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Oklahoma State 2019 Grades: Special Teams Unit Was Good, Not Great

Ammendola’s place in history and a stat from Tom Hutton that might surprise you.



As we continue to put a bow on Oklahoma State’s 2019 season, let’s turn our gaze to the polarizing third phase of football and grade the Cowboys special teams unit.

140-Character Summary: Despite an unfortunate finale, Matt Ammendola did turn in a career-high field-goal rating with his good, not great 76.9 completion percentage. Tom Hutton looked like just what he was, a first-time punter with some potential.

Best Performance: Kansas State. The good games for specialists often go unnoticed and unsung, but during the Cowboys’ 26-13 win over the Wildcats both Tom Hutton and Matt Ammendola were on their A-games. Hutton punted four times and planted all four of them inside K-State’s 20-yard line while Matt Ammendola made all four field-goal attempts, a career high.

Worst Performance: Texas Bowl. There were plenty of gripes to be had about the Cowboys’ loss to the Aggies in Houston, but a handful of key special teams snafus put them behind the eight ball.

Matt Ammendola missed both of his field goal attempts — not exactly chip shots at 53 and 46 yards, but still — and a poor punt by Tom Hutton from his own end zone gave A&M the ball at the edge of OSU’s red zone and led to 7 points. That’s a 13-point swing in three plays in a game OSU lost by 3.

Best Play: There can be only one. Any time your punter turns in a passer rating of 263, you have to highlight it.

Stat that matters: 31st — That was OSU’s special teams efficiency ranking in 2019. But before the good number, the ugly.

Hutton’s 38.7 punt average in 2019 was the lowest by a starting OSU punter since 2000. Scott Elder finished at 37.6 that season. But with punting it’s not all about distance.

Oklahoma State finished ranked 39th in punting efficiency which takes into account opponent field position at the end of a punt play versus field position to start said play. That’s up from the Cowboys’ finish in each of the last two seasons of Zach Sinor’s tenure. (OSU was 42nd in 2018 and 110th in 2017.) Sinor did turn in a No. 8 ranking nationally in 2016.

Overall in special teams efficiency, the Cowboys came in at .04 which ranked 31st this season nationally, down from 21st last year but their second-best finish since 2014. That rating represents a per-possession scoring average for OSU’s special teams unit based on a neutral field position.

Bullet Stickers (out of 10): 6

I almost have a hard time ranking the group this low based on their rating and other factors. OSU’s kickoff efficiency, mostly thanks to Jake McClure, ranked third nationally. But with the memory of points left on the field so sharp in my mind, along with the head-scratching punts we saw down the season’s stretch, it’s hard to grade OSU much higher.

The Future: The Cowboys say goodbye to senior place kicker Matt Ammendola. He ends his career as the fourth-leading scorer in Oklahoma State history. Any time you’re right behind Barry, it’s quite an accomplishment.

1. Ben Grogan — 433
2. Dan Bailey — 370
3. Barry Sanders — 360
4. Matt Ammendola — 359
5. Cary Blanchard — 331
6. Thurman Thomas — 302
7. Quinn Sharp — 301
8. Larry Roach — 296
9. Terry Miller — 294
10. Tim Sydnes — 272

Behind “Philly” the Pokes have a couple of candidates ready to step up at place kicker including McClure and another Aussie specialist in Alex Hale. Hale contributed in kickoff duties in a reserve role against McNeese State and Kansas State. There may be other additions but expect an open competition for FGs in the spring.

Hutton will have a chance to continue to develop. Despite being nearly my age, he’s just a true freshman. With all kinds of coaching changes still expected this offseason, we will see if OSU finally pays a full-time staffer to lead this crucial, yet oft-overlooked phase of the game.

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