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Jack Freifelder | | October 26, 2016

Week 1 special teams spotlight: Houston Cougars

  Houston cornerback Brandon Wilson (26) returned a missed field goal 100 yards for a TD against Oklahoma.

What a week it was in college football. Plenty of highlights and high-profile teams in action, not to mention a few upsets to suit your football sweet tooth. Fans are always drawn to the big numbers that the skill players put up (and there were plenty), but it’s time to take a look at the often under-appreciated side of football — special teams.

This week special teams actually played a significant role in one of the biggest upsets of the weekend, No 15 Houston’s dismantling of No 3 Oklahoma.

Sure there were some fireworks courtesy of a number of Cougars on offense and defense, but the team really showed its backbone with its play in the kicking and return game.

  Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. played well against OU, but got some help from the special teams department.
Senior play-caller Greg Ward Jr. had a fine day under center while sophomore tailback Duke Catalon and junior wideout Steven Dunbar made a number of plays to keep Oklahoma’s defense honest.

It’s also worth mentioning one heck of a catch along the sideline by junior wide receiver Linell Bonner to bail out his QB in a tough scramble situation on third down and long, but the play on special teams helped keep the Sooners at bay.

The biggest play of the day though goes to senior cornerback Brandon Wilson. Cue the spotlight.

It’s not everyday that you see a field goal returned by the defense, but when you do it can be special. And boy was that the case on Saturday, when Wilson took a 53-yard field goal attempt by Oklahoma back to the house for a 100-yard return touchdown. The Sooners had called a timeout before attempting the long field goal try, which gave Houston a chance to revise its formation.

It is appropriately dubbed a ‘kick-six’ and it’s almost as fun to say as it is to watch live. Jake Trotter of ESPN certainly had fun with his recasting of the events from Saturday’s affair:

HOUSTON -- After catching Oklahoma's field goal attempt, Houston's Brandon Wilson thought his left foot was out of bounds through the back of the end zone. By an inch -- maybe -- it wasn't. Moments later, he completed one of the biggest plays in Cougars history, flipping the college football landscape on its head.

Don’t get caught thinking this is Wilson’s first time reaching the end zone, he’s actually scored a touchdown eight times in his career in six different ways. This one will definitely hold a special place though as it seems to have helped put the Cougars in the driver's seat with regard to their College Football Playoff destiny. Still plenty of football left to play though, so let's hold off on anointing any team as lock to make the playoff just yet.

That said, a win would against OU would have been possible if not for the contributions of Ty Cummings, Houston’s senior place-kicker. The native of Southlake, Texas, made all three point after attempts and all four of his field goals — including one from 47 yards out.

Some might think that a kicker’s job is easy, but that couldn’t be any less true when you are kicking with the weight of your team’s College Football Playoff hopes on the line. That's a lot to handle in the first game of the year, for any player. Maybe that sentiment is a bit trite — given the high-profile nature of this matchup, too much pressure to heap on the first game of the year, but there's little doubt that this game would have a significant impact on Houston's potential to bust into mix for a title.

Cummings’ performance kept his team close and kept the pressure on Oklahoma early as Houston’s offense was still getting its bearings. Fun fact: Cummings made eight field goals all of last year. He’s halfway to that total through one game in 2016.

  Houston's kicker Ty Cummings (47) made his mark on Saturday with four field goals and three extra points.
Converting drives into points on offense is the No. 1 goal for any coaching staff, but the kicking game is far from a guarantee in the college football world. That’s why the Cougars' display in the kicking game was so noteworthy. Cummings would have stolen the show if not for the theatrics of Wilson's kick-six, but odds are he’s happy to share the limelight.

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