Big 12: Danny Coale

Big 12's top 25 moments of 2009

December, 24, 2009
I've always been intrigued by those end-of-the-year montages where videographers encapsulate an event or a season.

I've tried to do something similar for the Big 12 -- boiling down the conference's 2009 campaign into the 25 most significant moments of the regular season.

Here are my choices. Let me know if you think I've forgotten any. A bunch of good moments were left out, let me assure you.

Unfortunately for the conference, the most significant moments were off-the-field items like injuries and suspensions.

They aren't ranked in any order, although some assuredly are more important than others.

    Tim Heitman/US PresswireLosing Sam Bradford for most of the season derailed Oklahoma's shot at a Big 12 title.

  • Sam Bradford’s injury: Oklahoma’s hopes of claiming the BCS championship were abruptly detoured in the first half of the Sooners’ first game. Bradford was hit by BYU linebacker Coleby Clawson shortly before halftime, knocking him out of the Cougars' 14-13 season-opening victory. The legal hit caused a sprained AC joint in Bradford's right shoulder that kept him out for the next three games.
  • Bradford’s injury – part two: After successfully returning form injury, and leading the Sooners to a victory over Baylor in their conference opener, Bradford started strongly against Texas the following week. He directed a 77-yard scoring drive on the Sooners’ first possession for a 3-0 lead. On the next Oklahoma offensive play, the Sooners' hopes of a fourth straight Big 12 title were dealt a cruel ending. Texas cornerback Aaron Williams knocked Bradford out of the game with a devastating sack. Bradford landed on his shoulder and didn’t play the rest of the season, undergoing surgery several weeks later.
  • “I’m so proud to be your coach”: Without starting quarterback Austen Arnaud and top rusher Alexander Robinson, and with a sapping flu bug, first-year Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads was overcome with his emotion in the locker room following his team's 9-7 upset of Nebraska. His heartfelt reaction captured by an ISU film crew became an immediate YouTube sensation. But something tells me that Bo Pelini will show it to his Nebraska team often before the Cornhuskers’ rematch in Ames next season.
  • Robert Griffin’s injury: Baylor’s worst fears were realized in the Bears’ 68-13 victory over Northwestern State when their stellar sophomore quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury. It killed their hopes of snapping the conference’s longest bowl drought.
  • Todd Reesing is pulled late from Texas Tech game: Kansas appeared on the verge of a breakthrough road win at Texas Tech that would have qualified them for a bowl game. But the Jayhawks squandered a 21-14 lead entering the fourth quarter after two drives ended with fumbles by senior quarterback Todd Reesing. Coach Mark Mangino pulled Reesing for Kale Pick, saying he thought his quarterback was battered from the constant Tech pressure. Removing Kansas’ most decorated player foreshadowed the Kansas collapse the rest of the season. The Jayhawks lost the game 42-21 and the remaining four games on their schedule.
  • Blocked kick saves the Wildcats: Iowa State had pulled within a point of Kanas State with 23 seconds left, but Emmanuel Lamur blocked the ensuing conversion, preserving a 24-23 victory that catapulted the Wildcats into the North Division lead for much of the season.
  • Banks’ kickoff returns: Brandon Banks provided kickoff returns of 91 and 92 yards in less than 3 minutes to boost Kansas State past Tennessee Tech.
  • Colt McCoy's "too early" Heisman moment: Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was presumed to have locked up his Heisman with a 65-yard touchdown run through the middle of the Texas A&M defense, helping spark a 49-39 victory over the Aggies. It punctuated an effort in which McCoy accounted for 479 yards and five touchdowns against A&M. That was, until …

  • John Rieger/US PresswireNdamukong Suh dominated Big 12 opponents all season, but never more than in the Big 12 title game.

