Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops realizes that the 2009 version of OU-Texas could come down to a play or two.
The winner could be decided in the trenches. But it could also easily be decided by a field goal kicker or a punter.
Or even a coverage unit.
Just ask Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins how important special teams are…
The Buffs went in to last week’s game with a 14-10 halftime lead over 2nd ranked Texas, but the special team’s snafus let Texas overtake them easily in a second half Longhorn rout.
“Texas has had some big and explosive games in their return game so it's something that we're very focused on and we've been working on all week," admitted Stoops.
One year ago the Sooners struggled in many aspects of special teams play.
Jimmy Stevens had a hard time making field goals consistently and the coverage units gave up huge plays at some very inopportune times, most memorably when Jordan Shipley took one the distance to swing the momentum back to the Horns when it looked like OU was on the verge of taking over complete control of the game.
This year has been a different story completely. Stevens has nailed field goal after field goal, and the coverage units have been on point.
Freshman punter Tress Way has even developed in to an asset. He has averaged over 44 yards per attempt and pinned 7-of-22 inside the 20-yard line.
Way admits that the coaches have been stressing the importance of special teams play and how it could have an effect on the outcome of Saturday’s game.
“That is one thing that coach Stoops and coach Wilson stressed today in the special team’s meeting that special teams are going to be huge,” Way informed.
“We watched the Texas game against Colorado and they scored 21 points off of special teams. They had a blocked punt, a punt return, and a kick return. They had three touchdowns on special teams. Last year I remember watching Shipley run all over the field, and I am going to be punting to that guy this week. He is one of the top returners in the nation and it is time to cut it loose and make sure that the ball is high enough and far enough that our guys can swarm him.”
Stoops knows that OU can not afford to lose focus or get sloppy now, especially with the big one coming up in a few days.
"So far we've been very solid, much more than a year ago with our special teams. But again, it's another challenge, you have to do it every week.”