Big 12: Bo Scaife

Texas coach Mack Brown has seen up close what the Red River Rivalry can do to players, especially if it's their first experience in the Big 12's marquee rivalry game.

Back in 1999, he looked at freshman Bo Scaife, a future NFL draft pick at tight end, who told Brown he was hyperventilating and had never been that excited in his life.

"And I thought, 'I'm not sure that's good,'" Brown told reporters this week.

It's par for the course for players, experienced or not. The atmosphere -- half burnt orange, half crimson, divided at the 50-yard line -- is much like a bowl game.

"I think that's something you have to address early in the week and just lay out the environment. Here's two teams, two very good football teams in a rivalry game with fans and emotion that goes into it," offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin told reporters this week. "Don't hide the fact of what it is; everybody understands that. Now you get that whole side, now it comes down to playing ball."

It's not about suppressing those emotions. It's about controlling them and finding a way to have them help you, not hurt you.

"You want to go in with emotion but you don't want to be geeked out to where you just can't perform," Harsin said. "You've peaked too soon before the game and all that. We don't want that."

The whole day and lead-in to the game are full of opportunities to build emotions, beginning with the famed bus ride in. Even Mack Brown's eyes were opened on his first Red River all the way back in 1984, when he was Oklahoma's offensive coordinator.

"Fans were shaking the bus. I mean, it was scary," Brown said. "Coach [Barry] Switzer kind of looked at me and said, 'Now you see. You get it now.' You understand that."

Oklahoma's a more experienced team, but Brown's focus is on making sure his young squad understands what's at stake while not letting their emotions lead to mistakes.

"This game is so emotional. And both teams will play like it is the most important game of the year, whether it is or not in anybody's minds because of the buildup and the history of this game, and the two schools, and the way the fans feel about this, and the nature of the State Fair," Brown said. "They came to the schools, and one of the reasons they came is for this game. The hype in this game, you have to handle."

Big 12 games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
11:00
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Every football fan has a different definition of what makes a game great. Some fans might prefer defensive struggles. Other enjoy torrents of points.

The Big 12 has provided a few of latter -- and more -- over the last decade with some of the most entertaining games in recent college football history.

Here are my favorite 10 games of the past decade. There are 10 to 15 other games that legitimately could have been included on this list.

1. Texas 41, USC 38 (Jan. 1, 2006): The Longhorns claimed the 2005 national title with a dramatic comeback capped by Vince Young’s game-winning 8-yard TD run with 19 seconds left. Michael Huff’s critical fourth-down stop of LenDale White set the stage on the preceding drive. And many observers still think that Pete Carroll could have gone for a game-tying field goal attempt on the final play of the game if he hadn't squandered a timeout before a two-point try after Young's TD run.

2. Texas Tech 39, Texas 33 (Nov. 1, 2008): Michael Crabtree’s 28-yard touchdown reception from Graham Harrell with one second remaining capped the wildest victory in Tech history -- made even more improbable after Blake Gideon dropped an interception on the play before Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown.

3. Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (Jan. 1, 2007): The Broncos won the 2007 Fiesta Bowl by fooling Bob Stoops’ team with three gadget plays: a game-tying hook and ladder play in regulation, an option pass from wide receiver Vinny Perretta to Derek Schouman in overtime to pull within one point and a game-winning two-point conversion by Ian Johnson on a Statue of Liberty play. Johnson proposed to his girlfriend, Chrissy Popadics, on the field after the play. After all the excitement, of course, she accepted.

4. Oklahoma State 49, Texas Tech 45 (Sept. 22, 2007): This classic offensive battle produced 62 first downs and 1,328 yards and wasn’t settled until Michael Crabtree dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone in the final minute of play. And we all still remember it more for the fireworks in the press conferences with Mike Leach and Mike Gundy than for what happened on the field, don’t we?

5. Oklahoma 35, Texas A&M 31 (Nov. 11, 2000): Torrance Marshall’s game-winning 41-yard interception return with 7:42 left enabled the Sooners to continue their charge to the 2000 national championship. Oklahoma overcame an 11-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and a 10-point hole with less than 9 minutes remaining. Marshall’s heroics gave the Sooners the lead and the Oklahoma defense did the rest, turning away the Aggies twice deep in Oklahoma territory late in the game.

6. Kansas 40, Missouri 37 (Nov. 29, 2008): Four lead changes in the final 6:52 made this game memorable, even though Missouri had already clinched the North title coming into the game. Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier hooked up five times on the game-winning drive, capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left. Missouri had one last hope, but Jeff Wolfert’s 54-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game was partially blocked by Phillip Strozier.

