OSU Rewind: McCleskey Makes The Big Play

After giving up an early kickoff return for a touchdown, Oklahoma State came up with a big special teams play of its own when freshman Jalen McCleskey went 67 yards with a punt return for a TD.

Saturday's game did not start off well for Oklahoma State special teams coordinator Robbie Discher and his units, particularly his kickoff coverage unit. After seeing Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant break or fake out some six Cowboys defenders on an early 90-yard short bubble play that set up the second Red Raiders touchdown, the kickoff unit decided not to even give Grant a chance to break tackles by not even getting close enough on what was an official 100-yard kickoff return – and unofficially a 105-yarder – for a touchdown to make it 24-7.

The numbers say it was much better after that as overall Tech returned six other kickoffs for 77 yards but head coach Mike Gundy said it was damage control by Discher that helped a bunch.

"After number 11 got that one for a touchdown, we pooched, we squibbed, and then when we got the wind back, Robbie just said to heck with it, let's do what we do best and we kicked it deep again," Gundy explained after the game. "I give Robbie a lot of credit and we had our own big play in the return game, which we needed.

"We've been waiting and I know he's just a freshman but [Jalen] McCleskey has been working up to this. He's got the speed and all kinds of athletic ability and we knew he would be able to do this. It was a big play and I don't think they expected him to return that punt after it bounced."

No, I don't think anybody did except maybe his teammates, which seemed all prepared for it. On that return McCleskey leaped up in the air and as Cowboys radio voice Dave Hunziker said, "acted like a rebounder getting a basketball at it's highest point." Once McCleskey had it, immediately Miketavius Jones blocked the first man and took out another Tech player coming across.

Then downfield, Kameron Doolittle helped create the lane with a block. The former Edmond Memorial and NEO A&M standout and Cowboy walk-on then used his speed to join up with the convoy at the end. The last block was primarily made by backup wide receiver C.J. Curry as he and Blake Jarwin put a Tech player flat on his back.

That's four players you don't hear as much about, including two walk-ons, and McCleskey with his speed and instincts gets a very important 67-yard punt return for touchdown. I think we can all agree that it came at the right time.

Ben Grogan was sound and perfect, if not a little overworked on 10 PATs, and Zach Sinor was solid with five punts for a 40.5-yard average and two downed inside the 20-yard line, something he seems to do very well. A third punt just missed and was a touchback.

A trick from Grant of Tech and a treat from McCleskey and Company added up in the Cowboys favor on Halloween in Lubbock.


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