Big 12: Big 12 games of the year

Big 12 games of the year: No. 1

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
We’ve been counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Finally, we’re down to game No. 1. Once again, Bedlam was the game of the year in the Big 12:

No. 1: Dec. 7 -- Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24

In one of the coldest games either team had ever played in, Oklahoma stunned its Bedlam rival with two touchdowns in the final 19 seconds to pull off the upset.

What happened: Oklahoma State went into the game a double-digit favorite for the first time since Vegas began keeping track. But the Sooners were able to hang around utilizing a variety of unconventional scoring plays and three different quarterbacks.

The Sooners tied the game 7-7 at the end of the first quarter on Jalen Saunders’ 64-yard punt return touchdown. The Sooners tied the game late in the third quarter on a fake field goal, as holder Grant Bothun threw a touchdown pass to Michael Hunnicutt.

Oklahoma State, which struggled to pass the ball in the sub-10 degree temperatures, finally got going in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Clint Chelf completed four consecutive passes of 14, 27, 20 and 23 yards, setting up Desmond Roland’s go-ahead touchdown plunge to put the Cowboys up 24-20.

But Oklahoma State left too much time on the clock. And Blake Bell -- the third quarterback to enter the game for the Sooners -- led them back down the field in the final seconds.

Bell appeared to throw a jump-ball interception to Oklahoma State All-American cornerback Justin Gilbert. But as Gilbert landed on the ground, receiver Lacoltan Bester was able to swipe the ball away to turn the play into an incomplete pass.

Moments later, Bell hit Saunders in the corner of the end zone for a seven-yard, game-winning touchdown pass -- the Sooners’ first and only offensive touchdown of the game.

Oklahoma State’s desperation series of laterals resulted in Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker scoring another touchdown, providing Bedlam with an exclamation point.

Player of the game: Bell was clutch but Oklahoma would have never been in the game without Saunders. His punt return touchdown changed the complexion of the game in the first quarter. Saunders’ 37-yard reverse also set up the fake field goal touchdown, when Oklahoma desperately needed a big play. Then, of course, there was the game-winning touchdown catch, too. It was the second time in his career that Saunders had a punt return touchdown and receiving touchdown in the same game. The other time came in Oklahoma’s overtime victory over the Cowboys in 2012.

Stat of the game: Though he was on point late in the fourth quarter, Chelf completed just 2 of 10 passes on third down. Neither of his completions resulted in a first down, and Oklahoma State’s ineffective third-down passing caused several promising drives to stall out.

Quotable: “The feeling in the locker room is a bad feeling right now.” -- Oklahoma State’s running back Roland, immediately after the loss.

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 2

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
We’re counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Below is game No. 2, in which the Big 12 finally socked it to the SEC.

No. 2: Jan. 2 -- Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31

In one of the biggest upsets in bowl history, the Sooners toppled the two-time defending national champions in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

What happened: Two minutes into the game, it looked like the Sooners were well on their way to getting blown out. In just four plays, Alabama punched the ball into the end zone.

Oklahoma, however, took the first jab and punched back. Again and again.

Freshman quarterback Trevor Knight was phenomenal for the Sooners. He threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns while outplaying Heisman runner-up AJ McCarron.

Defensively, the Oklahoma tag team of linebacker Eric Striker and Geneo Grissom placed McCarron under duress the entire game. The two combined for five sacks, and the rest of the Sooners defense bounced back from that opening drive to force five turnovers.

The Crimson Tide had one final chance to tie the game in the final minute. Instead, on the very first play of the possession, Striker popped McCarron from the edge to force a fumble. Grissom scooped it up and barreled into the end zone for the game-clinching touchdown.

Player of the game: Striker and Grissom were phenomenal, but Knight was the difference for the Sooners. He completed 32 of 44 passes and was accurate with the football. His only interception bounced off the hands of receiver Jalen Saunders and into the arms of an Alabama defender. Knight showed no fear from the very beginning, and the rest of the team fed off his energy. As a result, Knight was named the Sugar Bowl MVP

Stat of the game: In the first half, Oklahoma scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 31-17 halftime lead. The last time Alabama allowed an opponent to score on five consecutive drives in regulation was Oct. 4, 2003, in a loss at No. 11 Georgia. That was also the year Nick Saban won his first national championship -- as the head coach of LSU.

