Desperate times call for desperate measures — at least for Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy as he tries to improve his punt returning
After struggling with little production this season, Gundy begged to borrow $4,000 from the Cowboys’ athletic budget to buy a new Juggs gun.
Gundy was particularly intrigued that the machine could also replicate wobbling punts.
Gundy says Holder let him borrow some money and he bought a new jugs machine for $4,000.
— News 9 Sports (@News9Sport) October 23, 2017
On a team with few noticeable flaws, one weakness has stood out for Oklahoma State: punt returning.
During his Monday news conference, Gundy said redshirt freshman Dillon Stoner “did a great job” as the Cowboys’ punt returner. Texas punter Michael Dickson consistently pinned Oklahoma State in its own territory in the Cowboys’ 13-10 overtime victory, a game that featured more punt yardage than total offense.
Gundy on Stoner's punt returning: "I thought he did a great job." Said Texas' punter's kicks were so high, plus wind, difficult to catch.
— Mark Cooper (@mark_cooperjr) October 23, 2017
Stoner returned three of Dickson’s 11 punts, muffing another. But the challenge of the wind in Austin, Texas, and Dickson’s rugby-style kicks left Gundy impressed with Stoner.
The Cowboys had used junior Jalen McCleskey as their primary punt returner for most of the past three seasons. But muffed punts became a consistent issue for him and he was benched after the Texas Tech game. Oklahoma State hasn’t returned a punt for a touchdown since McCleskey did so against Texas Tech in 2015.
Oklahoma State has produced 42 punt returns all season and have averaged 3.82 yards per return. It ranks 111th among the 130 FBS team.
The Cowboys face No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday, a top 25 matchup where field position will be critical. It’ll be interesting to see if Gundy’s investments — in Stoner and in a new machine — pay off.