Big 12: Donnie Carona
75.5: Fewer yards per game given up by Texas than any team in the Big 12. The Longhorns rank ninth nationally. Oklahoma is No. 2 in the Big 12 — and ranks 52nd.
1: Big 12 running back with more rushing yards in conference games than Missouri's Henry Josey, who has missed the last two-plus games with a knee injury. That would be Baylor's Terrance Ganaway.
0: Big 12 teams in the national top 25 in blocked punts or kicks. Kansas State and Missouri lead the Big 12 with three.
390.1: Average total offense, in yards, per game for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, 19.1 more yards than any player in the Big 12.
22: Rushing touchdowns in conference games for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, more than any player in the nation.
0: FBS teams that have given up fewer sacks than Oklahoma, which has allowed just six this season.
1: Big 12 team that played more than six home games this season. (Texas A&M, with seven.)
2: Big 12 teams with a turnover margin of better than plus-2. Oklahoma State is plus-16. Kansas State is plus-11.
1: Big 12 player with more career kick returns for a touchdown than OSU return man Justin Gilbert's four. Gilbert is a sophomore and returned a kick for a score against Oklahoma last year.
6: More field goals than any Big 12 kicker for Lou Groza Award candidate kicker Randy Bullock of Texas A&M.
49.5: Percent of Texas LB Emmanuel Acho's 105 tackles this season that have come in the past four games.
2: Big 12 kickers without a missed PAT this season. (Donnie Carona, Texas Tech; Justin Tucker, Texas)
Any given Saturday, I suppose. Texas Tech had lost its past three games by an average of 42 points, but leads Missouri 17-10 at halftime.
Missouri coordinators Dave Steckel and David Yost filled in for Gary Pinkel in the pregame festivities in Columbia. Pinkel was suspended one week and given other financial penalties totaling more than $306,000 after being arrested on drunk driving charges on Wednesday night.
Donnie Carona booted a solid 48-yard field goal into a stiff wind in the final minute of the half to give the Red Raiders a 10-point lead. Missouri's Trey Barrow countered with a field goal of his own after a long return by Gahn McGaffie and a 36-yard completion to L'Damian Washington.
Time for a look at the first half in Columbia.
Turning point I: Kendial Lawrence broke a run up the middle, but was stripped by former receiver Cornelius Douglas just short of the goal line and fumbled into the end zone, preventing Missouri from tying the game. Douglas also scooped up a fumble and scored for Tech's only points last week.
Turning point II: Missouri running back De'Vion Moore, in for the injured Henry Josey, broke a 54-yard run down the right sideline to set up a 5-yard touchdown run from quarterback James Franklin that cut Texas Tech's lead to 14-7. Missouri's offense needed a spark and Moore provided it to get them back in the game. The 90-yard drive was Missouri's longest of the season.
Stat of the half: Texas Tech prevented Missouri from scoring on five consecutive possessions. That's the longest streak Texas Tech's put together all season.
Best player in the half: Scott Smith, DE, Texas Tech. He's been a constant disruption, making four tackles and getting two sacks, both coming on third down. He also tackled Franklin short of a first down on a third-down scramble. He's made the plays necessary to make that five-possession streak happen.
What Texas Tech needs to do: Don't change a thing. The offense has moved the ball consistently, and the defense put its best half of the season together against the Tigers. The Red Raiders will be without leading receiver Alex Torres, who suffered a knee injury in the first half, but Seth Doege has been solid, and the defense is making enough plays to stay in the lead. The Red Raiders are winning the field position battle, too, thanks to some solid special teams play.
What Missouri needs to do: Like I wrote earlier, keep this game on the ground and keep pounding. The defense has had trouble with Tech's offense, and keeping them off the field is the best option at this point. Missouri's had a lot of success running the ball, and there's not much reason to believe that won't continue.
- Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer says more members of Joe Paterno's staff had to know about the possible molestation at Penn State, writes Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman.
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will get a $500,000 bonus if OSU makes the national championship game, reports Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World.
- Chris Whaley went from a big bust at running back to a big impact on the defensive line, writes John Howe in the Austin American-Statesman.
- J. Brady McCollough of the Kansas City Star tells the story of KU's biggest star this season, linebacker Steven Johnson.
- Vinnie Duber of the Columbia Missourian introduces you to the Missouri football team that disappeared.
- Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman tells the story behind the creation of "The Sharks" at Oklahoma.
- Look for Texas A&M to attack Kansas State through the air, writes Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle.
- Harry Plumer of the Columbia Missourian offers up a case for Missouri to succeed in the SEC.
- Donnie Carona's had a roller-coaster career at Texas Tech, but he'll play his final home game on Saturday, writes David Just of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- Robert Griffin III's speed? Kansas is well aware of it for several reasons, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World.
If it's Tuesday, the mailbag should be filling up with some letters from earlier in the week.
Here are some of the better missives.
Scott Carleton of San Antonio writes: Tim,Do you think that Steven Sheffield should continue to start for Texas Tech? I do for three reasons:1. Mobility 2. Potts throws off his back foot a lot.3. Potts forces the ball rather than throwing away or scrambling.
