By ANDY WOLF
Maliq Carr is already in select company.
The University of Findlay true freshman defensive lineman is one of six players at any NCAA level to block four kicks this season.
Of the six, he’s one of two freshmen.
Carr is seven games into his collegiate career and already a force on special teams.
In just his last four games, he blocked two field goals, one on an extra point, and two punts. He also has 31/2 tackles for loss.
His latest punt block came midway through the fourth quarter last week to help Findlay ice a 35-24 nonleague win at the University of Charleston.
“When I go in there, I just have the mentality that I’m going to block the kick,” Carr said. “It’s what I do.”
The Oilers (4-3, 2-2 GMAC) travel back across the Ohio River to Philippi, West Virginia this Saturday to battle Alderson Broaddus (2-5, 1-3) at noon in Great Midwest Athletic Conference play.
Carr didn’t have too broad of expectations for his freshman season.
“I just wanted to be the best player that I could be and everything else just falls behind that,” he said.
Most young players find their place on special teams.
Carr is no different, also playing on kick coverages.
“I’d like to get a little bit better at kickoff, making the play,” Carr said. “I usually get down there pretty fast but sometimes I get down there too fast.”
But in kick blocking, few can rival his success.
Only Central Washington’s Chase DeMoor has blocked more kicks (five) in Division II.
Just three other Division II freshmen have multiple blocks.
UF head coach Rob Keys credits Carr’s great anticipation in getting off the ball.
“His first snap he’s gaining so much speed,” Keys said. “He goes to the block point and not the punter. He’s made some really big plays for us and he’s changed the game.”
Carr is also one of four freshmen in UF’s two-deep at defensive line.
He predominantly played linebacker at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis.
“I just took what I know from linebacker and just got to find the techniques at the DL position. I’ve got a lot to work on but I think I’ll be okay,” Carr said.
ABOUT ABU: The Battlers are two years removed from a 7-2 season but are 3-13 since the GMAC expanded from three teams to nine last year.
Their lone wins are over 3-4 Glenville State (45-17) and 0-7 Lake Erie (55-27).
Perhaps they’ve looked even tougher in a pair of nonleague home losses.
In back-to-back weeks, ABU fell 38-31 to 5-2 Bowie State before dropping a 28-24 contest to an undefeated Tiffin (7-0, 4-0 GMAC) team.
They put up 30.4 points per game to 38.1 allowed.
“They’re much improved regardless of if they’re home or away,” Keys said. “There’s no doubt that they play really well at their home stadium. Last year against Hillsdale, they pushed them all the way to the end and almost beat them (37-31 loss).”
QB2: Alderson Broaddus and Findlay are both on their second quarterback.
Joe Czelusniak replaced Connor McWilliams in the third quarter against Bowie State in Week 2 and has kept the job ever since.
Czelusniak averages 207.5 yards on a 57.6 percent (102 of 177) completion rate with 11 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
Meanwhile for Findlay, Adam Berkte (104.5 ypg, 7 TDs, 3 INT) has started the last three games.
Keys said Bertke will start Saturday over fourth-year starter Rhys Gervais.
“We’re still waiting on some more information on Rhys,” Keys said. “But right now Adam is the starter and Parker (Gdula) is the backup as we go into this week.
“If Rhys is ready to go then it will be a bonus for us but we’re preparing like he’s not there.”
POINT OF NO RETURN: In another classic battle of “something’s got to give, look no further than when Findlay kicks off to ABU senior Maurice Thomas.
Thomas returned a kickoff 100 yards to the house last year in a 70-28 loss at Findlay.
He’s fourth nationally this season at 37.5 yards per kickoff returns and has taken one the distance in the past two games — both 89-yarders.
Thomas is also ABU’s leading receiver with 387 yards on 32 catches.
Opposite Thomas is UF’s kickoff coverage team, allowing the 28th-best mark in 17.16 return yards per game and no scores.
Keys knows all too well how poor kickoff coverage can doom his team. Their 2017 season ended that way.
Assumption’s Deonte Harris returned two kickoffs for a touchdown (99, 80 yards) in the fourth quarter of the Super Region I playoff semifinals.
“We had a couple flaws and we corrected it both personnel wise and scheme wise,” Keys said. “We’ve got to be really smart if the ball does go in his hands on how we cover and how we make sure we protect the lane.”
Football: Carr wreaking havoc on kicking game
By ANDY WOLF