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Wisconsin football 2019: Top five special teams plays

Which special teams plays made the cut for the top five on the year?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 Big Ten Championship Game Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the regular season in the rearview, the Wisconsin Badgers (10-3 overall, 7-2 B1G) football team now have their sights set on the Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks (11-2 overall, 8-1 Pac-12) on the first of January.

While B5Q will no doubt preview and breakdown the upcoming matchup with the Ducks, this week let's look back at the top plays in each of the three phases of the game.

First up, is the special teams. Here are the top five plays on the season from the special teams unit.

Honorable Mention: This chaotic safety...

I am not going to go into too much detail on this, but nothing went right for Central Michigan against Wisconsin, this play included. After dropping a punt in their own territory, the Wisconsin defenders were all over this play to clean up the mess and add to an early lead over the Chippewas.

No. 5: Zach Hintze touchback from the 20

Against the Northwestern Wildcats, Noah Burks scored a defensive touchdown on a 68-yard interception return. After the play he was cited for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that backed the kickoff unit to the 20 yard line. Without flinching, Zach Hintze drilled a touchback through the end-zone on the fly in amazing fashion. While this kick was only one of his 65 touchbacks on the year, it was by far the most impressive. Hintze was an absolute weapon for the special teams all season long on kickoffs, and this kick showed exactly why, as Wisconsin would go on to with 24-15 over Northwestern.

No. 4: Isaac Guerendo 49-yard kickoff return trickery

At the middle stages of the third quarter in Minnesota, the Gophers had cut the lead to only seven points — 17 to 10 Wisconsin — after stringing together a field goal drive. The Badgers responded with some special teams creativity, as Aron Cruickshank fielded the kickoff at the five-yard line he started his ascent up field, but flipped the ball on a reverse to redshirt freshman speedster Isaac Guerendo who would race down the field 49 yards.

The return would catapult Wisconsin up to the Minnesota 39 yard line, as the Badgers parlayed the return into a Kendric Pryor rushing touchdown. Wisconsin would never look back, as they won 38-17 in the end.

This magical return was the first time that Guerendo had touched the ball in a collegiate game, as he had battled injuries in his first two season. Now at running back it will be interesting to see if he can build on the momentum and confidence he gained from that singular play to increase his workload come next year.

No. 3: Alexander Smith blocks punt

In a game where the Wisconsin offense couldn’t get anything going, Alexander Smith and the Wisconsin special teams unit picked up the slack. After getting an early stop to open the third quarter, Smith partially blocks an Ohio State punt inside the 20-yard line so set up the offense with tremendous field position. The offense is able to capitalize on the momentum swing and score a touchdown through the air to A.J. Taylor from Jack Coan. Unfortunately, those would be the only points in the first matchup with the Buckeyes, but at the time that play cut the Ohio State lead to only three points at 10-7, and gave Wisconsin renewed life.

No. 2: Zach Hintze 62-yard boot from deep

Due to a poor showing out the gates, Wisconsin found themselves in a nail biter with Purdue at the tail end of the first half. With only 22 seconds remaining in the half, Wisconsin retained possession at their own 27 yard line. After a couple of nice runs by Garrett Groshek and Aron Cruickshank, and a short pass to Quintez Cephus, the Badgers now found themselves in with only two seconds remaining on the Purdue 44 yard line.

From there the rest is history, as redshirt senior Zach Hintze connected on his first career field goal from 62-yards out on senior day to set a new school record. That kick would go on to spark the team and crowd, as Wisconsin would run away from Purdue to the tune of 45-24.

No. 1: Aron Cruickshank 89-yard kickoff return for a TD

After the Nebraska Cornhuskers jumped out to an early 7-0 lead over the Badgers, momentum was heavily in favor of the home team. Nebraska had dominated the time of possession and had moved the ball at will against Wisconsin on their first two drives. That changed quickly however, as Aron Cruickshank fielded the following kickoff from the 11-yard line and took it to the house to even the score. Cruickshank showcased his breakaway speed and shiftiness to maneuver through the defense and not look back. The touchdown was the first kickoff return since 2015 when Natrell Jamerson did the same against Maryland. Cruickshank has improved tremendously since his freshman season, and was a consensus second team all-conference selection at kick returner.

Poll

Which special teams play gets your nod for best of the season?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Aron Cruickshank: kickoff return TD against Nebraska
    (37 votes)
  • 64%
    Zach Hintze: 62-yard field goal against Purdue
    (95 votes)
  • 0%
    Alexander Smith: Blocked punt against Ohio State
    (1 vote)
  • 10%
    Isaac Guerendo: 49-yard kickoff return against Minnesota
    (15 votes)
148 votes total Vote Now

Up Next: Tomorrow we will be looking back at the top ten defensive plays from the year.