Tim Griffin: I might add a fourth big reason is the Red Raiders’ recent surge. Texas Tech has scored 14 touchdowns and a field goal in the last 19 possessions with Sheffield in charge.
Those numbers are hard to argue with. It seems that for whatever reason, the Red Raiders have really gravitated to Sheffield and his leadership when he's in the lineup.
It’s hard to bench Taylor Potts, who ranks second in the nation in average passing yards and is tied for fourth in touchdown passes. That’s why I think Mike Leach will drag the decision out as long as possible before he makes a determination on who starts Saturday against Nebraska.
Another interesting factor in this quarterback controversy is that both are juniors, making it unlikely that either would transfer away for their senior seasons. We could have this battle for playing time continue throughout the next year.
Blake from Abilene, Texas, writes: Is there a bigger game-changer anywhere than Jordan Shipley? He had the kick return against Oklahoma last year that changed the game and led to the Texas win. He had the punt return in the game against Texas Tech last year and this year. He set a receiving record against Colorado on Saturday. It looks as if he will put up the best numbers of any wide receiver by the end of the season. And that doesn’t even include the boost the Longhorns get from his punt returns. And over the last two years his best receiving games have come against Texas' highest-ranked opponents. Sounds like Mr. Clutch to me? Do you see him with chances for individual awards after this season?
Tim Griffin: For whatever it’s worth, I voted Shipley No. 5 on my weekly Heisman poll for ESPN.com this week. He’s doing things that I haven't seen a Texas player do since the days of Eric Metcalf. Texas coach Mack Brown said yesterday that Shipley’s game against Colorado was one of the greatest in the school’s history. And who knows, if he keeps having productive games both as a receiver and returner, he could sneak his way into Heisman consideration. Without a prime Heisman candidate making a major statement, it appears wide-open to me and we could have somebody like Shipley involved. And after the first five games of the season, he definitely deserves to be considered.
Matt from Irvine, Calif., writes: Tim, Iowa State is leading the Big 12 in rushing, and Alexander Robinson is second in rushing yards per game less than two yards per game behind Roy Helu Jr. of Nebraska. And Robinson’s total came despite getting only four carries against Kansas State two weeks ago because he was hurt. Also, our offensive line leads the nation in sacks allowed per game (0.33). When are Robinson and the O-Line going to get some love?
Stop. All of us Cyclone fans know the answer: as soon as Iowa State start winning these close games.But seriously - with his rushing performance and his eight receptions for 139 yards and two TDs this season, name a running back in the conference playing better than Robinson this year.
Tim Griffin: Matt, I can’t, so I won’t. As I said before the start of the season, I thought Alexander Robinson was one of the most underrated players in the conference. And his rushing and receiving skills appear to be an ideal fit with Tom Herman’s spread offense, which is turning to be a little more run-oriented than we might have thought before the season started.
I really like what Robinson does in the offense. And I think the most underrated facet of his game is his pass blocking. If you get a chance, watch him when he does that.
Lane from Oklahoma City writes: Tim, just wondering how you justify writing in your blog that Ndamukong Suh and Shipley should be among the conversation for the Heisman but fail to put them in your top five when you vote?
Tim Griffin: I lived up to that column this week. Lane, you would have been proud of me. I had Suh third behind Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy and Shipley fifth behind Jimmy Clausen. And a big finish from either Suh or Shipley could result in a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation. Both are starting to capture the attention of football fans and the media across the country.
Adam Offner of Elmwood, Neb., writes: Tim, I noticed your story on the Texas Tech and Kansas State game. You had mentioned that Texas Tech's kicker Donnie Carona tied for Tech's team lead in tackles with five -- playing merely on the kickoff team. Did I read that right?Is that a new NCAA record? If not what is the record?
Tim Griffin: You did read that right, as Carona tied for the Texas Tech team lead with five tackles against Kansas State. Unfortunately, the NCAA or the Big 12 doesn’t break down its statistics into special teams-only situations. I think if it did, it would highlight Carona’s effort.
As it is, I think Carona's performance is significant for a couple of reasons. First, I think he’s an aggressive player on special teams, which isn’t surprising because he was a linebacker in high school. And secondly, the Red Raiders needed a lot of chances to kick off for him to produce that total. Which they did as he kicked off 11 times in the Red Raiders’ 66-14 triumph.
That’s all the questions I have for now. Check back on Friday andwe'll answer some more.
Thanks again and keep them coming.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas Tech's 66-14 demolition of Kansas State represents a clear signal that Bill Snyder's turnaround of the Wildcat program will be a tough one.
The Wildcats were singed by Texas Tech quarterback Steven Sheffield, who tossed seven touchdown passes. When backup Seth Doege's late 7-yard TD pass to Brik Brinker is added, the eight touchdown passes allowed by Kansas State was a school record.
"I've never seen anything like that in my life," Snyder told reporters after the game.
Or at least in a long time. The loss was the third worst for a Snyder-coached team, and KSU's most one-sided defeat since a 56-3 loss at Washington on Sept. 28, 1991.
