STILLWATER — As Brandon Yelovich warmed up shortly before Oklahoma State’s 41-24 win over Rice on Saturday, it was obvious the Owls’ kicker had been given clear instructions:
Do not allow Dez Bryant or Perrish Cox to change the game with one of their patented kick returns.
While Yelovich warmed up, kick after kick was either a squibber on the ground or a high pooch kick. A regular kickoff was nowhere to be seen in Yelovich’s multiple arsenal.
Call it the joy of having two All-America kick returners.
"It’s kind of funny to me when opposing teams come out kicking the ball all over the place,” senior OSU running back Keith Toston said. "It’s just a compliment to those guys.”
After Bryant and Cox put together stellar seasons returning the ball in 2008, OSU decided to make things more difficult on opponents by putting both players back for kickoffs and
That strategy has forced opponents to make a decision: Kick the ball deep and give those guys a chance to do something special or do whatever it takes to keep the ball out of their hands and give OSU the ball in excellent field position.
Against Georgia, the Bulldogs were confident. They kicked the ball deep, and Cox made them pay with a momentum-changing 74-yard kick return to start the third quarter.
The following week against Houston, the Cougars didn’t want to kick it deep but made that mistake on one occasion. And Bryant made them pay with an 82-yard punt return for a score, which sparked a 21-point outburst in the third quarter.
"(It’s) the whole cat-and-mouse game on kickoffs and punts,” Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. "(Bryant and Cox are) the most dangerous punt return, kick return tandem in college football. We were determined not to get them the ball.