After dropping a disappointing home loss last week to Notre Dame, the Sooners must turn their attention to an early 11 a.m. kickoff in Ames against Iowa State. The special teams play was solid once again last week, as the unit continues to show consistency.
Iowa State kicker Edwin Arceo has been inconsistent so far this year, going 5 for 8 with a long of 49. Arceo is also 23-26 on PAT attempts. If the Cyclones hope to pull off an upset, the play of Arceo is very important. Against a team like Oklahoma, you can’t leave points on the field. Arceo number will be called on Saturday, and it’s critical for the Cyclones that he comes through on every opportunity.
Michael Hunnicutt turned in another solid performance last week, as he nailed kicks from 28 and 30 yards. Hunnicutt is now 10 for 11 on the year, which ranks as the second best percentage in the Big 12. The job that Hunnicutt has done this year cannot be praised enough, but continuing to show consistency is important as he moves forward.
Kirby Van Der Kamp has seen his fair share of work so far the season as he leads the conference in most attempts with 49. Van Der Kamp currently has an average of 42.9 yards per punt, and only one touchback on the year. One of the more impressive stats is that he has 21 punts inside the 20 yard line. He also has 10 punts of 50 yards or more, and a long of 60 on the year.
Tress Way’s 43.0 yard average is just a hair above Van Der Kamp’s, and ranks him 5th in the conference. Way has 14 punts inside the 20, and a long of 71 on the year. Both rank second in the Big 12. Much like the rest of the special teams unit, the consistency that Way has shown not only this year, but over the course of his career has been impressive.
To put it simply, the Cyclones have been very bad this year returning kicks. With an average of 15.2 yards per kick return, the Cyclones are ranked 119th in country, nearly dead last. Jarvis West is the most dangerous threat the Cyclones possess, with 8 returns for an average of 19.0 yards a return. The kickoff coverage for the Sooners has been excellent all season long, and with possibly the weakest return group the Sooners have seen all year, expect the Sooners to continue this trend.
With a 29.1 yard average, the Sooners lead the conference in kickoff returns. Roy Finch continues to lead the team with 35.7 yards a return, and seems to be the biggest threat the Sooners have. However, Brennan Clay’s performance should not be taken for granted, as he’s averaging an impressive 26.7 yards on 10 returns. A big return by Finch or Clay could provide a big spark on Saturday in a game where the Sooners are looking to bounce back.
Unlike the kick return game, the Cyclones have a dangerous return man that can change the field position in a game. Aaron Horne handles the punt return duties for the Cyclones, and is averaging 17.7 yards a return. Horne has a long of 48 on the year and has shown he’s capable of breaking open a punt. The last thing the Sooners want to happen on Saturday is a big return by Horne that changes the momentum of the game.
Even though Justin Brown didn’t have the opportunity to return a punt last week, his 19.0 yard average still ranks him second in the nation, and first in the Big 12. Teams have quickly learned that it’s critical to neutralize Brown in the return game. Expect Van Der Kamp and the Cyclones to do everything in their power to contain his return abilities.
It’s no secret that this game provides a very tough spot for the Sooners. The key will be to start fast and not let the Cyclones hang around until the 4th quarter. Oklahoma is far more talented than the Cyclones, but it will come down to if the team shows up ready to play.
The Sooners jump out on top early, and hold off a stingy Cyclone squad that will come out fired up and ready to play. Sooners win 31-17.