Here's the best indication of how one-sided that Tech's victory really was: Considering the changes in defense as the Red Raiders' margin became more pronounced, kicker Donnie Carona tied for Tech's team lead in tackles with five -- playing merely on the kickoff team.
"We just got our butts kicked in every way imaginable," quarterback Grant Gregory told the Topeka Capital-Journal. "The scoreboard tells the story."
Here's a look at the most one-sided losses in Sndyer's career:
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AUSTIN, Texas -- Jordan Shipley has electrified this crowd with a 46-yard punt return for a touchdown that has provided Texas with a 7-3 lead over Texas Tech.
A couple of things were notable about the return. It was the second-straight season that Shipley has singed Tech for a touchdown return. His 45-yard return last season for a score -- on the first punt return of his career -- accounted for Texas' first touchdown after the Longhorns had fallen into an early 19-0 deficit.
Shipley's big return this time was set up by a three-and-out by the Longhorns' defense deep in Tech territory.
Punter Donnie Carona could be forgiven for his line-drive kick. It was only his third punt of the season.
But once Shipley escaped the Tech gunner and took advantage of downfield blocks from A.J. Williams and Blake Gideon, he wasn't challenged en route to the end zone.
Gideon's big block had to provide a little satisfaction, particularly after all the pregame hype about his dropped interception that could have wrapped up Texas' victory last season in Lubbock.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I know this makes me sound like a coaches, but I actually think that special teams really does account for a third of a team's success. And I think that solid play in all facets is especially critical in the Big 12 because of the small margin of error in most games.
Here's a look at how I rank the special teams in the conference, giving each team a master rating including all facets of the kicking game.
1. Texas: The best combination kicking game in the league with two-deep talent at both kicker and punter and Jordan Shipley to take care of the returns. The Longhorns always have fast, talented athletes covering kicks as well. And I'm curious to see if Justin Tucker really will be able to produce rugby-style punts with both feet.
2. Oklahoma State:The Cowboys have the best kickoff/punt returners in the conference in Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox. Special-teams coach Joe DeForest always does an outstanding job, although he’ll be in tough spot replacing Matt Fodge as his punter this season.
3. Nebraska: Alex Henery was the best kicker in the conference with a knack for making huge kicks. It's curious that Nebraska coaches would risk that success by having him double up as a punter this season. But he actually came to college as a walk-on punter. Niles Paul will get the start as both punt returner and kick returner. And Adi Kunalic led the nation in touchbacks as a kickoff specialist.
4. Kansas State:I’m basing this as much on past success as anything else -- Ron Prince’s team blocked four punts for touchdowns last season. Brandon Banks is a threat to break a big return on every play and he’ll be doubling as a kick and punt returner this season. Even with Bill Snyder taking over, I’m still thinking this will be a productive unit as they break in new kicker Josh Cherry and new punter Ryan Doerr.
5. Baylor: The Bears have the most consistent punter in the conference with Derek Epperson. Look for improvement from kicker Ben Parks. One key will be boosting punt returns with new returner Krys Buerck after ranking only 118th nationally as a team last season.
6. Iowa State: I think that Jack Trice Stadium might be the toughest facility in the conference because of its swirling winds. Paul Rhoads has some confidence with Grant Mahoney back at kicker and Mike Brandtner at punter. Leonard Johnson is one of the most effective kickoff returners in the conference. But the Cyclones need a boost on punt returns and in covering kicks.
7. Oklahoma: For a team with as many athletes as the Sooners, I was surprised with their difficulties in covering kicks last season. That’s the immediate concern for them. DeMarco Murray was a threat on every return, but I doubt he plays there much because of his recent injury problems. Dominique Franks, Ryan Broyles and Cameron Kenney are expected to contribute in the return game. And Kenney might even push Tress Way for punting duties. Coaches have also been impressed with the improved range of kicker Jimmy Stevens. We’ll see if that holds up when the season starts.
8. Texas Tech: The story about Matt “Lynwood” Williams was one of the best in college football last year as he emerged from an in-game kicking contest to win most of the kicking honors for the Red Raiders. Donnie Carona was a disappointment as a kicker, but may emerge as a punter along with Ryan Erxleben (yeah, he’s the son of former Texas punter Russell Erxleben) as the Red Raiders wait for Jonathan LaCour to come off a Big 12-mandated suspension. Edward Britton and Jamar Wall will be involved in returning kicks, along with many others.
9. Texas A&M: Here’s a stat that shows how far Texas A&M’s once vaunting kicking game has fallen in recent years. The Aggies haven’t converted a field goal of 50 yards or more since 2000. Randy Bullock is back as the kicker and freshman Ryan Epperson and Ken Wood are still battling for the punting job. Christine Michael inherits the kickoff return duties, but look for heralded junior-college cornerback Coryell Judie to be involved some way.
10. Missouri: No Jeremy Maclin and Jeff Wolfert means that the Tigers will rebuild one of their strongest units last season. Their net punting figures to improve after Jake Harry’s strong start. Grant Ressel won the kicking job in a tight battle, but might be pushed this season. Gary Pinkel is sorting through his options in the return game but won’t have anybody nearly as gifted as Maclin. And they need to do a better job covering kicks after allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown for the first time last season.
