I was thinking, that’s the biggest play the special teams has had for West Virginia this season. Clearly. Behind that is … I guess it’s the other fumble recovery in the same game. Or is it a good punt by Billy Kinney or a kickoff that stayed away from Aaron Ross? Do we count Matt McCrane missing a potential game-winning field goal for Kansas State? It’s nondescript stuff.
Truth be told, WVU’s special teams have been unspectacular — some yuck rankings — and somehow mostly inconsequential, which is really an improvement on some prior years. And yet, it’s concerning Saturday. Oklahoma State is really good on special teams, with rankings that look even better next to WVUs.
The Cowboys treat every rep like a chance to score or at least alter the game. They blocked three extra points against Texas, which means they saw something in their preparations and went after it — they have two blocked PAT two-point conversions this season. Vincent Taylor is a monster. The kicker is the school’s all-time leading scorer. The kickoff return guy has good genes. Watch out.
“It’s huge here,” Scott said. “You look at their coverage units and they’re right at the top of the Big 12. So we’re going to have our work cut out in the return game, whether it’s [Jalen] McCleskey in the punt return or Barry Sanders Jr., who has gotten loose on a couple punts and kickoff returns.”
Oh yeah. Barry Sanders’ son is returning kicks. All he has is the genes of the best running back in the history of football. (My opinion. Argue amongst yourselves.)
“He’s extremely quick,” Scott said of Sanders. “He and McCleskey are different guys. Barry Sanders Jr. is a thick kid. He’s almost 200 pounds and he still has quickness and elusiveness. McCleskey is more of a speed guy. He’s one of their top slot receivers. He’s got wiggle and straight-line speed.”
Back to that kick-blocking stat though.
“They’re going to come after two to three punts every game,” Scott said of OSU. “We’ve got to teach our guys what to look for. Obviously protection is No. 1 always when it comes to punts. Protect your gap. If there’s no threat, we’ve got to get out with the same type of speed as we did against Kansas State and last week [versus TCU]. We’ve got to use our hands. You can’t run away from a block. We’ve got to be violent. We’ve got to be the aggressor. We’ve got to get those hands off and get down into coverage.
“We’ll work on that all week. It’s hard to say this week is more important than any other, but we want to continue to get better.”