After beating down the Texas Longhorns last week, the Sooners return home to play under lights as they host the 1-5 Kansas Jayhawks. Other than the blocked extra point, the Sooners once again turned in a solid special teams performance. More will be expected this week, as the unit tries to show they can consistently be a force.
The kicking game for the Jayhawks has been very inconsistent through the first half of the season. Junior Ron Doherty is the returning starter at kicker, but has struggled so far this year going 5-10 which ranks him ninth in the conference. Doherty has a long of 53 on the season, but has proven that he’s only consistent from 29 yards in where he’s 4-5 on the year. On kicks over 35 yards, Doherty is 1-5.
Michael Hunnicutt has shown no signs of a sophomore slump so far this season as he was once again solid on Saturday. Hunnicutt connected on both of his field goal attempts from 32 and 36, and increased his numbers to 7-8. For a position that has been such a question mark the past few years, Sooner fans are overjoyed to see such consistency at the position.
Ron Doherty also serves at the punter for the Jayhawks, and is coming off a season where he finished third in the Big 12 with a 42.8 yard average. He was voted to the all-conference honorable mention team by the Associated Press as well as Big 12 coaches last season. Doherty is currently ranked eighth in the Big 12 with a 40.5 yard average, with a long of 63 on the year. Doherty’s number will be called upon a lot on Saturday, and the Jayhawks are hoping he can help keep the Sooner offense at bay by landing them deep in their own territory.
Even though he’s not ranked at the top of the Big 12 in yards per punt, you won’t find very many punters who are more consistent than Tress Way. He continues to be a force, and has a 42.5 average so far this season. Due to the Sooner offense scoring at will last week, Way’s services weren’t needed very often. One of the few times he was called upon, he dropped a punt inside the one yard line during the 2nd quarter that helped set up a safety. Way has 9 punts inside the 20 so far this year, and only has one touchback.
The kick return game hasn’t been strong for the Jayhawks this year, as they are only averaging 18.3 yards a return. Tre’ Parmalee is the biggest threat the Jayhawks have in the return game, as he’s averaging 22.9 yards on 7 returns. D.J. Beshears is the other return man, and he’s averaging 15.8 yards on 4 returns. The most interesting thing to watch for in the Kansas return game, will be if Patrick O’ Hara can resume his kickoff duties after being injured, or if the coaching staff will elect to go with Michael Hunnicutt again after he kicked 5 touchbacks last week.
This stat may be surprising, but the Sooners are actually ranked second in the Big 12 with a 26.2 yard return average. Brennan Clay leads the team with a 29.7 yard average on 6 returns, and Roy Finch follows with a 25.5 yard average on 4 returns. Both returners should have opportunities in this game, as Kansas has only recorded 3 touchbacks all year. The thing to watch out for will be if Jalen Saunders gets an opportunity to showcase his return skills.
Much like the other special teams categories, Kansas is near the bottom of the Big 12 in punt returns as well. Return man Daymond Patterson is averaging 6.2 yards on 4 returns with a long of 33 on the year. Bradley McDougald is the only Jayhawk to record a return this year. McDougald’s lone return on the year was for 19 yards. The Sooners won’t plan on punting very many times on Saturday, so it’s likely that Patterson’s services will be rarely used.
Justin Brown continues to be a force in the punt return game, as he’s currently averaging an impressive 16.3 yards a return. Brown has been a great addition to the team, and has proved game-after-game that he can be trusted to take care of the ball and make big plays. Don’t be surprised if Brown breaks open a return and scores gets his first punt return for a touchdown of the year on Saturday.
The Sooners have the edge in the special teams game, as well as just about every position on the field. Oklahoma needs to come out fast, and show that they didn’t take this week lightly.
Look for many newcomers and back-ups to see significant time in this game as the Sooners roll to an easy 52-13 win.