11. Kansas: The Jayhawks desperately need some improvement in this category. Jacob Branstetter converted 75 percent of his kicks, but his longest was only 34 yards. Punter Alonso Rojas’ net average was only 33.9 yards. And the Jayhawks ranked 118th nationally in kickoff returns as Marcus Herford accounted for most of the returns. They showed some strong improvement late in the season when Dezmon Briscoe took over.
12. Colorado: The Buffaloes had the worst field-goal percentage in the country as they converted only 29 percent last season. They also lose Josh Smith, who set a school record for total kick return yards. Coaches think that Andre Simmons will be able to help here, but I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude before I get too excited.
Here are some weekend scrimmage links from around the conference from schools that had scrimmages or major practices:
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin completed 16 of 20 passes for 157 yards and engineered four scoring drives in the Bears' Saturday scrimmage. Eighteen different receivers grabbed passes in the scrimmage.
Kansas State could be starting three junior-college transfers in the secondary this season, the Topeka Capital-Journal's Austin Meek reports.
Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune reveals that Missouri wide receivers Danario Alexander and Wes Kemp had their best practices of preseason camp Saturday and the Tigers' struggles along the offensive front after Dan Hoch's injury appear to have been fixed.
The primary focus at Nebraska's practice shifts to freshman I-back Rex Burkhead, who inherits Quentin Castille's No. 2 slot at I-back, the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson reports.
Heralded freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert appears to have taken a firm grasp of the No. 2 position behind Colt McCoy, Alex Trubow of the Austin American-Statesman writes.
New Texas Tech starting safety Franklin Mitchem returned an interception for a touchdown in the Red Raiders' Saturday workout as punter Donnie Carona continued to struggle with his approach, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams reports.
After a sputtering start, Texas A&M's passing offense finally got going at the end of the Aggies' 90-minute scrimmage on Saturday. Jerrod Johnson completed 15 of 20 passes for 207 yards. Ryan Tannehill chipped in with 180 yards on 10 of 13 passing, according to the Bryan Eagle's Robert Cessna.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
High Plains Drama: Crabtree's grab stuns No. 1 Texas
Date: Nov. 1, 2008
Place: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas
Score: Texas Tech 39, Texas 33
|AP Photo/LM Otero|
|Michael Crabtree's game-winning 28-yard catch against Texas was arguably the play of year last season in college football.|
It was one of the wildest plays in Big 12 history, the kind of play that still resonates after thousands have watched on You Tube.
Michael Crabtree's game-winning 28-yard catch from Graham Harrell did more than merely wrap up the biggest victory in Texas Tech history. It was also a national coming-out party for the Tech program, pushing them to the highest ranking in school history.
To get there, they needed a miraculous play by Crabtree and a strong throw from quarterback Harrell. The Red Raiders got both on the game's last play from scrimmage.
Crabtree admitted he was guilty of daydreaming after Vondrell McGee's 4-yard touchdown run had given Texas a 33-32 lead with 1:29 left. Tech then took over after Jamar Wall returned the ensuing kickoff to the Tech 38.
The Red Raiders dodged a bullet on the play immediately before Crabtree's touchdown. Texas freshman safety Blake Gideon dropped a potential game-clinching interception on a ball that was tipped by Tech's Edward Britton.
On the next play, Crabtree snagged the long pass from Harrell deep along the right sideline before breaking the tackle of Curtis Brown. Crabtree then kept his balance, stayed in bounds and streaked into the end zone for the dramatic score.
Matt Williams added the extra point, but the game wasn't over. Because thousands of Tech fans had streamed onto the field after Crabtree's touchdown, the Red Raiders were forced to kick from their own 7½ yard line.
But Texas couldn't match miracles with the Red Raiders. D.J. Monroe's fumbled return was recovered by Daniel Charbonnet to put away the upset over the No. 1 Longhorns.
Tech had outplayed Texas for most of the game, setting the tone by scoring their first points defensively when Colby Whitlock tackled Chris Ogbonnaya for a safety. They pushed the lead to 19-0 midway through the second quarter when Harrell hooked up with Eric Morris on an 18-yard scoring toss.
But Texas charged back, trimming to Tech's halftime lead to 22-6 on Hunter Lawrence's 25-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
Jordan Shipley provided a big play early in the third quarter when he returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown to trim Tech's lead to 22-13. But Charbonnet returned an interception from McCoy 18 yards for a touchdown less than three minutes later to boost Tech back into a 29-13 advantage.
That's when McCoy went to work. Despite battling the effects of a bloody lip, he provided two huge touchdown passes to Malcolm Williams in a span of barely four minutes to pull Texas back into the game.
The first scoring toss covered 37 yards, trimming Tech's lead to 29-19. And on the second one, Williams got behind the Tech secondary on a 91-yard scoring toss to pull the Longhorns within 29-26.
Tech kicker Donnie Carona, who had been relegated to the bench earlier in the season after a persistent slump, tacked on a 42-yard field goal with 5:45 left to cap a 13-play, 55-yard scoring drive.