Quotable: “So much for the big bad wolf, huh?” -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, speaking to a crowd of Sooners fans after returning to campus in Norman

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 3

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
We’ve been counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12, and here's No. 3. One of the most competitive games of the year went down to the wire in Morgantown, W.Va.

No. 3: Nov. 9, Texas 47, West Virginia 40 (OT)

This back-and-forth thriller featured big plays from both teams and seven combined touchdowns after halftime.

What happened: Texas made the plays when it needed them. West Virginia did not.

On fourth-and-7 at the West Virginia 47, Case McCoy found Jaxon Shipley for a 9-yard gain. Five plays later, Anthony Fera tied the game at 40 with 13 seconds left, sending this one to overtime.

In overtime, McCoy was clutch again with a third-down conversion to Marcus Johnson followed by a two-yard touchdown pass to Alex De La Torre on third-and-goal. It was the Texas defense’s turn on WVU’s overtime possession, as it tightened its resolve after a 20-yard run by Mario Alford to start the possession. WVU gained one yard in the next four plays, capped by Steve Edmond’s interception to end the game and send the Longhorns back to Austin with their Big 12 title hopes intact.

Player of the game: UT defensive end Cedric Reed. Several Longhorns defenders had exceptional games, but Reed was relentless. He finished with seven tackles, including two tackles for loss, two sacks, two quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Not a bad day’s work.

Stat of the game: 6. WVU allowed six sacks and had six fumbles (losing three). UT’s defense was opportunistic and aggressive throughout the game, as its defensive line was all over Mountaineers quarterback Paul Millard after knocking Clint Trickett out of the game.

Quotable: “When one of us gets a sack, that means the other guys are doing their job. We just knew we had to put pressure on these guys and disrupt them.” -- Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 4

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
We’ve been counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12, and here's No. 4. It wasn't expected to be one of the best games. TCU's offense was more productive than Baylor's during this battle in late November. Leave your expectations at the door, folks.

No. 4: Nov. 30 Baylor 41, TCU 38

TCU was calling this its bowl game, Baylor was looking to rebound after getting run off the field in Stillwater the week before.

What happened: Baylor’s defense won the game. Yes, you read that right.

The Bears’ defense scored touchdowns late in the second quarter and early in the third quarter to give BU a comfortable 34-17 lead after interception returns from Eddie Lackey and Orion Stewart. Then the Bears stopped TCU’s last-minute drive with Terrell Burt’s interception in the end zone. Baylor’s defense wasn’t dominant by any stretch of the imagination but it made key plays when needed and kept Baylor’s Big 12 title hopes intact.

TCU held Baylor’s offense to 370 yards and 4.11 yards per play, season lows. But the Horned Frogs’ four turnovers left them with a minus-26 points off turnover margin to try to make up.

It was game that showed the Bears, while headlined by their offense, became Big 12 champions because of the progression of their defense.

Player of the game: Lackey. The senior linebacker finished with six tackles, one sack, one interception return for a touchdown and one quarterback hurry. He was active, aggressive and efficient as the backbone of the Bears’ defense.

Stat of the game: 136. The Bears returned interceptions for 136 yards with Lackey’s 54-yard return and Stewart’s 82-yard return. Not only did the Bears score off their interceptions, they stopped drives that were potential scoring drives for the Horned Frogs.

Quotable: “It's possibly the biggest win that we've experienced -- one of the biggest -- since we've been at Baylor the last six years.” -- Baylor coach Art Briles.

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 5

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
We’ve been counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12, and here's No. 5. If you missed this one, you missed out.

No. 5: Nov. 30 -- Iowa State 52, West Virginia 44 (3 OT)

In a season-finale battle of two teams with nothing to lose, Iowa State and its young quarterback rallied from more than three scores down to nab their third victory.

