Big 12: East Carolina Pirates

Big 12 lunch links: A strong collection of recruiting stories

February, 3, 2010
Happy Signing Day.

In between all of the signing announcements and the analysis throughout the day, how about some stories from across the Big 12 to keep you occupied throughout your lunch hour and before the news conferences later this afternoon?

Enjoy them.

Lunchtime links: Pelini plays 'Meet the Parents'

January, 29, 2010
We're heading into the last weekend of the recruiting season.

Here are some lunchtime links to nibble on before we get there.

Big 12 lunch links: Is KU's Gridiron Club doomed?

January, 28, 2010
It's icy and cold across much of the the nation's heartland this morning.

But here's an idea better than tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for some warming noontime satisfaction.

Why, of course -- a piping hot selection of Big 12 lunchtime links for your edification.


Lunch links: Texas nixes Thurs. game vs. Huskers

January, 26, 2010
How about a few hot Big 12 links for your lunchtime edification?

My doctor tells me that these nuggets are better than orange juice or hot chicken soup to keep away the common cold.

So here's to your health by reading these.

Big 12 links: Ins and outs of possible Missouri move

January, 25, 2010
Monday is here.

Look on the bright side. It means a healthy dose of Big 12 lunch links to help you get through the drag of the first day of the work week.

Here's what I've got.

Lunch links: KU Gridiron Club behind schedule

January, 22, 2010
Happy Friday.

Before we head into the weekend, here are some stories that people are talking about across the Big 12.

For your edification, here they are.

Big 12 lunch links: IRS could be looking at coaching salaries

January, 21, 2010
This is a history-making post for me, my 4,000th over the past 18 months.

When you figure roughly 500 words per post -- give or take a few extra during the season -- that's more than 2 million words that have been churned out about the Big 12.

I feel like we should celebrate -- with a few lunch links.

So how about these?

Big 12 lunch links: Donald Trump shows his support for Mike Leach

January, 20, 2010
We've got more lunch links that we can shake a stick at this afternoon.

My doctor tells me that consuming these links every day will help prevent colds.

Call it my version of chicken soup for the Big 12 fan's soul.

McNeill has offer to continue at Texas Tech

January, 15, 2010
Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance would like to keep Ruffin McNeill involved at Texas Tech somewhere.

Hance told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that he'd like to see the former Texas Tech defensive coordinator working at the school if he doesn't choose to continue his coaching career elsewhere.

McNeill, the Red Raiders' interim coach after Mike Leach was fired, was himself let go earlier this week when new Tech coach Tommy Tuberville set his staff.

Hance said that McNeill could be in the mix for a variety of jobs at the school.

"We’d make him an assistant athletic director to help us with development in charge of certain areas,” Hance told the Avalanche-Journal. “And if he didn’t want to do that, I’d put him in my office in development. There’s not a greater ambassador.”

McNeill, 51, remains in coaching limbo after the move earlier this week by Tuberville. He is expected to have other coaching offers, perhaps at his alma mater, East Carolina.

Hance has not talked to McNeill but did leave him a voice message of his offers.

Hance said he left McNeill a voicemail early in the week, apprising him of the informal offer.

“I just wanted him to realize he’s got a lot of options with us,” Hance said. “He’s got a lot of friends. He’s a class guy. It wasn’t an easy decision, but he is going to be well taken care of either way, whether he stays or if he goes.”

McNeill responded to Hance's offer on Wednesday.

“I got a nice text message back from him, thanking me,” Hance said. “He said he’d get together with me. We’d talk.”

Despite the offer, I would be very surprised to see McNeill go into an administrative role.

He's coming off one of his finest seasons as a coordinator. And he's also got the national notoriety after piloting the Red Raiders' through the difficult situation after Leach's firing to a victory in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

Look for McNeill to return somewhere as a coach next season.

Lunch links: Willis expected to be Tech D-coordinator

January, 13, 2010
Considering what's going on at Tennessee the last day or so, it seems awfully tame around the Big 12, doesn't it?

But there are still some stories across the conference that are percolating.