But Tech's 32-26 lead didn't appear to be enough. And it wasn't as McCoy coolly led the Longhorns on an 80-yard drive capped by McGee's touchdown run.
Crabtree had been hobbled earlier in the game with a gimpy ankle and twice was removed from action in the first quarter. But he was ready on his only catch of the final drive.
Before then, Harrell completed his first four passes to start the game-winning drive.
And after Gideon's drop, the Red Raiders still might have had a chance to win the game on a field goal.
But Crabtree didn't want to leave anything to chance, setting the stage for 2008's most memorable play by charging to the end zone.
They said it, part I: "On the sideline, I kind of dreamed that I would catch a pass and go in the end zone for a game-winning score. I do that in every game, but this time it happened. It kind of shocked me," Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, on his game-winning reception.
They said it, part II: "It was definitely a good win. But, I coached a 13-year-old all star team and we beat Cheyenne one time and I thought that was a bigger win," Tech coach Mike Leach on the Red Raiders' improbable victory.
They said it, part III: "Play 60 minutes. You may have a second to spare," Leach, on his team's resiliency.
They said it, part IV: "All we needed was a field goal, but a touchdown was even sweeter. If you're a quarterback and don't want to be in that situation, you should probably change positions," Tech quarterback Graham Harrell on the comeback victory.
They said it, part V: "They played harder than us. They never quit. They kept fighting," Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who was gunning for his 10th come-from-behind victory before Crabtree's heroics.
They said it, part VI: "We had a lot of problems. But to their credit they kept fighting back. All we did was score too quickly at the end. We should have taken more time off the clock," Texas coach Mack Brown, on his team's comeback from an early 19-point deficit.
Factoids: After punting after their first drive, Tech took control by scoring on their next three possessions and four of their first six in the first half. But Texas climbed back in by scoring touchdowns on three straight drives before their game-ending fumble ... Harrell completed 36-of-53 passes for 474 yards, including completions to nine different receivers. Crabtree produced a game-high 10 grabs for 127 yards, while Edward Britton added seven catches for 139 yards ... Texas wide receiver Malcolm Williams, forced into the game because of an early injury to starting wide receiver Quan Cosby, produced four catches for a game-high 182 yards ... It was Tech's first victory in school history against a No. 1 team ... The late loss kept Texas from navigating a difficult four-game gauntlet after earlier beating No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 11 Missouri and No. 7 Oklahoma State in the previous three weeks. Tech was ranked No. 6 coming into the game ... Tech kicker Matt Williams, who was plucked from the student section earlier in the season, converted field goals of 29 and 31 yards, but was pulled in favor of Donnie Carona after he had a kick blocked in the second half ... Harrell finished by passing for 167 yards in the fourth quarter alone.
The upshot: Crabtree's heroics set up the wildest Big 12 South Division race in history. In the end, Texas, Oklahoma and Tech all finished with 7-1 conference records. The Sooners advanced to the championship game by winning out on the fifth tiebreaker, despite losing to the Longhorns earlier during the regular season.
Oklahoma finished a single point ahead of Texas in the USA Today coaches' poll and six points behind them in the Harris poll. That left it to the computer ratings, where the Sooners came out ahead in four of the six elements of the poll.
Tech's South Division hopes were quashed three weeks later when they were blown out in a 65-21 loss at Oklahoma as the Sooners erupted for 625 yards of total offense.
That loss dropped them to the Cotton Bowl where they squandered an early 14-0 lead in a 47-34 loss to Mississippi. That defeat dropped them to 11-2 and 12th in the final Associated Press poll -- their highest end-of-season finish in 35 years.
Texas went on to win their final four games of the season, capping it with a dramatic 24-21 triumph over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Longhorns finished 12-1 and No. 4 in the final AP poll, and arguably only one second from a perfect record. It was their highest end-of-season finish since winning the national championship in 2005.
3. Superman's leap. Roy Williams' tipped pass provides OU's game-clinching TD over Texas.
4. Davison's dramatic grab keeps Cornhuskers' national title hopes alive.
5. Bamboozled again and again and again. 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, helps 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 CU to first Big 12 title game.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
All spring long, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has openly discussed how his "rebuilding job" is overrated.
Sure, the Red Raiders lose standouts like Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree and Shannon Woods from last season's team. But Leach saw flashes of promise among the young Red Raiders during the Red-White scrimmage on Saturday that made him pleased as the team finishes spring practice this week.
Backup quarterback Steve Sheffield threw a go-ahead touchdown pass and Cody Davis returned an interception 100 yards for a clinching score to power the White to a 19-7 victory over the Red before about 12,500 people at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Most of the interest in the scrimmage came from the performance of Taylor Potts, who is in line to replace Harrell. Potts completed 20 of 27 passes for 211 yards.
Davis got the pickoff on a tipped pass against backup Stefan Loucks to help ice the scrimmage victory, which came in game-like settings.
Leach typically likes to stretch competition for the quarterback out until shortly before the season begins. But he has shown no indication that Potts won't be the starter for the Red Raiders' season opener Sept. 5 against North Dakota.
"It's really comforting knowing you have the support of your coach and the coach is behind you as well as the other coaches and your teammates," Potts told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "It makes your job a little easier knowing that you're backed by a lot of people on your team, so it's nice."
