Big 12: Edward Britton

Lavine's pick may delay a South celebration

November, 14, 2009
Patrick Lavine's 20-yard interception return for a touchdown has boosted Oklahoma State to a lead over Texas Tech and put the Cowboys close to putting this one away.

Lavine stepped in front of a pass from Steven Sheffield to Lyle Leong and streaked down the sideline for the score.

The apparent Oklahoma State victory could put Texas' South Division title hopes on ice at least for a week.

The Longhorns could have clinched an appearance in the Dec. 5 Big 12 title game with an Oklahoma State loss.

That will have to wait until next week, when the Longhorns host Kansas.

As soon as Sheffield threw the interception, Taylor Potts was inserted into the lineup. He responded with a six-play scoring drive, capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass to Edward Britton.

But the Red Raiders will be going against a tired Tech defense without linebacker Marlon Williams, who was just carted off the field for the locker room with a leg injury.

Texas secondary has grown since last season's collapse at Tech

September, 17, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Blake Gideon has been careful to not talk too much about revenge this week as he prepares for Texas Tech.

The Texas sophomore safety says he remembers how his team lost to the Red Raiders last season in dramatic fashion.

And like most of his teammates, Gideon claims to not have any extra motivation about that game, except when asked how long he’s been looking forward to meeting up with the Red Raiders again.
 Karl Anderson/Icon SMI
 Texas returns all four starters from last season's game against Tech, including Blake Gideon, for this year's rematch.

“Say about 365 days,” Gideon said.

While last year’s game isn’t exactly as long ago as Gideon remembered, it remains one of the most painful endings in Texas football history.

Texas' young secondary came within two plays of being able to close out the victory that likely would have sent the Longhorns into the Big 12 championship game with a solid shot of playing for the BCS title.

But two late passes by former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell changed all of that.

On the next-to-last offensive snap of the game, Gideon dropped a sure interception that fluttered through his fingers. Harrell was flushed from the pocket before he lobbed a soft pass to wide receiver Edward Britton. The receiver got both hands on the ball, but it popped straight up in the air where Gideon appeared to have almost cradled it before it hurt the turf.

And on the play after that, Michael Crabtree beat double-team coverage from Earl Thomas and Curtis Brown for a 28-yard touchdown grab that provided the Red Raiders a wild 39-33 victory.

Thomas, thinking that he heard a whistle blow the play dead, was a step late and whiffed on a tackle that could have knocked Crabtree out of bounds as time expired.

Gideon said he remained in a funk for about 24 hours after the drop, but has largely tried to forget about it.

“I don’t think it’s any bigger than it was,” Gideon said. “It was a play that I should have made, but it would be selfish if I made any more of it. I’ve moved on.”

For his part, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said earlier this week that too much is made of Gideon’s drop.

“I don’t think he would catch it, for one,” Leach said. “And for another, it’s always interesting to me that they highlight that play because I can probably rattle off 10 other things that would have allowed us to win by more. So, I don’t see that as being particularly significant.”

All four starters in the defensive backfield are back for the Longhorns along with nickelback Aaron Williams, providing them with more collective experience for this season’s rematch.

The Longhorns’ secondary has played well during their first two games of the season, although none of the early opponents have been as proficient in passing as Texas Tech.

Texas has not allowed more than 200 passing yards in either of their first two games. Thomas and Brown have produced four pass breakups apiece. And Texas opponents have completed only 5 of 22 passes on third down.

Harrell and Crabtree are both gone. But the Red Raiders arrive with their gunslinger du jour in Taylor Potts, who leads the nation in passing yards and touchdown passes.

The Red Raiders’ retooled passing attack will be facing a secondary that has more experience and moxie than before.

“It’s just not me, but the entire secondary has grown up a lot,” Thomas said. “We’ve been playing lights out for the last two weeks. Everybody has grown up and it’s paying off for us. We’ll be ready.”

Gideon said he’s similarly excited in facing the Red Raiders, although he doesn’t feel any personal demons will be exorcised by playing against them again.

“We’re a year better and it’s because of all the experience we had last season,” Gideon said. “Since going through the adversity of the Tech game, we’ve all grown up. It's caused us to be a lot more prepared than we were before.”

Ranking the Big 12's special teams

September, 3, 2009

Posted by'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.

Tech, Missouri share curious similarities

August, 19, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

As I made my predictions last week, I was struck by the unique similarities that Texas Tech and Missouri share this season.

I think it's fair to categorize both of these teams as the Big 12's biggest unknown qualities heading into the season. Here are some qualities both teams share.

