NC State made a change last Saturday when they gave junior transfer Andy Leffler the opportunity to punt. He replaced struggling fifth-year senior Jeff Ruiz, who was averaging just 34.1 yards per punt in 16 boots. Ruiz had averaged just 30.5 yards per kick in four attempts against Cincinnati Sept. 16.
"It was a combination," special teams coordinator Jerry Petercuskie said. "Jeff struggled a little bit. He had some good punts but wasn't consistent. Andy practiced well so we figured we'd give him a chance in the real game when the lights are on and see how he does."
Leffler's numbers were not great against Georgia Tech. He averaged 37.3 yards on his three punts with a long of 43, but Petercuskie said those numbers are a bit skewed.
"It was his first college game, and the last two punts obviously [Georgia Tech was] going to send the house, so the object was to get the ball off, and he got the ball off quickly," Petercuskie said. "He had three punts and he didn't hit any of them capable of what he is doing, but as I said the last two were, 'Hey, make sure we got the ball off because they are bringing the house.'"
Leffler's quickness will be needed Saturday against Virginia Tech. Under head coach Frank Beamer, the Hokies have become infamous for strong special teams play and have blocked more than their fair share of kicks, 126 in 285 games to be exact. That includes 62 blocked punts, of which 16 were returned or recovered for touchdowns.
"They are a rush team as opposed to a return team, but they are good at both," Petercuskie noted. "That's typical Virginia Tech. They got a good returner back there, and they'll come after you and challenge you, too."
Petercuskie was not worried about fifth-year senior placekicker Josh Czajkowski, who missed an extra point against Cincinnati then misfired on a pair of 31-yard field goals against Georgia Tech. Czajkowski had developed a reputation of being a reliable kicker during his tenure at NC State. Despite the two missed against the Yellow Jackets, Czajkowski is still 30 of 37 kicking field goals, including 6 of 7 beyond 40 yards with a long of 48.
"He thought he was a little bit quick approaching the football Saturday," Petercuskie said. "He's a pretty good student of what he does, and he knows pretty much when things go awry what the problem was. He felt both of those he rushed a little bit, consequently he pushed one and hooked the other one."
In addition to his duties as special teams coordinator, Petercuskie is also the recruiting coordinator at NC State, and he figures to be busy this week especially after ABC picked up the Virginia Tech game for a 3:30 kickoff.
"We have some kids coming in from different parts so that helps us in terms of getting them in here," Petercuskie said. "There's no doubt that the game exponentially takes on more importance because you are obviously playing for something, and the high school kids obviously get excited about that. They want to be part of that, and they want to see it, and that's happened. That's obviously a good thing."