But the biggest revelation might have been redshirt freshman running back Harrison Jeffers, who produced 21 rushing yards on eight carries and also snagged seven catches for 45 yards.
Leach and the Tech coaches tried to equalize talent as much as possible in the scrimmage. The Red team had six first-team players from the offense including Potts, Britton and Tramain Swindall and defensive standouts like defensive linemen Colby Whitlock and Ra'Jon Henley and linebacker Brian Duncan.
The White's offensive starters include linemen Brandon Carter and Chris Olson and receivers Detron Lewis and Jacoby Franks. First-team defensive starters included linebackers Marlon Williams and Bront Bird.
"I thought Potts played well," Leach told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I think we consistently moved [the ball]. But any time you split the teams up, there's going to be breakdowns in execution because you're spread a little thin."
Defensive standouts included junior safety Brett Dewhurst (seven tackles) and sophomore linebacker Tyrone Sonier, who notched eight tackles a sack and broke up a pass.
The offensive execution was a little better than last season, when an angry Leach ordered a difficult practice to finish the spring practice a couple of days after the scrimmage. There's no indication that will happen after Saturday's performance.
But he can't be happy with the performance of kicker Donnie Carona, who misfired on two of three extra-point attempts after struggling last season. Carona also averaged 28 yards on three punts.
Will that mean that kicker Matt Williams will be a revelation after his success last season? We'll see over the summer.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Hopefully the Easter candy is disappearing and the ham is dwindling.
Here are a few Big 12 tidbits to go with your lunches today. Enjoy them.
- Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman writes that Sam Bradford wants a Great Dane puppy -- just like the one he had when he was a kid growing up.
- The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls reports that converted Texas quarterback John Chiles has been a quick learner at wide receiver during the spring.
- Texas Tech kicker Donnie Carona is giving incumbent punter Jonathan LaCour a solid challenge during spring practice, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams reports.
- BleacherReport.com selects the 10 greatest moments in Nebraska football history.
- Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel proposes each FBS team playing two spring games.
- Scott Wright of the Oklahoman writes about the noticeable excitement and enthusiasm that can be detected around the Oklahoma State program this spring.
- Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith has been one of the Tigers' revelations of spring practice, the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond reports.
- Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee promises to be steady in his approach to his team's spring game on Saturday, the Omaha World-Herald's Rich Kaipust writes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Spring practice is a time for competition across college football. Clashes for jobs are as much a part of offseason work as gassers and not hitting quarterbacks in inter-squad games and scrimmages.
Some of the spring competition across the Big 12 will be particularly notable. Here are some positional battles that bear watching over the next few weeks.
Nebraska quarterback: Even though Patrick Witt left, there still should be an intense battle between Zac Lee, Kody Spano and heralded freshman Cody Green to replace Joe Ganz. Don't expect this battle to be settled until shortly before the season -- perhaps the major reason Witt decided to leave for another opportunity.
Oklahoma right tackle: Although the Sooners' offensive line should be their most pressing concern this spring, there will be notable competition at one position. Trent Williams has moved to left tackle to protect Sam Bradford's blind side. That will leave Cory Brandon and heralded LSU transfer Jarvis Jones battling for snaps on the other side.
Texas running back: The Longhorns have to develop some kind of running threat to keep from using Colt McCoy too much again as a runner. Without a dominant back, it looks like Mack Brown again will opt for a rotation-by-committee setup. Fozzy Whittaker has impressed coaches with his breakaway burst, but must stay healthy. Vondrell McGee will get his chance, but better learn how to pick up blitzes better. Redshirt freshman Tre' Newton has shown flashes of becoming the next Chris Ogbonnaya because of his receiving abilities. Cody Johnson might be the best move-the-pile runner if he can stay in shape. And all of this is before heralded incoming freshman Chris Whaley arrives this summer.
Colorado quarterback: Cody Hawkins arrives as the favorite because of his experience, but burning Tyler Hansen's redshirt last season indicated the need at that point of the season for a change. Both will compete for the job along with true freshmen Clark Evans and Matt Ballenger, who appear to have some of the qualities of both of last season's starters.
Texas Tech kicker: Matt "Lynwood" Williams was one of the best stories in college football when he joined Texas Tech's team after coaches discovered him in an in-game kicking promotion. Williams converted 33 straight extra points, but wasn't counted on to kick field goals very often. Donnie Carona, who received a rare scholarship offer from Mike Leach before last season, could be poised to challenge if he can forget about last season's struggles. And Blinn College kicker Brad Hicks will try to walk-on at the position. Whoever emerges has to boost Tech's kicking after the Red Raiders converted only seven field goals to tie for the second fewest in the Big 12. The Red Raiders' field-goal conversion rate was 54 percent -- second worst in the conference.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While watching the recruiting lists that will be released by Big 12 schools tomorrow, it might be wise to remember some of the players who have thrived without much early recruiting hype. It's also interesting to remember some of the highly touted recruits who struggled once they arrived at college.