  • Both schools are looking to rebuild and reload after earning a share of their division titles last season. It was Missouri's second-straight title game appearance -- an unprecedented feat for the school. Texas Tech earned a share of its first Big 12 South Division title last season, but was edged out of the title game by the Big 12's tiebreaker.
  • Both will be attempting to replace arguably the most decorated quarterback in school history. Missouri will be looking for a change from Chase Daniel, who earned more Heisman acclaim and broke more school passing records in his career than any recent Tiger quarterback. And Tech will be looking for a new quarterback in place of Graham Harrell, who similarly earned more Heisman support and broke more passing records than any quarterback in his school's history.
  • Missouri and Texas Tech will be replacing their old quarterbacks with mammoth new prototypes who look more like linebackers or tight ends than quarterbacks. Missouri's new quarterback is 6-foot-5, 240-pound sophomore Blaine Gabbert. Tech will counter with 6-foot-5, 218-pound junior Taylor Potts.
  • Both teams will be attempting to replace the most prolific receiver in school history. Missouri's Jeremy Maclin and Tech's Michael Crabtree both went on to become first-round selections in the NFL draft.
  • Receiving replacements for both schools have been in the doghouse because of focus-related issues. Missouri's Jared Perry has been demoted because of his problems catching footballs. Texas Tech's Edward Britton struggled this spring because he fell behind academically.
  • Both teams could lean on their running games a little more this season with strong featured running backs -- Missouri with Derrick Washington and Texas Tech with Baron Batch (once he recovers from his arm injury).
  • Both teams have been dogged by assumptions that their head coach is more concerned about offense than defense. And the recent successes of Gary Pinkel and Mike Leach can at least somewhat be attributed to the development of their defenses.
  • Both teams will be on display early in the season in made-for-television matchups against bitter divisional rivals in their conference openers. The Tigers catch Nebraska on Oct. 8 and the Red Raiders will meet Texas on Sept. 19.

It would be a surprise if either Texas Tech or Missouri claim another share of their respective divisional titles. But I think both teams will be a challenge for any opponent and will be among the most entertaining teams in college football to watch. I expect both teams to make a bowl game in what is considered transitional seasons -- notice I didn't use that nasty "r" word that coaches hate to hear (rebuilding) -- after their recent success.

It wouldn't surprise me to see both Texas Tech and Missouri finish with the same record. How about 7-5 for both teams?

Tim's mailbag: Why I like UT over OU - just by a little

July, 24, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Happy Friday afternoon. Here are some of the better questions and e-mails that I received this week.

Brian Kimble of Beltsville, Md., writes: After seeing the preseason All-Big 12 list and looking back at several articles from you and other sources, it seems every time Oklahoma and Texas are compared position by position, player by player, it favors OU. Yet, most prognosticators (yourself included) pick Texas as the better team. What is your justification?

Tim Griffin: Brian, I give Texas a slight edge for a couple of reasons. First, I think Oklahoma's loss of four starters along the offensive line is huge. With only one starter returning, the Sooners will have their work cut out to fix that by Oct. 17 at the Cotton Bowl. And I, along with several other people I've talked to, believe that Texas is entering the season with a kind of a collective chip on its shoulder from how the 2008 season played out. The Longhorns' coaching staff is helping to feed that by at one time awarding the team an asterisk-influenced share of the Big 12 title in their team meeting room before taking it down. And I also think that Colt McCoy is driven to win a championship.

I think the difference between the two teams is very, very slight. But I favor the Longhorns by a hair for those reasons.

I do reserve the right to change my mind before game day. But if they were playing today, I would make the Longhorns a slight favorite, say by about a field goal.

Drew Kappel of Orange County, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I was shocked to see that "The Catch", the Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook pass in the famous "Miracle in Michigan" was not on your Big 12 greatest moments. Did I miss something? I was waiting for that every week and I just assumed it would be number 1, and then I was shocked when it wasn't. That is one of the most famous moments in Big 12 history as far as many Buff fans are concerned.

Tim Griffin: Drew, I limited my choices to moments during the history of the Big 12. The "Michigan Miracle," which I agree was one of the greatest plays in college football history, took place on Sept. 24, 1994 - a little more than two years before the first Big 12 game was played in 1996.

But it was a great play and definitely would have merited some kind of inclusion if I had allowed all plays in the history of each Big 12 school to be included.

But it was tough enough narrowing my choice to 25 with those in Big 12 history. I couldn't have imagined how difficult it would have been if I had to cull through every school's football history looking for memories.

