Will Likely is undeniably Maryland’s most dangerous scoring threat and he does it as a returner on special teams. But with the team’s struggles offensively against Bowling Green, a worrisome trend again emerged.
Sometimes he tries to make too much happen and, as a result, something catastrophic occurs.
That happened against the Falcons, when Likely muffed a third-quarter punt and could not recover the ball, turning a crucial three-and-out stop by Maryland’s defense in a 20-13 game into a new BGSU drive beginning in Maryland territory.
On the play, Likely was off-balance and trying to catch the ball over his shoulder, which put him in a tough position to field it cleanly.
One of the greatest punt returners in NFL history, CSN’s Brian Mitchell, talked about the mistake on Tuesday’s edition of SportsTalk Live.
“That’s the wrong thing to do,” the former All-Pro said. “When you’re drifting with the ball and you’re trying to catch it over your shoulder, if it goes off the tip [of your finger] that’s a ball moving towards your end zone and giving the other team an opportunity to recover.
“You must be patient and square on the football,” he continued. “You watch a lot of guys catching it over the shoulder.
“My coach always, I got a minus if I did that. But if you square up, if the ball hits you in the chest, it may bounce up and give you a second chance instead of you putting it over your shoulder and then it goes away.”
Likely is explosive -- and he is the player who kept Maryland’s head above water in the first half with an 85-yard punt return touchdown against Bowling Green -- but Mitchell reiterated The Golden Rule of being a returner.
“He must be patient.”
Catch SportsTalk Live featuring Brian Mitchell, along with co-host Rob Carlin, every weeknight at 10 p.m. on CSN