7. Texas 13, Nebraska 12 (Dec. 5, 2009) : In a conference that made its national reputation with wild offensive battles, it was refreshing to see a defensive struggle in the 2009 Big 12 title game. Nebraska, keyed by a ferocious defense that forced three interceptions and sacked Colt McCoy nine times, appeared to have taken control on a 42-yard field goal by Alex Henery with 1:44 left. Ndamukong Suh sacked McCoy a championship-game record 4.5 times. But McCoy withstood the rush and drove the Longhorns for the game-winning field goal after a controversial officiating decision put extra time back on the clock after it appeared the Longhorns had squandered their chance to win. Hunter Lawrence’s 46-yard field goal as time expired gave Texas the victory.

8. Texas 56, Oklahoma State 35 (Nov. 6, 2004): The Longhorns were in a 35-7 hole late in the second quarter before Vince Young hooked up on a 4-yard TD pass to Bo Scaife shortly before halftime. That opened the floodgates, as the Longhorns scored touchdowns on six straight drives. Cedric Benson rushed for 141 yards and five touchdowns and Vince Young rushed for 123 yards and completed 12 straight passes at one point en route to a then career-high 278 passing yards. The Longhorns piled up 600 yards of total offense in the wild comeback, outgaining the Cowboys 266-to-minus-5 in the third quarter of the comeback.

9. Nebraska 40, Colorado 31 (Nov. 28, 2008): Alex Henery’s school-record 57-yard field goal with 1:43 left gave the Cornhuskers the lead for good in this classic that Colorado needed to win to qualify for a bowl game. And Ndamukong Suh foreshadowed his monster season to come by icing the victory with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown with 55 seconds left.

10. Baylor 35, Texas A&M 34 (Oct. 30, 2004): The Bears had been waiting for a long time for a chance to beat Texas A&M -- particularly after losing 73-10 to the Aggies in College Station the previous season. So it was understandable that Guy Morriss didn’t hesitate to go for the win after pulling within one point in overtime on Shawn Bell’s pass to Dominique Ziegler. Bell and Ziegler then hooked up again for the two-point conversion, snapping an 18-game winless streak to the Aggies.

Young, Benson lead dramatic UT comeback that ranks No. 22

June, 11, 2009
6/11/09
6:18
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 22: A Texas-sized comeback

Mack Brown's team was headed for a humiliating home defeat.

The Longhorns were in a huge 35-7 hole after Oklahoma State had put them on their heels late in the first half.

But what happened after Brown's stirring halftime speech was unlike any previous performance in the history of the Texas program.

Date: Nov. 6, 2004
Place: Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
Score: Texas 56, Oklahoma State 35

It was the kind of game that could get coaches fired.

With the Longhorns trailing by 28 points late in the first half, Brown turned things over to sophomore quarterback Vince Young and junior tailback Cedric Benson.

The Longhorns drove 80 yards late in the first half, with Young hooking up with Bo Scaife for a 4-yard touchdown in the closing seconds to pull the Longhorns within 35-14 at the break.

From there, the Longhorns scored touchdowns on the next six drives to notch the largest comeback in school history.

In the process, they fulfilled a prediction by Brown, who told his team they would come back to win the game despite the huge halftime deficit and its first-half struggles.

Benson finished by rushing for 141 yards and five touchdowns. And Young set a school record by completing 12 straight passes in the second half, passing for a then career-high 278 yards and rushing for 123 yards to spark the rally.

The Longhorns finished by piling up 600 yards of total offense.

The numbers: Texas outgained OSU, 266 to minus-5, in the third quarter. Texas averaged 12.6 yards per snap and collected 11 first downs in the third quarter alone.

They said it, part I: "What a perfect half by Oklahoma State. They can't get any better ... and we can't do any worse than we were doing," Brown description of the first-half struggles of his team.

They said it, part II: "I said what we're going to do is score on the first drive and beat them 42-35. I apologized to them at the end of the game because I underestimated them," Brown on what he told his team at halftime when facing the three-touchdown deficit.

The upshot: Instead of having to answer critics for a blowout home loss, the wild comeback pushed the Longhorns on a seven-game winning streak to finish the 2004 season. Texas punctuated the season with a stirring 38-37 comeback victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl and finished the season fifth in the final Associated Press poll.

