Welcome to Week 7 in the Big 12. The Bears shellacked the Mountaineers last week with the starters lounging on the bench for the second half (again). Texas escaped Iowa on a controversial no-fumble on their last drive of the day and Oklahoma hung on for a 3 point win over TCU. Kansas pulled the fake punt on 4th and 13 with the punter standing on his own 1 yard line. Tech scored two plays later and ran off 44 unanswered to rout the hapless Jayhawks. OSU and KSU battled down to the last minute with OSU winning the squeaker of the week. OU and Baylor emerged as the conference favorites with a me-too Tech nipping at their heals. Another week, another round of Big 12 excitement.
Oklahoma (-14) 20 vs. Texas 36 (Cotton Bowl)
Oklahoma came into this game as a heavy favorite. I read somewhere that the biggest line ever posted on the Red River Rivalry was 17 and this one was within a field goal of that. Typically this game involves highly ranked teams and has national title implications. This year, the only side of the Red River that was bringing that panache to the table was the North side. OU appeared to be the class of the conference and definitely in the hunt for a league championship coming into the game. Texas on the other hand, not so much. They had fired their defensive coordinator after 2 games, the head coach is sitting on a seat that is hot enough to smelt aluminum, and the Athletic Director has already announced his retirement. Smells like a big-time victory party all the way from Fair Park to Norman on Saturday.
Before jumping to hasty conclusions though, the other thing that is typical about this game is that you can throw the lines, the predictions, the normal thought processes out the window. This one is about as unpredictable as they come. Not that I have ever had a dog in the fight, but I have been watching this game since I was a kid and it is almost always entertaining and never seems to generate the on-paper result.
Well, this year’s match was no different. After the two teams exchanged field goals to start the game, the game looked like it would be a grind-out. On the next series, the Horns fumbled giving the Sooners a chance to gain some momentum, but it was not to be. Chris Whaley picked off a Blake Bell pass and rumbled 31 yards into the end-zone. For those not familiar with Whaley as a pass defender, don't worry, no one was, including Bell. Whaley is a 6’3", 300lb defensive tackle that had dropped into coverage on the play. As a former lineman myself, I love to see a big man get the ball and run with it, even when he is playing for Texas.
Later in the second quarter, Case McCoy threw a pass that would make Art Briles smile to Marcus Johnson for a 59-yard touchdown. Two series later, the Horns kicked another field goal and at 20-3, Mack Brown was doing more than smiling, he was already thinking about a contract extension. But the Sooners were not finished, on the next kickoff, OU returned the kick 73 yards to the Texas 27 setting up a Damien Williams touchdown to breath some life back into the Sooners.
With a minute left in the half, the Sooners gave up a long punt return themselves and let the Horns get into field goal range for a half ending 3-pointer. Final score at the half: UT 23 – OU 10. Still anyone’s game but Texas definitely had the momentum and the swagger going into the locker rooms.
Coming out to start the 3rd quarter, OU put together a reasonable drive that ended in a field goal and seemed to pick up some much-needed confidence. Two series and a Daje Johnson 85-yard punt return for a touchdown later, that confidence was out the window. If you see the footage of the play, it looked like OU players were in slow motion, Johnson carved right through them and ran generally untouched to pay dirt.
One more long McCoy pass to Mike Davis in the 4th quarter and the upset was sealed. 36 – 20 and it wasn't even really that close.
McCoy, while not statistically impressive in this one, looked like a winner and threw great passes when needed. Jonathon Gray had 123 yards and though not scoring a touchdown, did provide a spark from the line of scrimmage. After a red-hot stretch against Tulsa and Notre Dame, Blake Bell was abysmal against the Horns, turning in his lowest quarterback rating of the season by far and giving up a pick-6 to a 300lb lineman.
I have taken a few humorous swipes at the Horns notion of winning the Big 12 in the past few weeks, but I have also said that they have the talent to be dangerous if they somehow get the ship righted and sailing on course. Well, they are officially dangerous. This was a solid game by the Horns and a big letdown by the Sooners. We will see in upcoming weeks whether this was just the voodoo of the Red River Rivalry or a legitimate notion of the two team’s abilities.
Iowa State (+14) 35 @ Texas Tech 42
Iowa State was a team that was desperate for a win coming into this game. After a heartbreaking loss last week to the Longhorns, 1,000 opinions on the "fumble" and bowl hopes only the faintest of glimmers in the distance, you can bet that Paul Rhoads was pushing his squad hard to prepare for this one. All he would have to do is show his post-game presser to the team to turn them into a band of blood-thirsty savages.
Davis Webb got the start for Tech in this one with Baker Mayfield still hobbled on the sidelines. With 666 yards of total offense, it was clear to me that dark forces were involved in this Tech win, as well as an outstanding afternoon by Webb. Webb threw for 415 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 interception. Not a bad piece of work for the freshman coming off the bench for his first career start. Tech also had a big rushing day. Even without a 100-yard rusher, the three man committee of DeAndre Washington, Sadale Foster, and Kenny Williams accounted for 251 yards.