  • "Big Suh" dominates Texas: Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh provided a dominating performance, and almost single-handedly pushed his team to the Big 12 title before losing 13-12 against Texas. Suh had a Big 12 title game record 4.5 sacks, and the Cornhuskers harassed McCoy into three interceptions and sacked him nine times. Goodbye Heisman for McCoy in a performance that undoubtedly sparked Suh's trip to the Heisman presentation at the same time.
  • Nebraska’s comeback in the rain against Missouri: The Tigers had dominated the first three quarters en route to a 12-0 lead. But Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee torched Missouri’s secondary for three touchdowns in a span of 202 seconds to spark a 27-12 victory. Lee had completed 9 of 27 passes heading into the fourth quarter.
  • Danario’s late-season explosion: Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander progressed into the nation’s most explosive receiver during the final half of the season. He nearly became the first player in college football history to notch back-to-back-to-back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. He finished with 214 yards against Baylor, 200 against Kansas State, 173 yards against Iowa State and 233 yards against Kansas in his final four games.
  • Virginia Tech’s late rally against Nebraska: The Cornhuskers appeared poised to steal a victory at Virginia Tech despite an offensive attack that consisted of five Alex Henery field goals. But with less than 90 seconds remaining, Danny Coale got behind Matt O’Hanlon for an 81-yard reception from Tyrod Taylor. The Cornhuskers’ collapsed three plays later when Taylor hooked up with Dyrell Roberts on an 11-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left to cap the Hokies' 16-15 victory.
  • Nebraska’s fumble-fest against Iowa State: The Cornhuskers’ sputtering offense bottomed out in a 9-7 loss at Iowa State. The Cornhuskers started the day on offense with a fumble and finished with a Zac Lee interception on their final play. In between, there were six turnovers that doomed the Cornhuskers’ hopes, leading to the Cyclones’ first victory in Lincoln since 1977.
  • Broyles slices through the Cowboys: Oklahoma wide receiver/punt returner Ryan Broyles punctuated a 209-yard punt return effort with an 87-yard scoring return to lead the Sooners’ 27-0 victory over Oklahoma State, ending the Cowboys’ hopes of making a trip to a BCS game. His 316 all-purpose yards were the third-best effort in school history.
  • Tyler Hansen's redshirt season abruptly ends: After seeing a 14-10 halftime lead over Texas dissipate into a 24-14 deficit in one quarter, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins inserted quarterback Tyler Hansen into the lineup for the first time, ending thoughts that he would redshirt. The Buffaloes beat Kansas in their next game and Hansen remained in the starting lineup much of the rest of the season in front of Hawkins’ son, Cody.
  • Dez Bryant’s dismissal: Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant rebounded from nagging early-season injuries and appeared ready to help the Cowboys challenge for their first South Division title. He produced five touchdowns in OSU’s first three games. But he was ruled ineligible for the rest of the season on October 7 for violating an NCAA bylaw. Bryant failed to fully disclose his interactions with former NFL standout Deion Sanders to the NCAA.
  • The emergence of "Sticks" Sheffield: A 2-2 Texas Tech team looked in trouble when starting quarterback Taylor Potts suffered a concussion shortly before the half against New Mexico. Backup Steven “Sticks” Sheffield responded by completing his first three passes and punctuated that possession with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Alex Torres as time expired in the first half to boost Tech to a 14-7 lead. That sparked a run of four straight drives capped by touchdowns and a 48-28 victory. Tech won its next three games with Sheffield as a starter.
  • They can play defense at Tech: The offensive-minded Red Raiders led the conference with 34 sacks. Their defensive emergence was best typified in a late-stand against Baylor that preserved a 20-13 victory.
  • Florence’s comeback: Baylor freshman quarterback Nick Florence rallied the Bears from an 11-point halftime against Missouri to an eventual 40-32 victory. In their only conference victory, Florence passed for a school-record 427 yards and three touchdowns, overcoming a 468-yard passing effort by Missouri's Blaine Gabbert.
  • Cha'pelle's clutch pass defense: Colorado cornerback Cha’pelle Brown’s defense in the end zone preserved the Buffaloes’ 34-30 victory over Kansas. It was the loss that started the Jayhawks’ seven-game losing streak, costing them a bowl berth and ultimately Mark Mangino’s job.
  • Mangino's coaching gaffe: Nursing a three-point lead with 2:59 left, Mangino curiously went for three straight passes from his end zone against Missouri. On the final play, Reesing was sacked for a safety by Brian Coulter and Aldon Smith, setting up Grant Ressel’s 27-yard field goal on the last play to give Missouri a 41-39 victory.
  • Matt O’Hanlon’s trio of picks: Former walk-on safety O’Hanlon provided three interceptions, including the game-sealing one with 27 seconds left, to preserve Nebraska’s 10-3 victory over Oklahoma.

  • Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesHunter Lawrence's game-winning kick gave Colt McCoy, above, and the Longhorns reason to celebrate.

  • It’s just not only Suh, too: Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick was overshadowed most of the season playing next to Ndamukong Suh --except during Crick's record-breaking five-sack performance during a 20-10 win over Baylor. Crick tied the school record with seven tackles for losses and provided a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter that helped seal the victory.
  • Marquise Goodwin's clutch kickoff return: Texas A&M had just pulled within 42-39 of Texas, and had Kyle Field roaring after a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jerrod Johnson to Jeff Fuller. But freshman Marquise Goodwin, returning kickoffs only because of D.J. Monroe's suspension, silenced the crowd with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that iced the Longhorns' victory.

