Thursday, January 12, 2012
The Big 12's top 10 moments of 2011
By David Ubben
As quickly as it arrived, the Big 12 season is gone.
Alas, here's a look at the 10 moments we'll remember most from the 2011 season. These aren't necessarily the best or worst moments, but simply that: memorable. When we look back on 2011, this is what will stick out.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor's first Heisman winner, had a season for the record books.
1. Heisman moment? Take your pick. There were plenty of them in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III's run to an "unbelievably believable" Heisman win. What about his only reception of the season (that resulted in him getting the wind knocked out of him) on a dramatic final drive to beat TCU in the opener? What about a 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter of an overtime win over Kansas? The best on-field moment was probably his 39-yard TD pass to Terrance Williams in the final seconds to beat Oklahoma for the first time and thrust himself back into the Heisman race, despite three losses. And after beating Texas: "I think Baylor just won its first Heisman tonight," he said. Yep. It did.
2. Iowa State storms the field ... and bowl season. Oklahoma State looked headed for a showdown with Oklahoma to play for a national title, but Iowa State had other things in mind. Jared Barnett topped 375 yards passing and 75 yards rushing in just his third start to give the Cyclones a win over a top six team for the first time in 58 tries. It set off a party on the field at Jack Trice Stadium and put ISU into its second bowl in three years.
3. Texas A&M and Missouri say adios, muchachos. The Aggies had enough of Texas and wanted some of Alabama. Missouri had enough drama and wanted some stability. Texas A&M made it official in late September and Mizzou followed in early November. Texas A&M called it a "100-year decision."
4. The Big 12 says hello to two new friends. With Texas A&M and Missouri gone, expansion was the obvious necessary step. The Big 12 took it by welcoming Southwest Conference expatriate TCU home into the Big 12 on Oct. 11. And 17 days later, West Virginia followed, announcing its plans to help expand the Big 12's footprint wayyy, wayyy east.
5. The Aggies sound like a broken record. Shattered record, maybe. Texas A&M started as a Big 12 title contender with a top-10 ranking. It led 12 games by double digits. It lost six games. How'd it happen? Nobody knew, and as a result, coach Mike Sherman was fired. Over and over, it was the same story. The 20-3 and 35-17 halftime leads over Oklahoma State and Arkansas evaporated. The Aggies blew big leads over Missouri, Kansas State and Texas, too.
6. Oklahoma State finds new life ... twice. Most were resigned to Alabama and LSU meeting again for the title, but OSU made it interesting with a satisfying 44-10 embarrassment of Oklahoma, putting late pressure on voters and finishing behind Alabama by the slimmest margin in BCS history. And once OSU was in its bowl game, Stanford's Jordan Williamson yanked a 35-yard kick to send the game into overtime, where the Cowboys capitalized in a 41-38 win.
7. Texas grabs Lone Star Showdown bragging rights for...ever? The Longhorns were the underdogs in a veritable powder keg that was Kyle Field on Thanksgiving night. Then Colt, er, Case McCoy got loose for a 25-yard scramble that set up Justin Tucker's game-winning 40-yard field goal that gave Texas bragging rights in the now-defunct rivalry for as long as it would like. The Longhorns say they have no plans to continue the rivalry after the Aggies leave for the SEC.
8. The Little Apple hosts a classic. You never know when the longest game in Big 12 history is going to show up. Kansas State and Texas A&M played it. The Aggies led by 10 midway through the fourth quarter, but Collin Klein rallied the Wildcats and got the 53-50 win on — what else — a QB sneak for a game-winning touchdown.
The Big 12 saw a lot of transition over the course of 2011, including commissioner Dan Beebe's ouster.
9. Texas Tech ends Oklahoma's epic streak. The night began with ominous thunderstorms that delayed the game, but the Sooners struggled against Texas Tech's slip screens, and let Alex Torres go wild for three touchdown catches. The four-touchdown underdogs walked into Owen Field and became the second Big 12 team to ever beat Bob Stoops on his home field, and first since 2001. The Red Raiders also became the first team since 2005 to win there, ending the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak. The problem: Tech didn't win another game the rest of the season, and finished with the first losing season since 1992.
10. Dan Beebe gets the ax. The damage was done. Beebe was seen as someone who ceded to Texas at all costs, even if he did it as a last option to keep the Big 12 together in the summer of 2010. That hurt the league, and Oklahoma called for Beebe to be removed. He was, and replaced by interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, who had helped many of the league's ADs hire coaches. A permanent replacement still hasn't been named.
Honorable mention: OSU FB Kye Staley and Texas TE Blaine Irby score touchdowns in emotional returns from catastrophic knee injuries, K-State runs out of time in a near upset over Oklahoma State (and an earthquake followed), Kansas State becomes the first team to intercept RG3 and stays undefeated in an "upset" of Baylor, RG3 has his version of the "Immaculate Reception"; Missouri QB James Franklin goes beast mode on a 20-yard touchdown run in a win over Texas A&M; Missouri coach Gary Pinkel "ices" his own kicker in a loss to Arizona State; Kansas reaches a new low and trails Oklahoma State 56-7 at halftime; Ryan Broyles' career meets an unfair end with a torn ACL.