Defensively, Tech was very solid with the 35 points scored by the Cyclones not an accurate reflection of the performance. The Red Raider D only allowed a stingy 311 yards with QB Sam Richardson and primary target Quenton Bundrage held in check for the majority of the game. They combined for only 52 yards overall.
The things that kept the Cyclones in this game were turnovers and special teams play. Iowa State was able to turn 3 turnovers into 12 points and also had a 95-yard return for a touchdown.
The interesting thing about this game is that other than Sadale Foster’s 38 yard touchdown run at the end of the game, there were not a lot of long plays or quick strikes. Tech put up 666 yards with longish, methodical drives. Jace Amaro did lead all receivers with 143 yards and had a 39 yard reception in the 4th quarter to set up a touchdown, but the long ball was not on show in this one.
Tech has quietly moved from me-too status into the thick of the Big 12 race with this win. They are winning ugly, but they are winning. Much like Baylor’s, their schedule is heavily back-loaded so we will get a truer sense of their potential later in the season, but at this point they are clearly a team to beat. With 2 true freshmen running the offense, Kliff Kingsbury is starting to look like Mr. Wizard.
Kansas (+25) 17 @ TCU 27
To me, this game was much more about TCU than it was against Kansas. And I say that with all due respect to Charlie Weis and his squad. Up until last week, I honestly was thinking that Kansas was going to sneak up on someone this year. I thought that there was no way that they could stay down for the whole season. After last week’s fake punt and 44 points reeled off with nothing in the way of answer, I am thinking that Baylor’s 29 game Big 12 losing streak is at serious risk. That of course is something that no one reading this article will be upset about seeing fall. Kansas still has some winnable games on its schedule, but it is going to be tough to pull one out.
Back to the original point, TCU is sitting at 2-3, with losses coming at the hands of ranked opponents. They have had injury issues on both sides of the ball and their offense has not clicked this year under Trevone Boykin. At the risk of getting tarred and feathered by Baylor fans, I have to give TCU some props. TCU is a far better team than they are getting credit for and in my mind they are the best team in the country with a losing record. They are clearly a team that Baylor needs to not look past, but that is a story for another week. Would they rise to the challenge this week and put the wood on a staggering Jayhawk team? With a 25 point line, a lot of people in Nevada were thinking that they wood, I mean would...
TCU got off to an inauspicious start with Trevone Boykin throwing an interception on the first play from scrimmage for the Frogs. Kansas opportunistically turned that pick into 3 points. In fact, Kansas did not score a single point that was not following a TCU turnover. They had a pick-6 in the second quarter and a recovered muffed punt that lead to a touchdown late in the ball game.
So while this game was close on the scoreboard, the statistics would show otherwise. The TCU defense (or the Kansas offense depending on how you look at it) held Kansas to only 198 yards of offense. Only 48 yards came on the ground. TCU had a passable 380 yards from scrimmage but gave up 5 turnovers. TCU has given up the ball 11 times this year already and the trend seems to be getting worse.
Kansas continues to be miserable on the field, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and it is not looking like the losing streak will break any time soon. While TCU did advance to 3-3 on the season, it did not really show that they are building momentum. A reasonable defense and an offense that turns the ball over 5 times and scores 27 points a game is not a combination that will consistently win in the Big 12, or many other leagues for that matter. TCU is a dangerous team and could still break someone’s heart this season, but they will have to show marked improvement to do that.
Sunday Morning Quarterback
It was a wake-up call for the Bears this week in more ways than one. First, the offense was proven to be slowable. Kansas State took away the run so Bryce Petty, Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley burned them with the long ball. Without question the offense was in less of a rhythm than it has been in the previous four games though. I also am starting to think that Goodley is the 6 million dollar, bionic man. That stiff arm/"see you later" on his long touchdown run was a thing of beauty. Reese was behind defensive backs by 10 yards on his TD catches, which was also very impressive.
Having a close win where the starters played the whole game on the road in a place where the team has never won before was a positive result. It has to feel good to take the best shot of a dangerous conference opponent in their house and escape with a victory. It also means that there are things that Baylor will take away from this game to work on and improve. Over-confidence is a very dangerous mindset in college football, so coming down to earth without taking a loss might be the best thing that could have happened to the Bears.
Another wake-up call was placed by Texas. They woke up in a big way. We will have to see if they suffer a letdown after their major win this week, but they have definitely crept back into the picture and a win over a top 12 opponent gives them instant credibility on the national stage. This was not the same team that was having its teeth kicked in by the likes of Ole Miss and BYU. That final game at Floyd Casey could really mean a lot.
At this point, I still feel that the Bears have a great shot to win the conference and a slap in the face to get the attention of the team will hopefully keep everyone focused. The miasma at the top is getting thicker though with Tech, UT, OSU, and OU all within striking distance and all having the talent to make a move.
That November stretch will be where it is all settled on the field, so with 2 more winnable games on the schedule before entering the gauntlet, Baylor needs to stay focused and take care of business.
Go Bears, 5-0…