And how could we forget …
  • Hunter Lawrence’s field goal: After it appeared Texas had mismanaged its way to losing the Big 12 title game, one second was put back on the clock. Hunter Lawrence took advantage with a 46-yard field goal that gave the Lonhorns a 13-12 victory over Nebraska and a berth in the BCS title game. It was the first time in Lawrence’s career – dating back to pee-wee football – that he had ever attempted a game-winning kick.

Nebraska won't linger over tough loss to Virginia Tech

September, 22, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Nebraska came within a couple of plays of escaping Virginia Tech with a breakthrough victory that would have signaled that the Cornhuskers’ program is moving back among the national powers.

Instead, Nebraska was torched by two late passing plays by Tyrod Taylor that led to a dramatic 16-15 victory for Virginia Tech that took a long time for Pelini to put aside.

“That was as hard a loss as I’ve ever encountered in football,” coach Bo Pelini said. “I’ve had some hard ones, but that was difficult.”

But after watching game films and dabbing at his team’s collective psyche, Pelini thinks the defeat will help them grow.

“Situations like this will help define me and our football team,” Pelini said. “To face a disappointment like that is a challenge. But I look forward to getting this thing fixed.”

The Cornhuskers won’t linger on the loss too long, Pelini said. Louisiana-Lafayette arrives Saturday night in a game that will honor the 300th straight sellout in Nebraska history dating back to 1962.

And for a program built on the tradition of storied fan support and winning championships, Pelini vows his team will quickly forget about its loss.

“We’ll come out Saturday and you’ll see guys who will play with passion,” Pelini said. “Nobody will be crying about what happened. We’re going to play our tails off.”

One area of immediate concern is the health of quarterback Zac Lee, who didn’t practice Monday and appeared at Tuesday’s press conference with a small cast on his left thumb.

Lee described his injury Tuesday as “a little thumb thing.”

Pelini called it a “splinter fracture in the top joint.”

For his part, Lee said his missing practice was nothing out of the ordinary and he expects to play Saturday. He missed Monday’s workouts, he said, after taking an anti-inflammatory medication.

“I just took a day of rest yesterday,” Lee said about the injury, which occurred early in the second quarter of the Tech game.

The injury helped account for Lee’s worst day as a starting quarterback for the Cornhuskers. He completed only 11 of 30 passes for 126 yards with two interceptions. The Cornhuskers’ offense produced only five Alex Henery field goals despite cracking the Virginia Tech 25-yard line on six different occasions and three times at or inside the Tech 10.

“You always think back after a loss like this and wonder about the what-ifs,” Lee said. “But you just have to learn from it and go on. You need a short memory and to get right back out there.”

That sputtering offense still almost provided the victory until two late plays in the final 90 seconds of the game turned the game around. Taylor hooked up with Danny Coale on a miraculous 81-yard pass. And two plays later, Taylor evaded Nebraska’s pass rush for 12 seconds before finally hooking up with Dyrell Roberts for the game-winning touchdown with 21 seconds left.

Pelini said that his team played strong defense except for the late coverage busts. He doesn’t expect those mistakes to have any carryover for his players.

“I’ve been there before and you just recover,” Pelini said. “You just get it corrected. There were a couple of breakdowns.”

The Cornhuskers will face a Ragin’ Cajun team that has already beaten one Big 12 team this season with a home triumph over Kansas State two weeks ago. That was only Louisiana-Lafayette’s second victory over an opponent from a BCS-affiliated conference in the school’s modern football history.

Despite the angst from the Virginia Tech loss, Pelini doesn’t expect his team’s nightmarish finish in Blacksburg to linger with them.

“It’s not something that concerns me,” Pelini said. “I like the way the guys have come out the practice and put last week to rest. It’s a part of the past and it’s time for us to move on.”

Devastating loss for Nebraska

September, 19, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The show of emotion I just caught from Nebraska coach Bo Pelini probably encapsulated his day at Blacksburg, Va.

An 80-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor to Danny Coale that fellow blogger Heather Dinich termed "miraculous" set up the game-winning 11-yard TD play from Taylor to Dyrell Roberts that led to a tough 16-15 loss to the Hokies.

The ABC-TV camera crew caught a great show of emotion from Pelini after the game-winning play. After he realized that Roberts' touchdown has put his team behind, Pelini took a step backwards and hurled his headset away from his bench.

It could have been a statement-making victory for the Cornhuskers. Instead, it was perhaps Pelini's most bitter defeat.

Nebraska didn't have enough offense to win that game in the end. Five Alex Henery field goals ultimately weren't enough to hold up against Virginia Tech's late onslaught.

And Pelini, a defensive coach first and foremost, will be mumbling about that late bust on Coale's big catch for a long time.