Here's a look at some of the more notable hits and misses in the Big 12 the past few seasons which should explain why some of the recruiting hoopla should be taken with a grain of salt.
Hits: The Big 12's two Heisman Trophy finalists in 2008, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Texas' Colt McCoy, both were projected as middle-of-the-pack recruits. Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson was presumed to be a step behind them. All three have developed into players who could end up being among the finest quarterbacks in their respective schools' histories.
Misses: Oklahoma's Tommy Grady never materialized as a prospect from the Class of 2003 and ended up transferring to Utah. And Harrison Beck was a highly anticipated prospect at Nebraska before washing out and ending up at North Carolina State.
Hits: Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter was a midrange recruit before blossoming to lead the Big 12 in rushing in 2008. And Shannon Woods was even more lightly regarded before excelling as a multifaceted back in Texas Tech's offense.
Misses: Daniel Davis was a highly ranked junior-college prospect who was expected to blossom once he arrived from at Kansas State. He never fulfilled that promise after several legal run-ins. Webster Patrick was a tough running back who was compared favorably to the Davis brothers who had thrived in Dan McCarney's offense at Iowa State. But Patrick failed to qualify academically for the Cyclones and ended up at Butte College.
Hits: Juaquin Iglesias was barely recruited coming out of Killeen (Texas) High School, where his track exploits were more widely regarded. He accepted a scholarship offer from Oklahoma and blossomed into the second-leading receiver in school history. Dezmon Briscoe had one catch as a junior at Cedar Hill High School in Dallas, but caught the attention of then-Kansas assistant coach Tim Beck. He produced 92 catches for school-record totals of 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns last season for the Jayhawks.
Misses: Colorado's Tyler Littlehales was a huge recruit for Gary Barnett in the Class of 2002 after playing at the Army All-American Bowl, but never could crack the starting lineup for the Buffaloes. Marquis Johnson was a top national recruit who was counted as a top recruit when he came to Texas from Champaign, Ill., as an All-American high school receiver. He failed to keep his grades up and ended up at Hutchinson Community College, eventually resurfacing at Texas Tech where he caught 21 passes in a two-season career.
Hits: Jermaine Gresham wasn't a top prospect after a knee injury in his junior season of high school stifled recruiting interest. He blossomed in college and is expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft this April. Chase Coffman was thought to be a good but not great prospect while playing at Raymore-Peculiar High School in Raymore, Mo. Coffman beefed up from his high school playing weight of 210 pounds and developed into a sure-handed receiver who won the Mackey Award in 2008.
Misses: Josh Barbo appeared to be a prototypical tight end and had the recruiting clippings to match when he arrived at Missouri in the 2003 recruiting class. But Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker took over the position as Barbo moved to defensive line and never got higher than third string on the depth chart before leaving school after the 2006 season. Walter Nickel was presumed to be a key player at Iowa State after arriving from Dixie State Community College, but he struggled with injuries and produced 35 catches in his two seasons with the Cyclones.
Hits: Few could have imagined that Jason Smith would be a key producer when he arrived at Baylor as a 220-pound tackle. But after gaining 85 pounds, he likely will go among the first 10 picks in the upcoming NFL draft. Center Daniel Sanders wasn't offered a scholarship by Colorado until the week before signing day after originally committing to Northern Arizona. He developed into a four-year starter for the Buffaloes.
Misses: Jorrie Adams was touted as the nation's best offensive line prospect when he arrived at Texas A&M in the class of 2003 from Jasper, Texas. But Adams struggled and switched to defense before he was kicked out of school after a drug-related arrest. Kyle Riggs was one of the nation's top line prospects when he arrived at Missouri in 2003, but never developed after suffering from an undetermined stomach condition. He eventually became a student assistant coach.
Hits: Texas Tech coaches discovered Brandon Williams playing in a high school basketball game at South Hills High School at Fort Worth. He eventually developed into the Big 12's leading sacker last season. Stryker Sulak's recruiting was almost as surprising. Sulak was set to attend Houston before Missouri coaches saw him in a recruiting film. He eventually bulked up and became a three-season starter for Missouri and an All-Big 12 selection last season.
Misses: Texas A&M defensive end Chris Smith was one of the nation's top prospects who committed to Aggies before his senior season in high school in 2004. He hurt his knee during his senior season and struggled thereafter, posting 12 tackles and not playing in the 2008 season. Xavier Lawson-Kennedy was one of the most heralded players to arrive at Oklahoma State, announcing his decision on regional television as a key member of the 2003 class. Struggles with injuries and his weight kept him from developing into a starter in his college career.
Hits: Sean Weatherspoon weighed 195 pounds when he left Jasper, Texas, as a marginal recruit who picked Missouri over Houston, Iowa State and TCU. He has developed into the Tigers' key defensive player on back-to-back North Division championship teams. Joe Pawelek also received little interest from FBS football schools, but immediately claimed a starting job as a freshman with Baylor. He was a freshman All-American and an All-Big 12 selection by his junior season when he led the conference in tackles.
