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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Kicking Away the Ghosts of September

Austin Seibert looks to kick the Big 12 season off on the right foot.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Oklahoma vs Clemson Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this season, Austin Seibert was thought to be an X-factor on a national-title contender. The sophomore feared foot from Belleville, Illinois, showed during his first college season that he was every bit as good as advertised, garnering All-Big 12 and AP All-American honors as a kicker and punter, including a semifinalist finish for the Ray Guy Award.

In 2015, Seibert connected on his first 10 field goal attempts, finishing 18 of 23 overall and 70 of 72 on extra points for the year. So why not take over kickoffs as well? He would be the special teams’ secret weapon entering a 2016 season ripe with high expectation.

Then, that afternoon in Houston happened, followed by a missed 27-yarder at home against the Buckeyes. So far into his sophomore season, this is how Seibert’s stats stack up:

Stoops has said that stretch of quicksand after Seibert’s makeable miss against tOSU would affect his decision-making on fourth downs the rest of the game:

"It wasn't a problem with the operation, that was my first question,” Stoops said. "He just hit a bad ball, and then he hit a horrible punt. And then the next drive or two we had a 50-yard field goal, and I went for it on fourth down because I didn't feel he was in any kind of confidence or shape to go for it. We don't convert so everything just kind of snowballs together."

Is Seibert asked to do too much? He is the first Oklahoma special teamer to handle kicks and punts since Tress Way in 2009 and Jeff Ferguson in 1998, and now also handles kickoffs. We know Seibert has the talent and should eventually be kicking on Sundays. But one can’t help wonder if these early-season, high-pressure situations in high-stakes ballgames could lead to a little added mental fatigue for a young kicker with so much responsibility — fatigue that could easily cause a sudden shiver and a highly costly misstep or two? In fact, one need not be young to feel such pressure.

NCAA Football: Texas Kickoff-Oklahoma vs Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Stoops has reiterated that his special teams ace can handle it all and that he’s sure he’ll pull through this rough stretch. He has told his young kicker how much he still believes in him and to just put the last few kicks behind him:

“You are the best all-around kicker that I’ve ever seen. You’ve had a couple of miscues. Let it go.”

Seibert could have the chance to do so on Saturday in Fort Worth, as a conference game of this magnitude could easily and conceivably come down to a crucial field goal, make or miss, for either side. And at least he’s seen it all now -- unless there’s a game that features multiple kick-sixes. That would be pretty ridiculous, though, even for Oklahoma.

Although things didn’t go as planned for him and his team in September, there’s still lots of season left to get things right. It’s time for Young Austin Seibert to shake those old kicks off, and just simply look forward to the next one.