Sunday, September 6, 2009
What we learned in the Big 12, Week 1
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few observations from the first week across the Big 12:
1. Suddenly, that Oct. 17 game between Texas and Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl doesn’t look like Armageddon. The Red River Rivalry still should be one of the pivotal games of the season, but the Texas-Oklahoma State game two weeks later might end up playing much larger on the national stage.
2. Now who was that Chase Daniel guy who played for Missouri? Blaine Gabbert had a scintillating first career start to pace Missouri’s 37-9 victory over Illinois. And the bigger and stronger Gabbert appears able to do things physically that Daniel couldn’t do after the 6-foot-5, 242-pounder beat the Illini. We might have written off the Tigers’ chances to contend in the North Division a little too early if Saturday’s performance is any indication.
3. It might be a long season for Bill Snyder. It wasn't a good sign for Snyder’s rebuilding job at Kansas State that the Wildcats needed a late drive to kill the clock in an unimpressive 21-17 triumph over FCS foe Massachusetts. Kansas State made the game way too close with three turnovers, including two by first-time starting quarterback Carson Coffman.
4. Texas' most exciting running back was one who emerged from out of nowhere. For all of the talk about the potential running backs in Texas’ deep backfield, we didn’t hear much about redshirt freshman D.J. Monroe coming into the season. Heck, he wasn't even listed anywhere on the Longhorns' two-deep roster coming into their opener. Monroe made the most of his debut with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and 64 yards rushing in the Longhorns’ triumph over Louisiana-Monroe. The big night from the 5-foot-9, 170-pound converted wide receiver almost was enough to make Texas coaches forget Vondrell McGee’s two fumbles -- but not quite.
5. The Blackshirts apparently can play takeaway. Nebraska’s offense got a lot of the credit for the Cornhuskers’ 49-3 thumping of Florida Atlantic University. But as impressive was the opportunism of the Cornhuskers' defense, which forced three turnovers to spark the triumph. That’s more like Bo Pelini was looking for when he arrived at Nebraska after making his reputation for coaching defenses that thrived on making big plays. Nebraska caused only 17 turnovers last season and forced more than two in only one game. The Cornhuskers’ opening-game defensive effort was what Pelini hoped for after making forcing turnovers a huge point of emphasis since last year.