The West Virginia University football team pulled off the upset against the eleventh ranked Cowboys of Oklahoma State last week. The offense led by Clint Trickett looked to be in groove for the most part while the defense played outstanding and left no doubt that they are a forced to be reckoned with. However, there are three sides to the game. The last one that sometimes gets overshadowed is special teams.
WVU's special teams need to be given some special attention. Even though there's a lot of work to still be done on offense and defense, the" little-big" mistakes on special teams needs to be addressed as well.
The punting game for the Mountaineers needs to see smarter decisions by whoever is returning the kick. A costly blunder during the Oklahoma State game was when wide receiver Jordan Thompson fair-caught a punt on his own three-yard- line.
"I knew what I did was wrong," said Thompson. "I was kind of mad at myself."
As he should be, it's a simple play like that, that can cost a team big-time. The ball would have most likely taken a bounce into the end zone and given the Mountaineers much better field position but instead they were backed deep in their own territory due to a mistake that is easily avoidable.
"It's just one mistake, I know I won't make it again," added Thompson.
That's a promise that Thompson needs to keep. Thompson will improve if he continues to address his mistakes and works them out.
"It's just a learning process. I'm getting more comfortable being back there and catching punts," said Thompson. "Save the hidden yardage that we see in film."
The same goes for the kick returns for the Mountaineers. We know that players are just trying to make something out of nothing however; sometimes the big play is knowing what you can get and not making it any worse than it already is.
An area where the Mountaineers are excelling is that of flipping the field. Punter Nick O'Toole is doing a solid job of pinning opposing teams deep and flipping the field for the Mountaineers. He earned the Special Team's Player of the Week after his performance against the Cowboys.
"Great honor, it's what I came here to do," O'Toole said. "I got a scholarship here to do my job, if that's backed up, inside the 20 punts, I'll do my best."
O'Toole especially does well when he's deep in his own territory. Booming the ball from way back is definitely an advantage for the Mountaineers when field position becomes a factor.
"Backed up you see the whole field," said O'Toole. "I like to challenge myself, I'm a perfectionist."
Another area the team needs to see some improvement in is their field goal kicking. The field goal unit is nowhere near as bad as it was a year ago. Josh Lambert the kicker is a step-up from what the team had last year.
Although he hasn't been all that great, he has done a solid job thus far. This was evident during last week's games when he managed to tack on three points on various occasions. He could see more consistency with time.
If the Mountaineers can continue their success on defense, continue to improve on offense and fixed these special team mistakes they could really make something happen. We saw a start of how good this team can be with the upset last week. If the Mountaineers can do it again against Baylor they will definitely be establishing themselves as a threat in the Big 12.