field-goal defense.


The switch showed immediate results when Michael Lockley blocked an extra point attempt in a 39-32 the Owls' win against ULL in overtime.

"We wanted to get some fresh people in there who hadn't been playing as much, rather than have the defense that's been out there stay out there," FAU associate head coach and special teams coach Kurt Van Valkenburgh said.

The new unit notched a couple more timely blocks in last week's 33-30 triple-overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Mauricio Riquer's blocked field goal as time expired sent the game into overtime.

Lockley made his presence felt again in overtime, blocking a field goal in the first overtime that turned out to be the most controversial play of the game. The ball rolled across the line of scrimmage after Lockley's block, where a Warkhawks player kicked it forward, resulting in an illegal touching penalty that gave the ball back to ULM.

"Nobody really knows what the ruling was right there," Lockley said. "The referees haven't come back with what was the actually ruling they said on the field."

Success blocking kicks is nothing new to Riquer and Lockley, both redshirt freshmen. Riquer, who is just getting back from a knee injury, blocked an extra point against Fort Lauderdale-Boyd Anderson his senior season, providing the margin in a 7-6 victory for South Plantation.

Lockley, a reserve linebacker, says he blocked at least seven kicks or punts during his senior season at Orlando-Olympia.

"Anything we can do to better the team, we're all down for," Lockley said. "A lot of dudes in college football don't get a chance to be on the field, period."

Rest does wonders: Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of FAU's bye week was DiIvory Edgecomb. The junior running back/kick returner missed the Louisiana-Monroe game after spraining an ankle against Lafayette.

Van Valkenburgh said Edgecomb is progressing well and could be available Saturday when the Owls (4-4, 3-1 Sun Belt) host Arkansas State (4-5, 2-3).

Defensive linemen Robert St. Clair (knee and ankle) and John Mertilus (ankle) also had their practice limited this week to allow their injuries to heal.

"There's a lot of other guys with nicks and bangs that we did get to rest a little bit," Van Valkenburgh said.