Texas special teams becoming a liability for struggling Longhorns Print
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Tuesday, 02 October 2007 02:21
NCAAF Headline News

 AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -For years, Texas' special teams were among the best in the nation. Blocked kicks and big returns changed the outcome of many games.
This season, the Longhorns have struggled to match their previous success. In last week's loss to Kansas State, they were downright awful on kick coverage, giving up two long returns for touchdowns.
``Those things just killed us. They were momentum grabbers,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said. ``Two touchdowns to none. That's unbelievable.''
And with border rival No. 10 Oklahoma (4-1, 0-1 Big 12) up next, the No. 19 Longhorns (4-1, 0-1) are desperate to patch up a part of their game that has suddenly become a huge liability. Texas ranks 113th in the nation defending punt returns and 89th in kickoff return yards allowed.
Oklahoma had its own special teams flubs in a 27-24 loss to Colorado.
The Sooners led 24-7 in the second half before the Buffaloes rallied. Colorado tied it in the fourth quarter after Oklahoma's Reggie Smith fumbled a fair catch on a punt. And when they were forced to punt, the Sooners gave up a 31-yard return that put Colorado in position to kick the winning field goal. It was the longest punt return allowed by the Sooners this season.
``We've been a good cover team, and obviously we need to be better in that game,'' Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.
These teams have been so good on special teams in recent years it's been easy to take for granted.
From 2003-2006, Michael Griffin and Brian Robison blocked 14 field goals, extra points and punts.
As a team, Texas' 48 blocks since 2000 are the most in the country. But none have come in the first five games this season.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, has had 25 special teams touchdowns and 20 blocked kicks in Stoops' eight-plus seasons. DeMarco Murray has one kickoff return for a TD this season.
While the Longhorns are not changing the game with their kick teams, other teams are using them to steal momentum.
Against Kansas State, Texas had just tied the score when the Wildcats' James Johnson took a short kickoff all the way back for a TD that helped boost K-State to a 24-14 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the Longhorns fought back to within 27-21. K-State's Jordy Nelson caught a punt on the 11 and squirted through the kick coverage untouched for a TD that snuffed any hope of a Texas rally.
``We were going to have great field position because the defense was playing great,'' Brown said.
``That's frustrating,'' defensive tackle Derek Lokey said. ``You get excited about going out to play defense and they change momentum.''
The Texas-Oklahoma game has not seen a game-changing kick return in several years. In 2002, Texas appeared ready to take a 14-3 lead into halftime until Oklahoma returned a kickoff 81 yards to set up a touchdown and 2-point conversion. The Sooners pulled within three and went on to win.
The kickers have been solid this season. Texas' Ryan Bailey has made 10 of 12 field goals and all 19 of his extra points. Oklahoma's Garrett Hartley is 4-of-5 on field goals but has missed three extra points.
Texas' kickoff and punt returner, Quan Cosby, has yet to find the end zone. Cosby is asked to do a lot. Besides returning nearly every kick and punt for Texas, he's also the Longhorns' second leading receiver with 28 catches.
``Every time I'm out there,'' Cosby said, ``I'm trying to score.''
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AP Sports Writer Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
 

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