It seems like it’s been an eternity since the Sooners have been on the gridiron, but tomorrow night, they will close out the season against the Texas A&M Aggies in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Throughout the season, the special teams play has been exceptional for the Sooners, and has been one of the best units in the country. They’ll need that type of effort tomorrow night to help make a difference in the outcome of the game.
Tress Way will look to end his Sooner career with a win.
Michael Hunnicutt has connected on 15 of his 19 attempts this season. The fact that the Sooners finally have a reliable kicker has been huge, and something they’ve been lacking the last few seasons. Hunnicutt has a long of 45 on the year, and is 56 of 58 on extra point attempts. Just a sophomore, he will continue to be a force for the Sooners in the kicking for the next two years.
After losing last years’ Groza award winner, Randy Bullock, to graduation, the Aggies have been very shaky in the kicking game. Taylor Bertolet is 13-22 on the year with a long of 54. The strange stat about Bertolet, is that he’s 1-9 from 30-49 yards, and 3-4 from 50 yards or further. The Texas A&M media describes him as wildly inconsistent. The Sooners certainly have the edge at kicker in this game.
Tress Way will play his final game as Sooner on Friday night, and will leave as one of the best punters in school history. His 43.6 yard average ranks fifth in the conference, and has 19 punts inside the 20. With such a high scoring game expected, when Way is called upon, it will be important for him to pin the Aggies deep inside their own territory.
Like Tress Way, Ryan Epperson will also play in his last collegiate game on Friday night. Epperson has started since the middle of his freshman year, and has been consistent all the way throughout. His 42.8 yard average ranks ninth in the SEC. Due to the Aggies offensive success; Epperson only has 37 attempts on the year, which is the lowest in the SEC by a wide margin. Most notably, he only has one touchback on the season.
Another player that will be playing his final game as a Sooner is Justin Brown. After transferring from Penn State earlier this season, Brown has made a significant impact as both a wide receiver and punt returner. Brown is second in the conference with a 13.6 yard return average, but down the stretch, his opportunities were limited due to opposing teams kicking away from him. Jalen Saunders has also seen time returning punts, and even played a huge role in the Bedlam game when he raced 81 yards for a touchdown. The news that he will play in this game was huge not only for the offense, but for the special teams as well, considering how dangerous of a return man he can be.
Last year’s leader in punt returns, Dustin Harris, is having another great season as the Aggies lone return man. His 13.2 yard average ranks third in the SEC. Harris set a school record this year against South Carolina with 246 yards on nine returns, including a 96-yard touchdown. Harris possesses the big play ability that both Brown and Saunders have, and needs to be accounted for at all times. If there’s one guy that’s been equal to the threat the Sooners have in the return game, it’s certainly Harris.
With a combined 26.5 yard return average, the Sooners rank fourth nationally in kickoff returns. Roy Finch is the leading return man with a 32-yard average, but it’s Clay who’s seen the majority of the returns, and has a 26-yard average. The group has shown they can be a homerun threat anytime they touch the ball. A big return would certainly spark a lot of momentum.
Trey Williams is the feature man at kick returner for the Aggies, and is averaging 22.7 yards a return. Williams doesn’t have a return for a touchdown this year, but does have a 76-yard return. The Aggies aren’t near as dangerous in the kick return game as they are in the punt return game. As a team, they rank 83rd nationally in kick return average.
It seems there are a number of keys to this game, but most importantly, it will be critical for the Sooners to stop the Aggies running game. For the Sooners to win, they must pressure and confuse Manziel to create mistakes. Expect a high-scoring game that goes down to wire.
Texas A&M wins a close one, 42-38.