The Longhorns were just getting started. Texas ran off 13 straight victories the following season to claim the national championship. Included in the run was a 47-28 comeback victory over Oklahoma State in Stillwater when the Longhorns charged back from an early 19-point deficit. The winning streak was extended to 21 games before losing to Ohio State early in the 2006 season.

Oklahoma State finished the 2004 season 7-5, capped by a 33-7 loss to Ohio State in the Alamo Bowl. Shortly after that game, OSU coach Les Miles resigned to accept the head-coaching job at LSU.

The countdown:  

23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.  

24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.  

25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee."  

Mailbag: There's no place like Nebraska for a spring game

February, 6, 2009
2/06/09
7:58
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a collection of letters I received over the last week.

Ross Struss of Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Tim, I just wanted to know how you would rate spring games across the Big 12? In my opinion Nebraska should be No. 1 not only in the Big 12 but maybe even in the nation.
We had to buy our tickets for the Cornhuskers' spring game on Wednesday and it took us three hours to get through. Any other place like this?

Tim Griffin: I don't know of many schools that emphasize a spring game as a promotional tool for the school quite like Bo Pelini and the Cornhuskers. There is more pent-up demand to watch that game than any place across the Big 12 and likely anywhere in the country.

I think the excitement that Pelini has helped foster there in less than a year has made this the toughest ticket in all of spring football. It will be interesting to watch the spectacle this season, particularly as Shawn Watson sorts through his quarterback options. I'm kind of curious to see how Cody Green looks, too.


Darrell from Orlando, Fla., writes: Any news on Miami quarterback Robert Marve's proposed move to a Big 12 school? Does Oklahoma or Oklahoma State even need Marve. Your thoughts?

Tim Griffin: I know that both Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are on Marve's list of "finalists" along with Purdue and South Florida. All of the Big 12 schools would appear to have more national appeal for the former Miami quarterback than his other finalists. I think he will face some acclamation "issues" wherever he ends up.

Marve would be a natural addition if he chose Oklahoma State, considering that Zac Robinson is leaving school after next year. Most presume that Sam Bradford likely will remain at Oklahoma for only one more year, providing a natural entry at Oklahoma in much the same manner. And Taylor Potts will have two remaining years at Texas Tech.

Strong sources around the Oklahoma program told well-connected Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler the Sooners have no interest in Marve. So I think it's more likely he would end up at Oklahoma State or Texas Tech, if he ends up in the Big 12.

But I'm guessing that the most likely place for Marve to land will be somewhere a little closer to home like South Florida. He grew up in Tampa and staying at home might make sense for him in the end. It will be interesting to see where he ends up.


Matt from Dallas writes: I know in the course of monitoring Texas and Oklahoma recruiting as well as fawning over the talent the Aggies are about to spend four years wasting, you may not have noticed that Texas Tech pulled in a very solid class on the defensive side of the ball. Pearlie Graves and Myles Wade will be added to Colby Whitlock and Chris Perry. Suddenly Texas Tech may not be so soft up the middle anymore.

Tim Griffin: I agree with you. I think this might be the most solid defensive recruiting class that Mike Leach has ever attracted. And I know that Graves and Wade, along with Whitlock, should really anchor the Red Raiders' interior for the next couple of seasons.

I thought the Red Raiders showed a lot of improvement defensively until their late slide against Oklahoma and Mississippi. It will be interesting to see how they will rebound from those struggling performances next season.


Austin R. from Austin writes: Hey Tim, it really didn't surprise me that my Longhorns lost out on Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama or Devon Kennard from Arizona. The moment I hear that these guys are going to announce their school sitting at a table with hats, I knew the Horns are out of the running. Is it that Texas gets the guys that are not into the dramatics? Or is Texas not cool enough for some recruits?

Tim Griffin: I saw Kirkpatrick's announcement on television as well. Longhorn fans might not have liked his sense of dramatics, but I bet they would have warmed to him if they had seen him play cornerback in the burnt orange.

It was interesting to me that Texas wasn't as successful out of state as in previous seasons when they missed out on recruits like Kirkpatrick and Kennard. I'm thinking that the Longhorns are good enough to be at the top of the Big 12 recruiting lists almost every season by dominating Texas talent as they did this season.

But for them to make to challenge for the mythical national championship in recruiting, they need to generate a national splash by attracting a couple of quality out of state recruits. They did it recently with recruits like Blaine Irby and Lamarr Houston and previously were successful recruiting top out-of-state recruits like like Chris Simms, Bo Scaife, and Ricky Williams. They probably need to do it again to reclaim the top spot in national recruiting in future years.

