NORMAN — Oklahoma's ongoing woes at kicker can't be blamed on a lack of scholarships.
In quite the revelation, coach Bob Stoops disclosed Tuesday that the Sooners have four kickers on scholarship. And another has been promised a scholarship after the semester.
Making OU's struggles at the position all the more disconcerting.
"We have invested in kickers more so than anybody," Stoops said. "It's really frustrating with what our commitment has been, and then you look around the country and how many guys that aren't on scholarship do so well."
On top of place-kicker Jimmy Stevens and punter Tress Way, who both arrived in Norman on scholarship, Stoops said ex-walk-on kickers Patrick O'Hara and Bryce Easley have recently been given scholarships, too. Stoops also said he's promised a scholarship to freshman walk-on kicker Michael Hunnicutt after the semester.
Neither Easley nor Hunnicutt has kicked in a game yet, while Stevens and O'Hara have both struggled.
Especially in Saturday's 36-27 loss at Missouri.
On the opening kickoff, O'Hara, who just replaced Way on kickoffs the previous week, reached only the 14-yard line, despite having a stiff wind at his back. The poor kick set up Gahn McGaffie's 86-yard touchdown return.
Later, down 17-14 in the third quarter, the Sooners had a chance to tie the game. But with the wind, Stevens hooked a 30-yard attempt wide left. On Missouri's ensuing drive, Grant Ressel (3 for 3 on field goals) countered by nailing a 30-yarder against the wind to give the Tigers a six-point lead, a critical swing in the game's final outcome.
"It's frustrating," Stoops said. "I never find it attractive to sit here and get on young people. They're trying hard. They're working. They put in the time in practice and we'll keep working with them.
"But it has been frustrating."
The Sooners' struggles at kicker have been a problem since Garrett Hartley headed to the NFL after the 2007 season.
Last year, OU joined Akron, Indiana and Rutgers as the only four schools to miss 10 or more field-goal tries while also failing to connect on one from 50 yards out. And missed field goals played a decided factor in OU's losses to Texas and Nebraska.