Berry Tramel

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Bedlam football: Who has the kicking game advantage?

by Berry Tramel Modified: December 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm •  Published: December 6, 2013
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Bedlam football 2013 approaches, and with all the talk about the weather, we haven’t focused enough on the kicking games. Who has the advantage?

Both OSU and OU have been strong in special teams over the years, though not always.

In fact, Mike Gundy says the kicking game is one of the things that has spurred the Cowboys’ surge from a rough stretch in later September/early October.

“We weren’t very good in the kicking game,” Gundy said. “We had to improve in the kicking game.”

The kicking game is huge because of the possibility of big plays. “I love that aspect,” said OSU linebacker Deion Imade. “You’re only out there for one play, but that one play could be a game-changer. It could be a momentum swing. So I love that aspect of it, just going out there even though you’re not getting full reps, that could change the game at any point in time.”"

Let’s look at the various kicking units and compare who has the advantage.

WHEN OU KICKS OFF

OSU’s Justin Gilbert is one of the best kickoff returners in NCAA history, with six touchdowns, including one this season. OSU is averaging 26.3 yards per kick return. OU has not allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown this season, but the average starting spot after an OU kickoff is the 26-yard line. OU ranks fourth in the Big 12 (conference games only) in kickoff coverage. OSU is No. 1 in kickoff returns, by a wide margin. But Gilbert’s health is a concern.

Advantage: OSU, if Gilbert is healthy. OU, if Gilbert is not.

WHEN OSU KICKS OFF

OU is averaging 22.4 yards per kickoff return, which is third in the Big 12. Under Bob Stoops, this traditionally has been among the weaker units of OU’s kicking units. The Sooners do not have a touchdown on kickoff returns this season. OSU leads the Big 12 in kickoff coverage, forcing opponents to start from an average of the 23-yard line. But

Advantage: OSU.

WHEN OU PUNTS

OU’s Jed Barnett is fifth in the Big 12 in punting, averaging 41.1 yards per kick. But OU is ninth in net punting, at 34.2 yards. OU has allowed 5.4 yards per punt return and has given up a touchdown on a punt return, to Texas’ Daje Johnson. OSU is tied for the Big 12 lead (with OU) in punt return average, 13.8 yards per. Josh Stewart has returned a punt for a touchdown. But Stewart’s health is a concern.

Advantage: OSU, if Stewart is healthy. OU, is Stewart is not.

WHEN OSU PUNTS

OSU, with Kip Smith as the primary punter, is ninth in Big 12 punting, at 39.3 yards per kick. The Cowboys are eighth in net punting, 36.3. But OSU does not allow much in the way of returns — 0.4 yards per turn, and no touchdowns. OU is tied with OSU with 13.8 yards per return, and Jalen Saunders has a touchdown on a punt return.

Advantage: OSU. The Cowboys do not let punt returners get free.

PLACE-KICKING

OU’s Michael Hunnicut is 14 of 17 this season on field goals. He’s made two of four from at least 40 yards — Hunnicut missed from 48 and 52 yards, and made from 41 and 44. OSU’s Ben Grogan is eight of 13 on field goals this season, including one of four from 40 yards or longer. Grogan missed from 49, 44 and 43 yards. His make was from 41.

Advantage: OU.

 


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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