What happened: With nearly nine minutes left in the second quarter, West Virginia led 31-7 and had to love its chances in Morgantown, W.Va., against an ISU squad that was 1-7 in Big 12 play. The lead was a still-comfortable 31-14 at halftime.

And then, slowly but surely, this game went in a very different direction. The lead was trimmed to 10 points early in the fourth quarter, after quarterback Grant Rohach led a 12-play, 99-yard drive. The Mountaineers answered with a 76-yard Mario Alford touchdown on their first play from scrimmage. 38-21. Game over, right?

No way. Iowa State responded by scoring on its final three possessions of the fourth quarter. West Virginia committed turnovers on three consecutive drives. Rohach’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Justin Coleman with a minute left made it 38-38, and Jacques Washington picked off WVU quarterback Clint Trickett’s last-ditch rally. Time for overtime.

After each team traded two field goals, Rohach stepped up again with a 25-yard touchdown to Coleman on an option pass on the first play of triple overtime and hit E.J. Bibbs for the two-point conversion. But it wasn’t over.

Charles Sims, the Mountaineers’ All-Big 12 back, countered with a 22-yard run to put WVU at the goal line. He was stopped on first down. Trickett threw incomplete. Another Sims run was stuffed on third down. And then, in the play that ended both teams’ seasons, Trickett’s pass to Daikiel Shorts at the goal line was tipped. Shorts hauled it in but went down 2 yards short of the goal line.

And with that, Iowa State’s comeback was complete. It was difficult season for the Cyclones, but they had plenty to celebrate on this day.

Player of the game: Rohach, who shined in his fourth career start. The redshirt freshman threw for 331 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for a fifth score and got the job done in overtime.

Stat of the game: West Virginia’s Alford had one of the great underrated performances of conference play in the loss, catching eight passes for 215 yards and a touchdown. That was the third-highest receiving total of the season in the Big 12, behind Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett's performances against Oklahoma and Texas.

Quotable: “Everybody wants to finish with a ‘W.’ It was senior day. Guys that have done a lot for this school and this program -- a lot for this school and this program -- they were going to play.” -- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 6

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
We’ve been counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Here's No. 6, a true nail-biter that nobody saw coming.

No. 6: Oct. 3 -- Texas 31, Iowa State 30

In a Thursday night game neither team will soon forget, Texas came oh-so-close to fumbling away a loss in Ames but escaped with a one-point victory over Iowa State that was far closer than the score suggests.

What happened: A game with twists and turns -- from a Hail Mary before halftime to a 97-yard pass and a whole bunch in between -- came down to one goal-line battle and one controversial play.

On first-and-goal at the 3, Johnathan Gray ran up the middle and, at some point, lost the football. Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George scooped it up and ran off, believing he’d secured victory. Instead, game officials called Gray down at the 2, reviewed the play from five camera angles and determined no undisputable evidence of a fumble could be found.

Texas kept possession and scored two plays later on a Case McCoy dive to go ahead 31-30. Jackson Jeffcoat sealed the win with a last-second interception and the Longhorns improved to 3-2 by the slimmest of margins.

McCoy needed a career-high 45 pass attempts -- and a good bit of luck -- to pull off this win. Just as things were starting to look bleak, he lobbed a 44-yard touchdown pass to John Harris with time expiring in the second quarter, giving Texas a 17-13 lead.

The teams traded a few scores from there, highlighted by Quenton Bundrage’s 97-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and ISU led by 6 with 3:40 left. Texas answered with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a game-winning score and a very unhappy Paul Rhoads.

Player of the game: Lots of possible choices, including a few Cyclones, but Gray had an important performance. He started the day off with a 45-yard touchdown run but was fairly underused from there, finishing with 89 rushing yards on 16 carries. He did chip in two key runs on the final drive before the controversy began.

Stat of the game: With the win, Texas improved to 10-1 against Iowa State.