And here's an intriguing nugget I came up with when looking at their recent recruiting lists. Texas has earned only three commitments from out-of-state players in the last three recruiting lists. Compare that with the 49 out-of-state players who have committed to Oklahoma during that time, or the 29 who have committed to defending national champion Florida.


Brent from Overland Park, Kan., writes: Tim, you haven't mentioned Kansas very much since the bowls ended. They are quietly putting together one of the best classes in the nation, but have had little coverage on ESPN, from what I've seen. Mangino is known for getting the 'diamonds in the rough' (Reesing, Briscoe, et al.). Do you see any more in this 09 class?

Tim Griffin: No coach has done a better job in developing underrated talent after their arrival at college than Mark Mangino. The story about how they got hooked up with Dezmon Briscoe ranks as one of the most notable recruiting stories in Big 12 history. But this class for the Jayhawks appears to have more talent than any since his arrival. I think recruits are starting to notice the Jayhawks after their back-to-back bowl appearances and particularly their trip to the 2008 Orange Bowl. And I think the fact they attracted top recruits Prinz Kande and Bradley McDougald is a testament to that.


Bruce from Columbus, Ga., writes: This is a long-term recuiting question I asked during your recruiting-day chat and you didn't answer it. Anyway, I had thought that Bo Pelini's tenure at LSU would provide the Cornhuskers with access to top players to recruit, yet he has none. Will it be a source in the future and why hasn't it helped in the short-term? Thanks.

Tim Griffin: Bruce, thanks for the question and I apologize to not getting to it during my chat. I might not have even seen it. I would answer one question and 15-20 more would materialize in the time I had been away from the board. I wasn't able to answer or even read many of them.

You do raise an interesting question. But I don't see the South ever really being a critical recruiting area for Nebraska. Pelini only had three years of exposure in that area when he was coaching at LSU.

Because of that, I think the Cornhuskers will always look first to areas like California and especially Texas. I think they have contacts in place in both states. It was critical for them this year with eight recruits from Texas and six from California.

The South is
really a closed shop where the Southeastern Conference teams really dominate. Look at how both Texas and Oklahoma both were stoned in their bids for top talent when Texas unsuccessfully tried for Dre Kirkpatrick and Oklahoma went for Rueben Randle. So I think most Big 12 teams will look elsewhere for their major areas of recruiting.


J. Aston of Lubbock, Texas writes: Who in your opinion does the most in the Big 12 with the least as far as recruiting goes? I have my personal opinion, but it might be a little biased. And do you think that if those teams got more highly recruited players, would they be able to do better in the big 12?

Tim Griffin: I think in recent years the coaches that have done the most with underrated talent have been Mark Mangino of Kansas, Gary Pinkel of Missouri and Mike Leach of Texas Tech. All have turned their programs into consistent bowl teams while not normally having access to the upper talent base.

It's been interesting to me that those teams all have had trouble with winning consistently against Oklahoma and Texas - the two teams that typically recruit the most top athletes in the conference.

It would be interesting to see what all programs like the Jayhawks, Red Raiders and Tigers would be able to do with the access to five-star talent. Managing those players - and egos - is a little different than working with some of the other recruits. But I'm thinking all of those schools could develop into national powers if they were able to get more top-ranked talent like the Sooners and Longhorns traditionally feast on.


Clint Seaton from Tecumseh, Okla., writes: With Bill Young becoming the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, what would be a realistic timeline for improving their defense? And maybe even having their defense ranked in the top 30?

Tim Griffin: It's not like Oklahoma State fans aren't putting any pressure on Young, is there?

That being said, Young's work will likely determine if the Cowboys can live up to all of the early hype about their team during the upcoming season. The Cowboys appear to have an offense that can keep up with anybody nationally. But in order to contend for their first Big 12 South title, the defense will have to play markedly better than it did in late losses to Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oregon.

Young is known as one of the most wily coordinators in college football. And I expect him to improve the Cowboys. But moving them into the top 30 might be a little bit much - particularly with all of the prolific offenses that the Cowboys will be facing next season.

Maybe they might be able to talk about a top 30 defense in a couple of years. The Big 12's offenses should be just as potent in 2009 as they were last year. And Texas, at No. 51, ranked as the Big 12's best defense in 2008.

That's all for this week. Please keep the e-mails coming and I'll try to answer as many as I can. Thanks again for all of the good correspondence.

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