Big 12 Notebook
By: Athlon Sports | 9/22/10, 3:55 PM EDT
Longhorns Get It Done With Defense
Seems all the speculative focus on Texas may have been misplaced.
Throughout the summer and even the first two games, the eyes of Texas were fixed on new quarterback Garrett Gilbert or the revamped running game or some other facet of the offense, even as Longhorns coach Mack Brown tried to tell all about his defense.
And on a rough, tough, telling night in Lubbock, the true Texas story was defense. Longhorns 24, Texas Tech 14.
Texas held Tech to 144 yards of total offense, stuffing the Red Raiders ground game to the tune of minus-14. That skimpy production was Tech’s first under 150 total yards since 1990, when Miami held those Raiders to 93 in a 45–10 loss.
This one was closer, partly because three Gilbert passes landed in Tech arms, including one returned 87 yards for a score by Raiders cornerback Jarvis Phillips.
The Longhorns were limited offensively, too, beyond their four total turnovers. But their defensive dominance was the difference. The Horns posted four sacks, forced three turnovers and refused to allow Tech even a thought of a comeback.
“I thought we’d score in the 30s,” said Tech coach Tommy Tuberville.
The Red Raiders had 14 offensive possessions. Nine resulted in three-and-outs and three more ended in turnovers. On their final five possessions, the Raiders managed but 17 yards on 19 snaps.
“We were pretty dominating,” Brown told reporters after his team took an early lead in the Big 12 South.
Good thing, too, with the offense struggling.
Of Gilbert’s three interceptions, two were tipped at the line of scrimmage and another went through a receiver’s hands, so it wasn’t all on the quarterback.
And when the Horns needed to dig deep and churn out a big-time drive, they did, marching 80 yards on 22 grinding plays to score a touchdown with 9:26 to play and make it 24–14.
Still, it was the defense that provided an edge, with Curtis Brown’s 76-yard interception return setting up the field goal that broke a 14–14 tie.
“Anytime you got a great defense like that, you can pretty much put the game in their hands,” said Texas wideout James Kirkendoll.
Texas 24, Texas Tech 14
Oklahoma State 65, Tulsa 28
Texas A&M 27, Florida International 20
Missouri 27, San Diego State 24
TCU 45, Baylor 10
Nebraska 56, Washington 21
Oklahoma 27, Air Force 24
Colorado 31, Hawaii 13
Kansas State 27, Iowa State 20
Southern Miss 31, Kansas 16
Huskers Make Statement
The rush to declare Nebraska back among the big boys had been based less on proof than potential since late last season.
A statement win, please? None to be found.
Saturday, at Washington, the Huskers opened the case.
No, the Huskies aren’t all that, despite quarterback Jake Locker’s presence. Still, it was Nebraska freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez’s first road start, on a cross-country trip, with Washington geeked for a visit from the Big Red. A test? With apologies to Emma Stone — Easy A.
The Huskers rolled 56–21, eventually running away from the Huskies, literally, with a ground game that pounded away to the tune of 383 rushing yards and a 7.1 per carry average. Martinez passed for 150 yards, ran for 137 and played a part in four touchdowns. Equally impressive, he was unshakable.
“I don’t get nervous before games,” Martinez told reporters afterward, “so they should probably stop asking me.”
Said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini: “I don’t know if you can ever rattle the guy.”
The Huskers can’t be declared back, yet, although they did garner one first-place vote in the coaches poll (not Pelini’s, by the way). But they do appear to be getting there.
When Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy lured offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen away from Houston, there were concerns that it might take the Cowboys time to adjust.
Now only was Holgorsen’s spread system different, but OSU also was already in transition with eight new starters on offense, including quarterback with Brandon Weeden.
So far, so, so good.
Boosted by their rout of Tulsa, the Cowboys now lead the nation in passing offense and rank second in scoring offense and total offense.
With Tulsa determined to slow running back Kendall Hunter, Weeden carved up the Golden Hurricane, throwing for a one-half record 328 yards and five touchdowns in the first two quarters. He stuck around for just one more pass in the second half — an 81-yard bomb to wideout Justin Blackmon — and was done for the night.
The Cowboys have yet to be tested, rolling up big numbers against three overmatched foes.
Still, so far… so, so good.
Not Ready For Prime Time
Baylor hoped the stars were aligning for a run at the school’s first bowl bid since 1994 — pre-Big 12. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was back and healthy and being a difference-maker again. Coach Art Briles had more of his players in place, with three recruiting classes on the books. The Bears’ game at TCU was seen as a check of the program’s measuring stick.
The verdict: Baylor isn’t yet ready for prime time. TCU never left the game in doubt, marching to touchdowns on its first five drives.
Falling to 2–48 against ranked foes since the inception of the Big 12, Baylor now faces all its usual doubts.
Heading for the fourth quarter, at home on Kyle Field, Texas A&M trailed Florida International 20–6.
At least the Aggies found a sense of urgency, rallying to a 27–20 win, although the scare from FIU, a four-touchdown underdog, should be sobering as the team faces an off week before its Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State.
Of course, it could have been worse, and nearly was.
“Even though we had several turnovers, we haven’t met adversity like when we get to the Big 12,” said Aggies linebacker Michael Hodges. “Us overcoming that adversity (against FIU) is a milestone. We know we can do it now.”
Player of the Week
Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys junior completed 23-of-32 passes for 409 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in the rout of Tulsa. And he played but one possession in the second half, or the single-game school record of 430 yards would have likely been easily had. As it was, Weeden’s big night ranked as the No. 4 passing day in OSU history.
Game of the Week: UCLA at Texas.OK, so it’s a slow week in the Big 12. Oklahoma at Cincinnati once looked like a marquee matchup, before the Bearcats were struggling to block anybody. Seriously, anybody. At least with the Bruins and Longhorns, you get two strong traditions and two of college football’s best uniforms.
On the Spot:Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma.As a redshirt freshman and fill-in for Sam Bradford a year ago, Jones endured some rocky moments on the road, leading to a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde reputation. This is his chance to prove that he’s matured into an elite QB.
In the Spotlight: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. The Tigers struggled to get past San Diego State on Saturday, with Gabbert providing an uneven performance, scuffling in the first half before sparking the team’s charge in the second half. With the offense in transition, Gabbert needs to be the one stabilizing constant. And he needs to be that soon, very soon.
Curtis Brown, CB, Texas.It was Brown who failed to corral Michael Crabtree on that last-second touchdown that lifted Tech past the Longhorns and kept Texas out of the national title game two years ago. This time against the Red Raiders, Brown came through with a game-changing interception, picking off Taylor Potts and scooting 74 yards to set up the field goal that broke a 14–14 tie and sent Texas on to victory.
Taylor Potts, QB, Texas Tech. Potts hasn’t been all that popular in Lubbock, at least among fans. And his struggling performance against the Longhorns already has some calling for Steven Sheffield to replace him.
By The Numbers
3Interceptions returned for touchdowns last Saturday: Tech’s Jarvis Phillips (87 yards), Nebraska’s Alfonzo Dennard (31 yards) and Iowa State’s A.J. Klein (69 yards).
34Career-high carries for K-State’s Daniel Thomas, who ran for 181 yards and two TDs against Iowa State.
68Yards on the TD pass play from Blaine Gabbert to T.J. Moe with 51 seconds left, lifting Missouri past San Diego State.
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