Third Wheel

Oklahoma State's special teams have been statistically amazing despite being overshadowed by a prolific running game and the Cowboys' bend but don't break defense.

The third wheel.

It's your little brother tagging along on your first date.

It's the awkward crutch of a tricycle that, maybe unbeknownst to you at the time, keeps you from really moving.

It's that part during assembly that no one quite knows what to do with, and gets tossed aside as soon as someone discovers it's useless or unnecessary.

Except in battle.

Then, it's like bringing an extra knife, gun or pair of, hopefully capable, fists to the fight.
It can make the difference between win and lose, victory and defeat.

The latter holds true in football as well.

And for Oklahoma State, its special teams have been the iron maiden to their sword and shield.
On several occasions this season, the Cowboys' third unit has connected with the punch that sent their opponent spiraling, leaving their offense-defense tag team an easy target.

Most recently, punter-kickoff specialist Cole Farden, kicker Luke Phillips and punt returner Gabe Lindsay provided the dizzying blows.

Farden, much like he has been all season, played the role of a cannon, launching balls through the end zone for touchbacks on every kickoff against Kansas.

OSU ranks first in the Big 12 in kickoff coverage, allowing only 18.4 yards per return.
And Farden's other specialty?

He's No. 3 in the Big 12 in punting average at 43 yards per punt.

"A punter who's kicking it deep every time, a guy who kicks it off out of the end zone and the Big 12 special teams player of the week, Luke Phillips," said OSU coach Les Miles, "it really gives us an advantage."

Like aerial support in a ground war.

Phillips launched a few bombs Saturday, nailing three more field goals against Kansas and netting him Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

His catapult of a leg has connected on 15 of 16 field goals this season, including three for three from 50 yards and beyond. He has also put 46 of 47 extra point attempts through the uprights.

"I'm going to say we're, maybe, statistically the best special teams in the Big 12 Conference," Miles said. "We have the opportunity to have national honors at several spots."

In no position is that more true than punt returns, which brings the arsenal tour back to Lindsay.
Against the Jayhawks, Lindsay had two long punt returns, 37 and 44, that set up 10 Oklahoma State points.

His 37-yarder allowed for Shawn Willis' only touchdown in the game, and gave OSU its biggest lead at 30-13.

And still he has been dwarfed by cornerback-return man Darrent Williams, who averages 17.9 yards per punt return and has carried two back for touchdowns of 78 and 59 yards against Louisiana Lafayette.

Lindsay only has one touchdown return, a 55-yarder against Wyoming.

But Williams and Lindsay individually carry more explosiveness than any other return men in the Big 12, sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in punt return average.

Yes, they even sit above the lauded Oklahoma return specialist Antonio Perkins.

"That's an important advantage for us, and one we intend to press," Miles said.

It never hurts to bring a few howitzers to a gun fight.






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