Maybe I'll do that next summer.

Spencer from Oklahoma writes: Tim, I'm a fan of yours and enjoy reading your blog, including the latest entry regarding 100-yard receivers and rushers and 300-yard passers. I noticed something from that study, and I wondered what you thought of this.

I saw that Sam Bradford had 13 games of 300 yards. However, there were only two instances of receivers at Oklahoma having 100-yard games. One belonged to Ryan Broyles, the other to Jermaine Gresham. I found this astonishing.

The other QB to have 13 300-yard games was Kansas' Todd Reesing. However, notice the instances of 100-yard receivers for the Jayhawks. They have 15!! Dezmon Briscoe had seven, Kerry Meier had five and three others had one 100-yard game apiece.

Is this surprising that Oklahoma has only had two receivers with a single 100-yard game among its receivers, despite the passing numbers put up by Bradford? And does this speak to the versatility of Bradford using all his outlets? What are your thoughts?

Tim Griffin: My list includes only players who are returning for the 2009 season. What it might speak to even more than anything were the losses that the Sooners endured with the departure of Juaquin Iglesias and Manny Johnson. Iglesias had seven career 100-yard receiving games, including three last season. Johnson had three career 100-yard receiving games, including two last season.

But I've noticed that Bradford has matured, he seems to be less likely to focus on one receiver. I think that results in a wider inclusion of many receivers into his offense rather than one or two. And that results in the fewer number of 100-yard receivers around the Oklahoma program.

That being said, I look for Broyles to really emerge as a deep threat this season if he can stay healthy. And Adron "Pooh" Tennell looked ready to produce after a strong season. And I think both can develop into consistent big-yardage receivers if they grab enough passes.

Tim from New York City writes: I have a question that has Big 12 (actually Big 8) ties regarding a coach outside of the conference. Given Turner Gill's recent success at and brief turnaround of one of Division I's ultimate projects at Buffalo, is it a long shot to believe that he may make a return to his former conference? If so, what teams would make a good fit for him?

Tim Griffin: Turner Gill has done a masterful job in rebuilding Buffalo after leading the Bulls to the Mid-American Conference championship and the International Bowl last season.

That strong job obviously has to have caught the attention of his old coach, Tom Osborne, which would make some think that Nebraska would be a place he might end up as a head coach. For that to happen, Bo Pelini would have to go on to another job. I think Gill might need a tad more more seasoning at Buffalo. And I don't see any interest in Pelini pursuing any other jobs at this time.

Another job that will come open probably pretty soon will be Kansas State, where there's no indication that Bill Snyder is in the head coaching position for the long term. Maybe Snyder, who turns 70 on Oct. 7, will stay at his old school for two or three years. It would be interesting if Gill would be attracted to Kansas State and if the Wildcats would be attracted to him.

I think the job that would make sense to him would be at TCU in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Obviously, Gary Patterson would have to being going somewhere and I don't know how much interest Patterson has in pursuing other jobs at this time.

But I personally think that TCU might be the best non-BCS job in the country. And it might be better than some jobs in the Big 12. The reason I consider this job so highly include its proximity to the fertile Texas recruiting area, the developing facilities at the school, the school's winning tradition and its conference affiliation.

Patterson currently has an easier road to the BCS in his own conference than he would if the Horned Frogs were playing in the Big 12. And I think he knows it.

But I would also think the chance to return home for Gill would be attractive if the opportunity to accept the TCU job if it ever materialized for him.

Rick Yarbrough from Tripoli, Libya, writes: Football over here is with a round ball and guys in shorts. I'm gonna miss the fall afternoons watching the Longhorns running up and down the field. With a Sunday - Thursday work week and 7 hours time difference, I'm looking to you to keep us up to speed on the Longhorns. Keep up the great work. I'll be catching your blog.

Tim Griffin: Rick, thanks for your work. Please check the blog often during the upcoming season for some updates of home on a pretty regular basis. It should be an interesting season.

And boy, do I envy your days off. You should be able to catch almost every college football game from everywhere, depending on the satellites.

Larry Soper writes: Tim: Nice article on Taylor Potts on earlier this week. Could you please tell me what the Texas Tech receivers look like for Potts with Michael Crabtree gone?