Enjoy them.

McNeill learns daily from facing Tech's spread offense

July, 21, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill has been tangling with Mike Leach's spread offense in practice since his arrival in Lubbock with Leach's original staff before the 2000 season.

McNeill says the challenge of competing against the Red Raiders' potent offensive attack makes his defense more acclimated to the travails it faces in the Big 12, where spread offenses have become predominant.

Here are some of McNeill's thoughts on the challenges he faces on a daily basis from trying to stop Leach's offense.

Do you feel like your defense is better able to defend some of the Big 12's spreads because of what you face in your daily team practices against Texas Tech's offense?

Ruffin McNeill: There's still a different part of each team's offense you have to prepare for each week that you can do only by working specifically for them. Each team has its own identity and something you have to get ready for. So there's still some aspects and concepts that another team prefers that you try to make not sound. But as far as the scheme, we do get tested daily.

When you arrived in Lubbock in 2000, Leach was the only coach in the conference running the spread. Now, seven of the teams run the offense as a base set. Did you ever expect it to be this widespread?

RM: I've definitely seen things evolve. The yards per game and points all have increased. I think it's because we've seen a development in the training of quarterbacks and offensive players through seven-on-seven camps and the like -- particularly here in Texas. Now, everybody is trying to get their wide receivers and running backs into space. And we're trying to do what we can to stop them.

Because of the way scoring has mushroomed in the Big 12, are you changing the way you judge the success of your defense?

RM: You've seen things evolve. Obviously, yards per game and points have increased. It's not 3 yards and a cloud of dust like it was when I was playing. We all realize these quarterbacks are pretty good and these offenses can move the ball. What we have to do is be patient and innovative with how we try to counteract their schemes. Points will increase, but maybe now we need to look at stats like third-down conversions and turnovers to determine how effective a defense has really been.

How much of a philosophical change has it been after the mushrooming of these spread offenses since you started your coaching career?

RM: When I started back at East Carolina with Pat Dye, I grew up facing the wishbone all spring and all fall. That was the offense that everybody was using and that caused problems. You saw more of a power game. Then, you saw people start using the West Coast offense to try to throw the football.

I miss those days, but I know the spread defense is here to stay for a while because of the development of the athletes to fit those offenses. I know everybody in our state [high school players] is out throwing the football, so the passing quarterback is out there. The receivers are out there, too. The guys that used to play basketball are all becoming wide receivers. I think the spread will be here for a while, so both sides will have to keep developing.

How has the proliferation of spread offenses changed how you try to stock your defense with personnel?

RM: The biggest thing now you have to have is enough depth and be able to have the personnel to have different packages that you can fall back on to help you.

In the old days, you could play three or four defensive linemen at a position and maybe get by with it. But with the spread, those days are over with. You have a different system in place. You might have some players you like to play in run downs and others who are in for passing situations. You have got to have depth in your defensive backs and a different skills set among the players among that group. With the offenses evolving, depth in your personnel is especially important.

How much have you changed your recruiting philosophies to try to get specific players to fill those needs?

RM: Up front, all of your defensive linemen have to be able to pass rush more because of all of the reps they are facing. The linebackers now have to be more open-space types who can cover receivers. And the defensive backs, because of all of the seven-on-seven training they are getting, their man techniques and their understanding of combating a pass offense have got to improve. You've seen changes in all that as well.

You have to search for those kinds of players. You can practice and work on stopping the spread, but it still comes down to one-on-one effort on defense. Even with all of the spreads we see, there will be times when it comes down to one-on-one play that has to be made. And on defense, you just have to find those kids that can make those plays. It's basic and simple and part of whatever defense you have.

Tech's wild 2006 bowl comeback ranks No. 20 on Big 12 list

June, 15, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over

  Gene Lower/WireImage
  Graham Harrell completed 36 of 55 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns.

No. 20

Date: Dec. 29, 2006
Place: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
Score: Texas Tech 44, Minnesota 41 (OT)

The 2006 Insight Bowl appeared to be an ordinary bowl game without much interest outside of the two teams playing. And after Minnesota jumped to a 38-7 lead over Texas Tech with 7:47 left in the third quarter, television sets were clicking off across America.