Quotable: “I've got the privilege as the head coach of this football program to face my players, win or lose, and look them in the eye and [tell them] how proud I am of the work they put forth, the effort they gave. And to make a play on the 1-yard line, with their backs against the wall -- clear to everybody -- and have it taken away from them … that's hard to express. You don't just put an arm around a guy and tell him it's OK when that happens to him. I'm so proud of the effort my kids gave to win this football game tonight." -- Rhoads, during his postgame comments

Quotable, part II: "I've got pretty good eyesight. The view I had of that gigantic screen in the north end zone showed a player that was not down and our guy with the football." -- Rhoads

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 7

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
We’re counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Below is game No. 7, the most shocking result of the Big 12’s nonconference schedule.

No. 7: Aug. 30 – North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21

Make no mistake, the Bison took it to the Wildcats. On K-State’s home field.

What happened: We kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

But the Wildcats never turned it on and pulled away from the eventual FCS champions. A 49-yard punt return from Christian Dudzik set up NDSU’s first touchdown and sent the early message that the Bison weren’t going to back down to the returning Big 12 champions.

Even when KSU took a 21-7 third-quarter lead after a Daniel Sams touchdown gallop, the Bison came right back on their next possession with a touchdown of their own to get right back in striking distance.

Then, with the game on the line, NDSU drove the ball down the Wildcats' throats with an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, which included three third-down conversions. NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen’s 1-yard run with 28 seconds left made the Bison the talk of college football after the opening weekend.

Player of the game: Jensen didn’t finish the game with great numbers (21-of-30, 165 yards, 2 TDs, INT). But the NDSU quarterback was outstanding on third down, finishing 8-of-9 for 69 yards and one touchdown. He made clutch plays when his team needed them.

Stat of the game: 174. The Bison rushed for 174 more yards than the Wildcats in their upset victory. NDSU’s 215 rushing yards was the third-most K-State allowed in 2013, behind Oklahoma (301) and Texas (227). The Wildcats managed just 41 rushing yards in the loss.

Quotable: "I would like to see a whole bunch of mad guys, in all honesty. I did not see any. That is concerning, that is for sure.” -- KSU coach Bill Snyder about the postgame locker room.

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 8

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
We’re counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Below is game No. 8, an overtime thriller in Fort Worth which appeared, at the time, to decide which one of the teams was destined to go bowling in 2013. WVU stumbled down the stretch, failing to secure bowl eligibility.

No. 8: Nov. 2 -- West Virginia 30, TCU 27 (overtime)

The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs played one of the most entertaining fourth quarters of the entire season, as the two teams traded punches with both squads grasping at bowl hopes.

What happened: The Horned Frogs had appeared to fumble (and throw away) their chances at a victory with two fourth-quarter turnovers leading to two WVU touchdowns as the Mountaineers went from a 17-13 deficit to a 27-17 lead. But TCU quarterback Casey Pachall rallied his team after those back-to-back turnovers and took them on an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown drive and a game-tying field goal in the final seven minutes of the game to force overtime.

Yet, in a sequence that was representative of how TCU stubbed its own foot for much of the season, the Horned Frogs somehow ended up with a 62-yard field goal on their first possession after penalties and mental mistakes. TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom couldn’t connect and WVU secured the win with Josh Lambert’s 34-yard field goal.

Overlooked for much of the game was WVU running back Charles Sims’ 189 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. And you can't forget quarterback Clint Trickett going 11-of-14 for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime, which had shades of his clutch play in WVU’s win over Oklahoma State.

Player of the game: Darwin Cook was all over the field for the Mountaineers, finishing with 14 tackles and one fumble recovery. He was one of the few bright spots on WVU's defense for the entire season, and it was rare to watch a Mountaineers' game without noticing No. 25 showing up around the ball for Dana Holgorsen's squad.

Stat of the game: WVU’s 20 points off turnovers. The game was decided by turnovers, as the Mountaineers were plus-20 in points-off-turnover margin. Give WVU credit for capitalizing on TCU mistakes without making mistakes of its own in a tough road victory.

Quotable: "You have to give credit to West Virginia for coming back and doing the things they did, but to be honest with you we gave one away. That is about as simple as I can tell you how it is." -- TCU coach Gary Patterson.

