Special teams suddenly a positive for No. 15 Oklahoma State
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Mike Gundy wanted to see improvement on special teams. No. 15 Oklahoma State answered its coach’s call.
The Cowboys blocked two punts, returning one for a touchdown, and made three field goals in a 44-21 win over then-No. 17 Boise State on Saturday. That marked a sharp turnaround after losing a fumble the week before on an attempted punt by Matt Hockett, leading to a South Alabama TD in Oklahoma State’s 55-13 win.
The blocked punts are a hallmark of Gundy’s special teams units. Oklahoma State (3-0) is tied with Temple for the national lead in blocked kicks with 23 since 2013.
“Guys did a great job this week. I took over punt return last week and did it for just this game, and I’m going to give it back to (special teams assistant coaches Patrick Cashmore and M.K. Taylor),” Gundy joked. “I just wanted to take it for a week and kind of guide them through and it worked out good.”
The first block came with the game tied at 7 in the second quarter. Amen Ogbongbemiga blocked a punt from Quinn Skillin, and although Skillin recovered it, the Cowboys still got the ball on the Broncos’ 7-yard line. Three plays later, Taylor Cornelius scored on a 1-yard run and OSU took its first lead of the game.
Then in the third quarter, Jarrick Bernard blocked a punt by Joel Velazquez at the Boise State 13 and Za’Carrius Green returned it for a TD. That was a crucial moment in the game, pushing Oklahoma State’s lead to 34-14.
“They had a good scheme and the kids bought into it and they practiced hard,” Gundy said. “When you block punts, you’re going to send anywhere from five to six people and based on the alignment you have, you can get a good indication for who (your opponent is) going to block, but you don’t know for sure because you don’t control what they do.
“So six people got to go hard and everybody has to make that commitment. I think all six guys went hard and we had two or three guys show up at the block point. It was pretty impressive in that they took the ball off the foot instead of jumping up in the air. So they’re taking the coaching from Cash and M.K.”
The energy from those blocks carried over to players beyond the special teams units.
“It makes us really strong, because Gundy always about three phases, not just about offense and defense, but special teams can really win or lose you a game,” said running back Justice Hill, who gained 123 yards and a touchdown on 15 rushes. “So whenever you’re able to get some points or make big plays on special teams, it makes a big difference in the outcome of the game.”
Meanwhile, in the kicking game, Matt Ammendola made field goals of 22, 48, and 23 yards against Boise State and has made 17 consecutive attempts, the longest active streak in the nation.
Oklahoma State begins the Big 12 Conference portion of its schedule on Saturday when it hosts Texas Tech (2-1).