Misses: Kelvin Flood was one of the top linebacker prospects of the 2002 class. But after the Dallas Kimball player selected Texas A&M, he never cracked the Aggies' lineup and left sch
ool after two seasons. Mike Reed was a prototypical middle linebacker who was one of the nation's top recruits when he arrived at Oklahoma from California's Yuba College in 2007. But Reed had difficulty juggling college with the finances of raising three young children and eventually left school. Reed resurfaced last season at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Hits: William Moore was a midrange recruit who was thought to be more of a wide receiver than a defensive player. But he's blossomed into a standout at safety and a likely first-round draft pick in April. Jordan Lake was a hard-hitting safety at Houston McAllen Memorial who received scant recruiting notice. Lake picked Baylor over Northwestern, Rice and Houston and has developed into an All-Big 12 player with one more season remaining.
Misses: Edorian McCullough was one of the highest-ranked defensive back prospects in recent Big 12 history. But his career stalled at Texas before transferring to City College of San Francisco and ending up at Oregon State. Jason Frederick was one of the top recruits at Texas A&M in the class of 1999, but transferred out of school after only one season. He struggled to earn playing time after transferring to Sam Houston State.
Hits: Jeff Wolfert arrived at Missouri on a partial diving scholarship and tried out for the football team on a lark. He left school as the most accurate kicker in college football history in combined percentage for field goals and extra points. Matt Williams arrived on Texas Tech's doorstep last season after capturing the attention of coaches while converting a field goal during an in-game promotion. Williams converted all of his 33 extra points after claiming the job midway through last season.
Misses: Williams got his chance only because of the struggles of Donnie Carona, who arrived as the first scholarship kicking recruit at Texas Tech in Mike Leach's tenure. Carona lost his chance to kick after missing four extra points and five of his nine field goal attempts last season. Iowa State kicker Josh Griebahn was the highest-rated kicking recruit ever attracted to Iowa State by McCarney. But Griebahn redshirted as a freshman and had ankle surgery the following season. He never won the Cyclones' kicking job.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Mike Leach comes back to Norman tonight. It's a place where he's never had much success in four previous losses with Texas Tech.
The challenge of stopping Oklahoma has flummoxed the best of the Big 12 team over the years. Hence Bob Stoops' 59-2 record here. His only losses came to Les Miles and Oklahoma State in 2001 and Gary Patterson's TCU team in the season opener in 2005.
But Leach said earlier this week that he thought his team's performance in 2006 -- a game where they reeled off 17 straight points and made the Sooners work in an eventual 34-24 victory -- has given them confidence that they haven't had in previous games here.
"We came in and played them pretty well," Leach said. "It's a game that we could have won with a break or two."
That confidence seems to have been passed along to his team, which might have a chance to stun the Sooners and claim their first appearance in the Big 12 title game with a victory tonight.
But even more than confidence, here's another reason why the Red Raiders might be poised to make some history here tonight.
Namely, this Texas Tech team might be the best that has ever come to challenge the Sooners in the Stoops era.
Leach has his best quarterback in Graham Harrell. He has his best player in Michael Crabtree. His offensive line is a veteran group that has helped him balance his offense with a semblance of a running game.
Texas Tech is only the third top-10 team to play here during Stoops' era. The No. 3 Sooners stunned No. 1 Nebraska 31-14 in 2000. And No. 2 Oklahoma blew out No. 9 Iowa State, 49-3, here in 2002.
Texas Tech's team is the biggest challenge the Sooners have faced since then. It will be interesting to see how they fare against the Sooners' home field mystique.
Here are some other items that will be important tonight.
- How Oklahoma's injury-ravaged defense holds up. The Sooners are missing top pass rushers Auston English and Alan Davis. Six of their seven starters among the linebackers and defensive backs have never started against Texas Tech's defense before. Checking what is suddenly a balanced -- for Tech anyway -- offensive attack will be difficult for that inexperienced Sooners group. Oklahoma has yielded at least 28 points in each of the past five games -- something that they have never done in the history of the program.
- Heisman ramifications. Graham Harrell and Sam Bradford are both among the top candidates for what they've accomplished -- particularly in recent weeks. The winner of the game should have a huge leg up on the field a few days after Heisman ballots have started arriving at the homes and offices of balloters. Whoever wins tonight's nationally televised game will have a big advantage over the field. At least until the next round of games next week.
- The turnover margin. Oklahoma leads the nation with eight turnovers lost. Texas Tech has only 14 giveaways. I don't think either team will be prone for a big mistake. Whoever gets advantage -- particularly if it's early -- will have a huge advantage.
- Oklahoma's quick starts. In the past three games, the Sooners have charged from the opening kickoff, scoring 11 touchdowns on their first 14 possessions in the last three games. In their first six conference games, Oklahoma has outscored opponents 126-24 in the first quarter. And on average, they are already 17 points ahead by the start of the second quarter.
- Special teams. Both teams have liabilities here. Tech leads the nation with nine kicks that have been blocked (five field goals, three punts and an extra point) and must do a better job protecting their kickers. And Leach's lack of confidence in Donnie Carona resulted in the mid-season call-up of Matt Williams from the Tech student section as the Red Raiders' extra-point kicker. Carona likely will kick long field goals while Williams will be used from intermediate distances and close ones.