Big 12: Devin West

Whatever happened to the Big 12's workhorse backs?

July, 22, 2009
7/22/09
5:29
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It might be the most endangered species this side of the American bison.

True workhorse running backs are disappearing across the nation, but particularly in the Big 12.

It's a marked contrast from the past where many Big 12 teams would rely on one major back to account for much of its running production.

Even the expansion of spread offenses can't be blamed entirely for this predicament. If anything, the overabundance of passing attacks should make it easier for one back to dominate carries because most teams are utilizing fewer running plays than ever before.

Here's an indication of how skewed the statistics were last season in the Big 12. Only four backs accounted for at least 40 percent of their team's rushing totals.

Texas Tech's Shannon Woods led all Big 12 backs last season with 44.5 percent of his team's carries -- 141 totes among Texas Tech's 317 rushing attempts.That total is the smallest for a leader in the Big 12 in the conference's history.

Consider only four years ago that nine Big 12 backs accounted for 40 percent of their team's carries in 2004 and seven backs that season topped 50 percent of their team's running plays.

But in today's Big 12, coaches are opting to predominantly use a rotation of backs. Teams like Nebraska (Quentin Castille and Roy Helu Jr.), Oklahoma (DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown) and Texas (Vondrell McGee, Cody Johnson, Fozzy Whittaker and freshman Chris Whaley) all are expected to rotate carries in 2009.

Here's a look at how those numbers have changed during the Big 12's history.

(Read full post)

Davison's game-saving catch ranks as Big 12's No. 4 memory

July, 7, 2009
7/07/09
8:17
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Davison's dramatic grab keeps Nebraska's winning streak alive

Date: Nov. 8, 1997
Place: Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.
Score: Nebraska 45, Missouri 38 (OT)

Nebraska needed a huge break to keep its 1997 national title hopes alive.

The Cornhuskers got that and more when freshman receiver Matt Davison grabbed a kicked ball for a game-tying touchdown against Missouri. His dramatic play forced overtime and resuscitated the Cornhuskers' national title hopes.

The dramatic score is one of the most memorable play in the Cornhuskers' Big 12 history and certainly ranks with Johnny Rodgers' dramatic 1971 punt return against Oklahoma and Tommie Frazier's 75-yard scoring run against Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

The New York Times described Davison's heroics the following day in a headline as a "fluke score."

Nebraska was trailing by seven points with 12 seconds left when Davison's made the big play.

Quarterback Scott Frost's pass to the end zone was knocked out of wide receiver Shevin Wiggins' grasp. Missouri defensive back Harold Piersey appeared poised to intercept the ball, but Wiggins inadvertently kicked the ball into the air on his way down. Davison was ready to make a diving grab in the end zone, pouncing on it just before it hit the turf for the touchdown.

The dramatics shocked Missouri fans who had stormed the field. Those fans appeared ready to rip down the goal posts to celebrate what would have been the Tigers' first victory over Nebraska since 1978. Instead, they had to get ready for overtime.

Frost made the most of the break, scoring three plays into overtime on a 12-yard scamper for his fourth touchdown run of the game. Missouri had two incomplete passes and a 3-yard gain before quarterback Corby Jones was sacked by Grant Wistrom and Mike Rucker to preserve the victory.

Nebraska, which came into the game as a 29-point favorite, had to work hard to escape with the victory as Missouri dominated most of the game.

Jones jolted the No. 3 defense for three touchdown passes and also rushed for 60 yards, although he was sacked five times by the Cornhuskers.

He was effective early in the game, but Frost's touchdown runs of 16 yards and 1 yard before the end of the first quarter gave the Cornhuskers a 14-7 lead.

Missouri reclaimed the lead at 24-21 at the half after striking for 10 late points. Scott Knickman's 39-yard field goal and a 39-yard touchdown pass from Jones to tailback Brock Olivo gave the Tigers the lead.

