The week that Sooner fans have been anticipating all year has finally came. Its Bedlam week, and the Sooners are out for redemption after last year’s 44-10 beat down at the hands of the Cowboys. Saturday night in Norman will feature many interesting position battles, but one that shouldn’t be overlooked, is the match-up between the possibly the best two special teams units in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State has a great special Sharp was named the Big 12 special teams’ player of the year last year, and has already earned first-team All-America honors as both a punter and a kicker. He currently ranks fourth in the country in scoring with 11.8 points per game. A 21-27 mark on the year helps him lead the country with 2.1 makes per game. Sharp has converted all 20 of his career field-goal attempts inside the 30 yards. Expect to see him play on Sundays.
Michael Hunnicutt has been solid all year, but his miss right before the half last week almost proved to be costly. Hunnicutt is 11-13 on the year, and is turning in a solid sophomore campaign. In a game that has the possibility of coming down to the wire; Hunnicutt will need to be solid throughout the entire contest.
EDGE: OKLAHOMA STATE
Quinn Sharp also handles the punting duties for the Cowboys, and is second in the conference with a 45.1 yard average. Make no mistake about it, Sharp will be a big factor in this game. Throughout his career, Sharp has 66 punts in excess of 50 yards, 17 that traveled 60 yards or further, and four longer than 70 yards. Sharp is just as good in the punting game as he is in the kicking game.
Tress Way will be playing in his final game at Owen Field, and he would love nothing more than being a huge factor like he was in the 2009 Bedlam game. Way played a huge role in the Sooners 27-0 win the last time the Cowboys visited Norman in 2009, as he put the Cowboys in tough field position all day. His 42.5 career average ranks No. 1 in OU history, and he is fourth among active punters in the FBS with 236 career punts and 10,300 yards.
EDGE: OKLAHOMA STATE
The Cowboys will feature the most dangerous return group that the Sooners have faced all year. Justin Gilbert is the primary return man, and has a career average of 27.8 yards a return. His five career returns for a touchdown is school record, and tied for the most ever by a Big 12 return man. Sooner fans will remember him best for his touchdown return in the 2010 game that almost propelled the Cowboys to victory. The Sooners need to be very cautious when kicking to Gilbert.
After another solid week in the return game, the Sooners still rank in the top five in kickoff returns, with a 28.25 yard average. Roy Finch’s 32.6 yard return average would rank fifth in the country, but he doesn’t have enough returns to qualify. Brennan Clay has another huge return last week, as he gave the offense great field position which eventually set up the game-winning touchdown. Clay ranks 18th in the country with a 27.7 yard average. However, with Sharp handling the kickoff duties, the return opportunities will likely be limited.
EDGE: OKLAHOMA STATE
The Cowboys aren’t near as explosive with punt returns as they are in kick return game, but they still have a very solid return man in Charlie Moore. The one thing that Moore will not do, is make mistakes that leads to easy points. He is averaging 7.2 yards a return on the year.
Justin Brown’s opportunities continue to get limited, but he still ranks fourth in the nation with a 16.2 yard average. It’s very unlikely that Brown will get, many opportunities with Sharp handling the punting duties. However, if he does get an opportunity, he’s shown many times what he’s capable of doing. His biggest role in the return game on Saturday will be protecting the football and making smart decisions inside the 20.
Yes, the Cowboys do have the better overall special teams unit, but they have mightily struggled on the road this year. The Sooners have to play much better on the defensive line than they have the past two weeks.
It will be a very tight game, but the Sooners will outlast the Cowboys 38-31.