The game appeared over after Minnesota got a field goal on its opening drive of the second half. But Tech coach Mike Leach and quarterback Graham Harrell were only getting started.

The Red Raiders' comeback began with 4:58 left in the third quarter, when Harrell hit Phoenix-area native Joel Filani with a 43-yard touchdown pass that pulled Tech within 38-14.

That was all of the scoring until the fourth quarter, when the Red Raiders erupted for 21 unanswered points on a 8-yard touchdown pass from Harrell to Robert Johnson, a 1-yard Harrell touchdown sneak and a 1-yard plunge by Shannon Woods with 2:39 left that pulled Tech within three points after the conversion.

After another Tech defense stop, the Red Raiders had one more chance in regulation.

With no timeouts and 1:06 left, Tech marched 53 yards on eight plays, tying the game as time expired on a 52-yard career-best field goal by Alex Trlica.

Minnesota scored first in overtime on a 32-yard field goal by Joel Monroe.

Tech then claimed the victory -- the largest comeback in bowl history -- on a 3-yard touchdown run by Woods five plays later. The Red Raiders finished by scoring five touchdowns and a field goal on their final six offensive possessions. And Tech's defense set the stage by holding Minnesota scoreless on its final four possessions of regulation.

The previous record for a bowl comeback was 30 points, set by Marshall against East Carolina in the 2001 GMAC Bowl.

The numbers: Harrell went 36-for-55 for 445 passing yards and two touchdowns to win the game's MVP honors. Woods rushed for 109 yards and scored three touchdowns. Filani grabbed 11 passes for 162 yards.

They said it, part I: "We talked at halftime that we had a great opportunity to make history, and the reason people come to Texas Tech is to play all 60 minutes.''  -- Tech coach Mike Leach, who blinked away tears during a postgame interview after the wild comeback.

They said it, part II: "We're an offense that can score in a hurry, and everyone knows that. You never feel like you're going to run out of time with this offense." -- Tech quarterback Graham Harrell.

The upshot: Tech's bowl victory capped an 8-5 season for the Red Raiders, who finished with three victories in their final four games.

After starting the season 3-6, the Golden Gophers had won their final three regular-season games to finish at 6-6. Coach Glen Mason was fired two days later, despite taking the Gophers to five-straight bowl trips. The Gophers have gone 8-17 since then.

The countdown:

21. Reesing to Meier. Again and Again -- Kansas over Missouri 2008.
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."

Big 12 ranks third nationally in attendance

April, 16, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Statistics compiled by the NCAA indicated the Big 12 is coming off a record season in attendance as well as the largest growth of any BCS-affiliated conference.

The Big 12 attracted an average of 62,956 fans per game last season -- one of only five FBS conferences to show growth last season. A struggling economy helped explain why only the SEC and Big 12 showed attendance growth during 2008 for home games.

Here's a look at how the Big 12 ranked with the other FBS conferences

Average Attendance
Conference 2007 2008 Growth
Southeastern 75,139 76,844 +2.27%
Big Ten 71,158 70,125 -1.45%
Big 12 60,941 62,956 +3.31%
Pac-10 57,956 57,350 -1.05%
Atlantic Coast 53,787 52,737 -1.95%
Independents 51,778 50,802 -1.88%
Big East 41,456 43,145 +4.08%
Mountain West 33,937 32,021 -5.65%
Conference-USA 27,666 27,118 -1.98%
Western Athletic 23,014 24,475 +6.35%
Sun Belt 16,374 18,584 +13.50%
Mid-American 17,334 16,727 -3.50%
Source: ESPN Stats & Analysis, NCAA

A more telling examination can be found how individual schools rank in attendance. The Big 12 had one school ranked among the top 10 schools in home attendace, four in the top 14 and five among the top 26 schools.

Here's a list of each Big 12's average attendance and where it ranks among FBS schools, and also among the 65 schools in BCS-affiliated conferences.

