There are several reasons why Kansas State is ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings.
Heisman front-runner Collin Klein at quarterback. A defense that gives up just more than 17 points per game. A legendary head coach in Bill Snyder.
But Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy stressed the importance of special teams, especially the return game, when the Cowboys face the Wildcats in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday night.
The Wildcats' Tyler Lockett, a Tulsa Washington product, averages 29.7 yards per kick return, which ranks eighth nationally. And Tramaine Thompson, a Jenks product, averages 27.7 yards per punt return. Both players have scored a touchdown on a return.
Overall, K-State ranks second nationally in punt returns (26.25 yards per return) and is tied for 22nd in kickoff returns (24.85 yards per return).
“Outsiders looking in don't really notice return yards, and they sneak up on you,” Gundy said. “Over a period of time, they end up with three-quarters or the length of a football field in return yards, and you've only got five or six yards.”
OSU's Quinn Sharp is tied for the national lead with 44 touchbacks, which doesn't give the opposition many chances to return kickoffs. But the Cowboys gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Texas' D.J. Monroe earlier this season. And Lockett had a monster game against the Cowboys a season ago, racking up 193 yards on six kickoff returns, including an 80-yarder that nearly went for a score.
OSU defensive tackle Calvin Barnett was charged Tuesday with one misdemeanor count of driving under suspension, his sixth driving-related charge in the past six months.
Barnett will receive a letter to appear in court on Nov. 7 at 1:45 p.m., according to a Payne County District Court clerk.
Barnett also is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 19 at 10:30 a.m. after being charged in May with driving under suspension (twice), speeding, driving without insurance and failing to register a vehicle within 30 days of purchase. All charges are misdemeanors.
Barnett, who has started every game for the Cowboys this season, has 17 tackles (3.5 for loss), four quarterback hurries, and a pass break-up.
An OSU spokesperson had no comment on Barnett's most recent charge.
GUNDY: COWBOYS NEED MORE OUT OF JUSTIN GILBERT
In Justin Gilbert's first two seasons at OSU, he had four kick returns for touchdowns. Last season, he intercepted five passes, three from 2012 NFL first-round picks and current starters (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill). He was named the Fiesta Bowl MVP and labeled a top-15 NFL Draft prospect by ESPN guru Mel Kiper Jr. heading into 2012.
But during what was supposed to be his best and potentially last season at OSU, Gilbert has yet to intercept a pass or produce a kick return touchdown.
One of OSU's biggest playmakers, simply, hasn't made any plays.
“His performance before (the TCU game) was below average, in this one it was average,” Gundy said Monday. “It needs to be considerably better for us to play at a high level and for him personally.”
But the cornerback and coach are working toward that.
Sunday, Gundy sat down with Gilbert to let him know the Cowboys need him to “turn it on.”
“The good news with him, he's got something to turn on,” Gundy said. “A lot of times we have discussions with kids, and they don't have any gas left in the tank. He's got a lot of gas in his tank. So he can turn it on if he wants to do it.”
And it seems the cornerback agreed.
“Look, this is where you're at, and you're a guy that could be a force. There's not many guys that look like you, can run and jump and catch like you and make plays,” Gundy said he told Gilbert.
“And he understands that. He's not the first guy (a disappointing season has) ever happened to.”