MADISON, N.J. Jarrin Campman was on his knees just inside the FDU-Florham 30-yard line, having just been tripped up by Devils punter Dan DiProfio.
The Lycoming wide receiver pounded the football in his hands as he sat there, knowing he missed out on his best opportunity this year to return a punt for a touchdown. He was frustrated having missed on the second-quarter opportunity, running through the scenarios in his mind in which he could have changed the outcome.
So when he got another opportunity to return a punt in the fourth quarter, he didn't miss on that one. Campman broke up the middle initially before breaking toward the right sideline. He split a pair of defenders with his speed, and waited for fellow receiver John Sibel who has turned into the Warriors' best open-field blocker to block DiProfio so he could waltz into the end zone for the first punt return touchdown of his career.
"I knew if (Sibel) could just make the punter go one way or another I could go right up the middle," Campman said. "He took him to the outside and it made it wide open for a touchdown."
It was the final exclamation point on the Warriors' 42-7 win over FDU-Florham on Saturday. It was the culmination of a day where the senior returned three punts for an average of 45.3 yards per return, including the 59-yard return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"It's been a work in progress that we felt we were finally going to break one, and it just happened to be (Saturday)," Campman said. "There were some huge lanes and they had two linemen that were personal protectors (for the punter), so once you got past that first line, it was an easy road to make a move on the punter."
Special teams have been a point of emphasis for the Warriors for more than a season now. And Saturday's success was a much-needed sight for Lycoming head coach Mike Clark.
It was in Week 3 last season in which special teams struggles brought about a change of philosophy for Clark. It took a punt return for a touchdown by Widener, and another returned more than 60 yards inside the Lycoming 10 which led directly to a touchdown for Clark to make the change. The two punt returns led directly to the Warriors' 31-28 loss to the Pride.
Beginning the next week Clark started putting his offensive and defensive starters on punt coverage and kick coverage teams. And the emphasis of having his best players on special teams units was only emphasized this summer when Clark was reading an ESPN The Magazine article. He saw that in his last year at Oklahoma State, Barry Sanders returned both kicks and punts for the Cowboys.
"Barry Sanders was good enough to return kicks as a (junior), so Parker Showers can't?" Clark said. "That's when it hit me. As good as Craig (Needhammer) is, who are you going to kick the ball to? There's not going to be a bad choice for us. There's no good chance for (opponents). And it's the same thing in the punt return game with Jarrin."
It's worked out well for the Warriors. Parker Showers is second in the MAC in kickoff return average and 29th in the country averaging 27.1 yards per return. And earlier this year, the senior tailback set the school's career kickoff return yardage record.
Campman took over for Ray Bierbach as the Warriors' punt returner, and going into last week's game he was ranked 159th in the country in punt return average. After three punt returns averaging 45.3 yards per return, including the touchdown Saturday, Campman is now eighth in the country averaging better than 18 yards per return for the season.
"It's no longer they're going to punt the ball and we're going to fair catch it," Clark said. "They now have to prepare for (Campman) as a returner, too."
Campman's three punt returns Saturday led directly to three touchdowns for the Warriors. His first return in the second quarter went 31 yards to the FDU 23-yard line. Five players later Tyler Jenny scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
With less than 3 minutes to go in the second quarter Campman returned a DiProfio punt 46 yards to the FDU 29. Ask Campman and he'll say it should have been a touchdown. He had DiProfio in a one-on-one situation, but despite being shaken out of his shoes, DiProfio was able to trip of Campman as he went by preventing a touchdown, but only temporarily.
Five plays later, Jenny hit freshman receiver Ryan Umpleby with a 7-yard pass for a touchdown. It was Umpleby's first career touchdown reception.
The three punt returns from Campman led to half of the Warriors' 42 points. But more than just the points, they were deflating plays for an FDU-Florham who picked up a win against King's earlier this year.
"It's probably the biggest momentum-breaker in the game because the defense doesn't get out on the field and the offense doesn't have to come on the field," Campman said. "But it's a quick play and it's a touchdown. It's probably the biggest momentum play you can make in a game."
"That's basically offense," Clark said. "If you look at our Widener game last year, those two returns were basically offense for them. (Saturday) it led to 21 points for us, and we're not complaining. I'll take it."