School 2008 home att. National BCS conf.
Texas 98,046 5 5
Oklahoma 85,075 12 12
Nebraska 85,071 13 13
Texas A&M 82,193 14 14
Missouri 64,520 26 25
Texas Tech 53,625 38 36
Kansas 50,907 41 39
Colorado 49,476 43 41
Oklahoma St. 48,761 46 44
Iowa St. 47,429 49 47
Kansas St. 45,190 52 49
Baylor 34,124 68 58
Source: ESPN Stats & Analysis, NCAA

It's interesting to note that all Big 12 schools played to 90 percent home capacity with the exception of Baylor, which played to less than 70 percent capacity at Floyd Casey Stadium.

And for you trivia connoisseurs out there, the four teams that ranked in front of Texas were Big Ten powers Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State and Tennessee from the SEC.

The 10 non-BCS affiliated schools that ranked higher than Baylor in average attendance were Notre Dame (16th), BYU (27th), Utah (51st), East Carolina (56th), Hawaii (58th), Navy (59th), UCF (61st), Air Force (64th), Fresno State (65th) and UTEP (66st).

And the seven BCS-affiliated schools that ranked lower in Baylor than average attendance last season were Syracuse (69th), Cincinnati (71st), Indiana (72nd), Wake Forest (73rd), Washington State (74th), Duke (78th) and Northwestern (79th).


Things I noticed watching Saturday's games

September, 13, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The ability to sit in the studio gave me the opportunity to watch a lot more football than I usually do when I'm sitting in a stadium watching a game. Heck, even more than when I'm at home and it seems like I forever have some household chore to do.

So being in Bristol gave me a chance to really watch football. Here are some things I noticed today.

1. Is anybody else surprised that East Carolina struggled before barely escaping New Orleans with a narrow victory over Tulane? How many times have we seen the BCS-buster du jour come up flat after a couple of wins against the big boys? And the Pirates better prepare for it every week as Conference USA play continues.

2. Who needs View-Masters to hype Missouri QB Chase Daniel for the Heisman? After three games, how about 10 touchdowns and one interception. His quarterback efficiency rating has been more than 250 in each of the last two weeks.

3. Injuries for coaches are a miserable time. But doesn't Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis look especially glum after he was leg-whipped by John Ryan along the sidelines late in the first half?

4. Seeing Dennis Quaid be such a prominent part of the Syracuse game-day experience today was somehow fitting as the Orange struggled through another disappointing loss. Remember, Quaid used to be "The Grey Ghost." And Syracuse used to be a place where running backs flocked.

5. Best story of the day was the emergence of Florida State WR Corey Surrency, who never played high school football. Surrency made his start playing in flag-football tournaments before going to El Camino Community College. He's simply emerged as Christian Ponder's go-to receiver.

6. Wonder how much moving Houston's game against Air Force to Dallas hurt the Cougars? Air Force jumped to a 31-7 lead before Houston stormed back to pull within 31-28 late. The Cougars have piled up 749 passing yards and 1,017 yards in their last two games. All they have to show for the offensive explosion are two losses.

7. Worst weekend this year goes to the Pac-10 for enduring humiliating losses (Baylor over Washington State, Maryland over California, TCU over Stanford, BYU over UCLA and Oregon's struggles with Purdue). But just like they've said over the last few years, thank goodness for USC.

8. Best finish of the day came at UB Stadium in Buffalo, where the Bulls eked out a narrow 30-28 victory over Temple thanks to a 35-yard pass from Drew Willy to Naaman Roosevelt with no time left. If I'm an athletic director at a struggling BCS school, I'm thinking about giving Buffalo coach Turner Gill a chance.

9. Seeing Michigan State RB Javon Ringer pick up a career-high 43 carries en route to 282 yards brings back memories of when Lorenzo White was toting the rock that much for the Spartans.

10. Sure, Northwestern has only beaten Syracuse, Duke and Southern Illinois this season. But coach Pat Fitzgerald's team has quietly fashioned a 3-0 record and is halfway to bowl eligibility.