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Sooners special teams MVP: PR Jalen Saunders

by Ryan Aber Published: January 2, 2014

NEW ORLEANS–The Sugar Bowl is just a few hours away. Leading up the game, Jason Kersey and I have picked out offensive, defensive and special teams most valuable players for the season.

The offensive choice was a bit difficult, but running back Brennan Clay wound up being our choice. The defensive choice was even more difficult, as several different factors favored several different players. We wound up going with cornerback Aaron Colvin. Now, for the third and final selection, finally a relatively easy pick.

The special teams MVP for the Sooners is punt returner Jalen Saunders.

There was little question, in the final three games of the season when the Sooners bounced back from the Baylor loss to make a run to the Sugar Bowl, that Saunders was their overall MVP, much less special teams choice.

Saunders’ punt returns in each of those three games turned the tide toward the Sooners.

In the 48-10 win over Iowa State, it was Saunders’ 91-yard punt return for a touchdown just before halftime that did it. The Sooners were trailing 10-3 at the time and the punt return tied it before OU outscored the Cyclones 38-0 in the second half.

A week later against Kansas State, Saunders’ 30-yard return to the 3 set up a Brennan Clay touchdown a play later that put OU ahead 34-24 in their eventual 41-31 victory.

Then two weeks later against Oklahoma State, Saunders once again found the end zone with a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first quarter. He then scored the game-winning touchdown on a pass from Blake Bell with 19 seconds left.

Other candidates:
Michael Hunnicutt: Most years, Hunnicutt would win this distinction easily. He was 23 of 26 on field goals and made all but one of his 42 PAT tries. Hunnicutt tied Steve Owens for second on Oklahoma’s all-time scoring list with 342 and he seems a shoo-in to pass DeMarco Murray (390) barring injury next season. In the Bedlam game, he even added a touchdown reception to his resume, catching an 8-yard pass from Grant Bothun to become the first Sooners kicker to score a touchdown since Tim Duncan in 2001.


by Ryan Aber
Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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