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Breaking down OU's kickoff returns

Oklahoman Published: November 12, 2008


It started with a touchdown by Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard the second week of the season. Ever since, OU’s kickoff coverage unit has struggled to prevent the big play.

No return was more crucial than Jordan Shipley’s touchdown against the Sooners that swung momentum to Texas as the Longhorns rallied from an early 14-3 deficit.

After Cyrus Gray’s touchdown last Saturday, the Sooners became the only team in the nation to have allowed three touchdowns off kickoff returns.

Stoops has tried many of his best players — including Lendy Holmes, Brian Jackson, Keenan Clayton, Travis Lewis and Nic Harris — on the unit to no avail.

"We’ve used about everyone we can,” he said. "We’re just going to try to get better with the guys we have.”

By the numbers

Opponents have scored three touchdowns on kickoff returns, but the damage doesn’t end there. TCU got a field goal off a long return; Kansas State and Texas A&M both scored touchdowns set up by long returns. The Sooners now rank No. 109 in the nation in kickoff return defense.

Looking ahead

Both Texas Tech and OSU have dangerous return units. Tech is third in the Big 12 in kickoff returns, while OSU is fourth. Allowing a scoring return in either of those games could be the catalyst for a loss, similar to what happened against Texas.

By Jake Trotter


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