Frost boosted Nebraska back into the lead late in the third quarter on a 1-yard keeper, but Missouri answered with Devin West's 62-yard kickoff return on the ensuing play for good field position. Jones then scored on a 6-yard run to enable the Tigers to reclaim the lead at 31-28.

The Cornhuskers tied the game on Kris Brown's 44-yard field goal with 10:50 left in the game. But Missouri responded after Piersey's interception to the Nebraska 30. Jones then hit H-back Eddie Brooks on a 15-yard scoring pass with 4:38 left, boosting Missouri to a 38-31 lead.

Missouri squandered a chance to ice the victory in regulation when Jones was stuffed on a third-and-3 option play. Jason Smith's ensuing punt pinned Nebraska at its own 33 with 1:02 left before the dramatic game-tying possession.

It was just enough time for a miracle. And Nebraska made the most of its opportunity.

They said it, part I: "One stinking play," Missouri coach Larry Smith, expressing his disgust to reporters after the game.

They said it, part II: "We wanted to shock the world tonight. But the end of that game shocked us. We should have won that game. That's all there is to it," Missouri guard Craig Heimburger, in his postgame comments to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

They said it, part III: "It was floating like a punt, kind of end over end. It seemed like it took forever for the ball to get there," Nebraska wide receiver Matt Davison, telling reporters about his recollection of the play.

They said it, part IV: "We fought our (butts) off and came up short. It hurts so bad. We could have had it, should have had it," Missouri fullback Ron Janes, expressing his disappointment to the Columbia Daily Tribune after the loss.

They said it, part V: "He told me, 'We got lucky.' And he's right, they did," Smith, telling reporters of his postgame conversation with Nebraska coach Tom Osborne.

Factoids: Frost rushed for 141 yards on 23 carries and passed for 175 yards by completing 11-of-24 passes ... Jones completed 12 of 20 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns with one interception ... Missouri failed in its bid for its first upset over a No. 1 ranked team in school history ... The Cornhuskers' victory extended their winning streak of 37 consecutive conference games and 19 straight victories over Missouri ... Brown's fourth-quarter field goal was his 10th straight -- a then-Nebraska school record ... Nebraska produced 353 rushing yards, paced by a game-high 189 rushing yards by Ahman Green on 30 carries ... Nebraska had a 528-386 edge in total yards ... Davison had caught only seven passes for 117 yards and no touchdowns before his memorable reception.

The upshot: Nebraska fell from No. 1 to No. 3 in the polls the following week. But they returned to No. 2 two weeks later and remained there, even after a smashing 54-15 victory over Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game in San Antonio. The Cornhuskers then whipped No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, 42-17 in the Bowl Alliance's top game.

That victory enabled Osborne to finish his career with a 14-game winning streak as the Cornhuskers spoiled Peyton Manning's final college game. Nebraska (13-0) finished No. 2 behind Michigan in the Associated Press media poll, but nosed out the Wolverines in the coaches' poll for a share of the national title.

Missouri finished the season with a 35-24 loss to Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl. The Tigers were 7-5 and No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll, the first time they had been ranked at season's end since finishing No. 19 in 1981.

The countdown:

5. Bamboozled three times. Boise State's gadget plays doom Oklahoma.
6. Yes, Sirr. Parker's' dramatic catches lead A&M to first Big 12 title.
7. Crouch's TD catch cements Heisman bid, beats Oklahoma.
8. Sproles and Roberson stun top-ranked OU, leading KSU to its first Big 12 title.
9. Emotional A&M victory brings closure after Bonfire tragedy.
10. Roll left: James Brown guarantees victory and then backs it up.
11. When BCS meant "Boo Chris Simms" in Colorado's first Big 12 title.
12. A Buffalo stampede: Six
Chris Brown TDs
lead Colorado past Nebraska.
13. Run, Ricky, run. Ricky Williams breaks NCAA career rushing record.
14. Wild game, wilder post-game rants when Gundy and Leach meet in 2007.
15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. KSU finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
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" against UNLV in 1999.

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