With our postseason coverage starting a bit early this year, it’s time to give out some individual grades and a small look at what’s to come in the 2020 season. We’re going to evaluate each position group as we deconstruct what went wrong for the ‘Cats over the course of 2019.
For our final group, we have the specialists.
Overall Grade: B-
Northwestern’s specialists had their highs and lows in what was overall an inconsistent season across the board.
The ‘Cats welcomed many new faces to the unit this year who met expectations for the most part, but fans still did not get the consistency they wanted from this group in 2019. The team took an approach of using different players for different responsibilities rather than having a single punter and kicker, which worked to its advantage at times. However, their successes were not always reliable in crucial moments.
The punting unit was consistent but not perfect. While the Daniel Kubiuk/Andrew David two-headed monster started well at the beginning, things dropped of mightily as they failed to match Jake Collins’ 2018 performance of a 40.49-yard average with seven punts over fifty yards and a long of 70.
Despite improving overall from a difficult 2018 season plagued by injury, Charlie Kuhbander also struggled at times in crucial moments and kept fans uneasy every time he trotted out there for a field goal.
Daniel Kubiuk: B
Stats: 43 punts, average 38.21 yards, 58 long
Early in the season, Kubiuk was a surprising bright spot for the ‘Cats. After spending five seasons in Evanston as a reserve quarterback, he took on the role as the starting punter in his sixth season as a graduate student. In the team’s struggles early on, Kubiuk was consistent. He finished the season with 43 punts, averaging 38.21 yards per punt with a long of 58 and four 50+ yard boots.
He became Northwestern’s de-facto short yardage specialist, dropping five punts inside the 20 on the year, which gives some much-needed context to his otherwise below average 38.21 yards per punt.
However, his successes came to an abrupt end after the Ohio State game when he only saw two more punts the rest of the season. After battling two catastrophic injuries and a position switch in his career, Kubiuk finally earned his playing time that was quickly stripped from him.
Ultimately, even in his successes, he still fell short of Northwestern’s standards from last season but was reliable in his sixth-year season.
Kubiuk and his dimes will be missed dearly.
Heisman Watch— Lucio Vainesman (@luchvain) September 14, 2019
Kubiuk punts this one to Wilmette pic.twitter.com/Z54kOOssO4
Andrew David: C+
Stats: 29 punts, average 36.35 yards, 66 long, AND AN AWESOME FAKE PUNT AGAINST PURDUE
Once Kubiuk’s playing time came to an abrupt end, David stepped up as the new primary punter for Northwestern. The graduate student started to heat up, almost matching Kubiuk’s numbers from earlier in the year. He let 29 punts fly, averaging 36.35 yards a kick with a long of 66 and two punts for over 50 yards.
By the time David took over, punting and special teams were rarely the focus of Northwestern’s concerns as special teams continued to produce average play amongst a below-average team. Still, NU didn’t get what they wanted from the grad student in his final year of eligibility. Outside from a dope fake punt for 17 yards against Purdue, it was a season to forget.
Charlie Kuhbander: B-
Stats: 10-for-14 FG, 17-for-18 XP, 44 long
Despite some flashes from promise, Kuhbander was inconsistent yet again this season.
He improved his field goal percentage by 20 percent, making 10-of-14 field goals and 17-of-18 extra points. He was 100 percent from 20-to-29 and 40-to-49 yards, but struggled from mid-range, only hitting 60 percent from 30-to-39 yards.
While he appeared to improve his confidence in general, a few catastrophic misses resulted in some difficult moments for the kicker. His four misses were crucial ones. A missed 38-yarder in Palo Alto would’ve made things a one-score game in the third quarter, and an inexplicable shanked 32-yarder against Purdue would’ve all but sealed an NU victory late in the game.
Inconsistency defined his year and as it has for most of Kuhbander’s time in Evanston. The former highly-touted high school prospect will have one final shot to redeem himself in his senior season.
Trey Finison: A-
Stats: 33 kickoffs, average 58.7 yards, one successful onside kick
Finison was an overall great addition to the special teams unit this year. The true first-year was one of the few who did not redshirt this season, as he appeared in all 12 games.
He was responsible for kickoffs, attempting 33 for an average 58.7 yards per kick with nine touchbacks and an onside kick.
It was refreshing to see a new face in the lineup this season, and his talent certainly showed. As he matures and gains more experience, we will see Finison step into a much larger role on this team.
Drew Luckenbaugh: Incomplete
Stats: 8 kickoffs, average 44.3 yards, one (accidental) successful onside kick
In his final season on the team, Luckenbaugh was used sparingly, as he has been all career. After a relatively action-packed season with a Kuhbander injury last year, including three-made field goals and a game winner against Nebraska, the walk-on only charted eight kickoffs for an average 44.3 yards and an accidental onside kick this year.
He lost his responsibility for kickoffs to Finison as Northwestern cycles him out and Finison into the program. Ultimately, we will forever be grateful to Luckenbaugh for that magical moment last fall against Nebraska when he was carried off the field in glory.