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 9

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
We’re counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Below is game No. 9, which featured a series of successful trick plays from one side in a losing effort:

No. 9: Oct. 26 -- Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30

Despite a run of trick plays, No. 15 Oklahoma survived 10th-ranked Texas Tech in one of the league's most entertaining games.

What happened: After a disappointing loss to Texas, the Sooners rediscovered their ground game while quarterback Blake Bell regained his confidence during a pair of pivotal second quarter series.

After three inept weeks of offense, the Sooners went on the longest drive of the season to that point in plays, yards and time. The Sooners grounded out a 16-play, 97-yard touchdown drive covering almost eight minutes to tie the game, 7-7.

On the first play of OU's following possession with Tech’s safeties creeping up to stop the run, Bell faked a handoff then threw a pass over the top to Jalen Saunders for a 76-yard touchdown.

The Red Raiders, however, wouldn’t go down easily.

Utilizing a reverse, a halfback touchdown pass, a decoy punt returner play and an onside kick, Texas Tech stormed back to take a 24-21 lead.

But Oklahoma countered with some trickery of its own. Wideout Lacoltan Bester took a reverse and was supposed to pass it. When nobody was open, Bester tucked the ball and weaved through the Texas Tech defense for a 35-yard touchdown. The Sooners never trailed again.

Player of the game: Bell, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns after struggling the previous two weeks. Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb was good, too, throwing for 385 yards and a pair of scores. His second interception, however, led to a touchdown that put the Sooners up 35-24 in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: The Red Raiders committed three turnovers, which was a sign of things to come. Texas Tech finished No. 121 nationally in turnovers lost, which fueled Tech’s five-game losing streak to end the regular season.

Quotable: “I love our team and their attitude. Are we in great shape? No. Am I excited about our team and our opportunity and our willingness to fight and all of that? Yeah, I am.” -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, noting the season-ending injury to his All-Big 12 fullback, Trey Millard

Big 12 games of the year: No. 10

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
We’re counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Below is our pick for No. 10, in which an actual fox dashing along the stadium wall wasn't even the strangest thing that happened.

No. 10: Sept. 12 -- Texas Tech 20, TCU 10

It was one of the weirdest and sloppiest games of the entire Big 12 season, with several questionable officials calls affecting the fourth quarter. But Texas Tech’s 20-10 win over then-No. 24 TCU was wildly entertaining as well.

What happened: TCU had every opportunity to pull off the road win.

In the second half, TCU had two long Brandon Carter punt returns wiped out by penalties, including a 69-yard apparent touchdown that was called back after officials ruled he had signaled for a fair catch. The Horned Frogs had another chance for points when Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield was picked off for a third time in Red Raider territory. But the TCU offense couldn’t capitalize and Jaden Oberkrom’s 55-yard field goal try missed right.

Thanks to TCU’s miscues, the game was still tied 10-10 going into the final five minutes. That’s when the Red Raiders took control, despite a major miscue of their own.

Backup Tech quarterback Davis Webb found DeAndre Washington on a short pass, and Washington raced 49 yards down the sideline for an apparent touchdown. Washington, however, dropped the ball at the half-yard line. Because of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on top of the fumble, the ball was placed all the way back at the TCU 14. But Webb came right back with a gorgeous pass to Bradley Marquez at the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Tech forced TCU to punt on the ensuing possession and then drove down the field for a game-clinching field goal.

Player of the game: Webb, who had been beaten out by Mayfield for the starting quarterback spot during the preseason, replaced an injured Mayfield in the fourth quarter and was 3-of-4 passing for 77 yards, including the game-winning TD pass. The performance was a sign of things to come. Webb took over again when Mayfield stunningly announced he was transferring and was tremendous in Tech’s 37-23 upset of Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl.

Stat of the game: The two teams combined for 23 penalties and 204 penalty yards.

Quotable: "That's about as ugly as you can win, but we'll take it.” -- Kliff Kingsbury, after his first Big 12 victory as Texas Tech's head coach