Tim Griffin: Obviously, the loss of two-time Biletnikoff winner will be a big one for Texas Tech. But I think the Red Raiders actually will be more balanced this season without one player commanding most of the catches like Crabtree has done for the last two seasons. I look for Detron Lewis to step up in the featured role with a chance to catch 90-100 balls if he can stay healthy. But I've always liked Edward Britton, who I think could really blossom if he matures in his role in the offense. I think the same could be true for Tremain Swindall as well. And I know that Mike Leach has always raved about Lyle Leong and Adam James as they have played in his system.

I wouldn't look for one player to catch most of the passes for Tech this season. But it will be interesting to see who Potts gravitates to as his receiver. We'll see that as the season plays out for the Red Raiders.

Tom Bates from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim, I know media day is coming up for you. I wonder if you would list your favorite three players and three coaches in the Big 12 to talk with. And maybe give a reason why you find those guys to be the best interviews.

Tim Griffin: As far as players go, this would be my list. 1. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri - Always has something interesting to say. 2. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma - I can see why Sooner players have gravitated to him since his arrival. He's a leader and his words command respect. 3. Kerry Meier, Kansas - Polished and well spoken. He could have a career behind the microphone after his playing days are over.

As far as coaches, this is how I would rank them: 1. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach - You never know what know what he's going to say. And that's the beauty of him. 2. Baylor coach Art Briles - Still has enough small-town Texas high-school football coach in him to always have some interesting comments. 3. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins - I never had heard the word "conflama" before I met the Hawk. But it's grown in my vocabulary since being around him to describe the combination of conflict and drama.

I also loved his comment on taking his wife to an Abba concert during the 2007 season. "You stay married for 25 years by making sacrifices."

We could all learn from that attitude, I guess.

Have a good weekend. I'll catch up with you on Monday from the Big 12 media days in Irving, Texas. Thanks again for all of the good questions and please keep them coming.

Career games delineate Big 12's best offensive players

July, 24, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I was brought up in an era of distinctive achievements like 100-yard rushing and receiving games and 300-yard passing performances.

That's why I still look at these kind of efforts as a personal benchmark when I measure the effectiveness of rushers, passers and receivers.

And it sent me scrambling to the NCAA website for some information about Big 12 players.

I was curious about the number of 100-yard rushing and receiving games and 300-yard passing games that returning Big 12 players have compiled over the course of their careers.

Here's a list of the active leaders heading into the upcoming season.

100-yard rushing games                    No. High game    Opponent             Year

Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State          11       210         Houston              2008

Chris Brown, Oklahoma                        7        169         @Baylor              2006

DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma                 7         128          vs. Texas            2007

Jake Sharp, Kansas                            6          181         Kansas State       2008

Robert Griffin, Baylor                          4           217         Wash. State        2008

Jay Finley, Baylor                               3           119         Wash. State        2008

Rodney Stewart, Colorado                   3           166          West Virginia      2008

Alexander Robinson, Iowa State          3            149         @Missouri           2007

Derrick Washington, Missouri               3            139        @Nebraska         2008

Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska                       3             166         Colorado           2008

Keith Toston, Oklahoma State             3             148         Mo. State          2008

Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State             3            144        @Baylor             2007

Quentin Castille, Nebraska                   2             125         Clemson*         2008

Colt McCoy, Texas                              2              106        @Okla. State      2007

Lamark Brown, Kansas State                 1             137        La.-Lafayette      2008

Logan Dold, Kansas State                     1             115        @Texas A&M       2008

Mossis Madu, Oklahoma                       1            114         Missouri **         2008

Cody Johnson, Texas                            1            102          Texas A&M        2008

Note: * - 2009 Gator Bowl
** - 2008 Big 12 championship game

300-yard passing games                         No.     High game    Opponent         Year

Todd Reesing, Kansas                             13             412         La. Tech         2008

Sam Bradford, Oklahoma                         13             468          Kansas          2008

Colt McCoy, Texas      &nb
sp;                            10            414         Ohio State***   2008

Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State                    5            430          Texas            2007

Austen Arnaud, Iowa State                          3             440          Kansas State  2008

Cody Hawkins, Colorado                              2            322         Alabama ****   2007

Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M                         2            419        Kansas State     2008


*** - 2009 Fiesta Bowl

**** - 2007 Independence Bowl

100-yard receiving games                                 No.   High game    Opponent       Year

Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State                                8          236         Houston        2008

Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas                                      7          269       @Oklahoma    2008

Kerry Meier, Kansas                                             5          136    Sam Houston St. 2008

Brandon Banks, Kansas State                               4          153        @Louisville     2008

Jordan Shipley, Texas                                          3          168        Okla. State     2008

Edward Britton, Texas Tech                                   3           139        Texas            2008

Kendall Wright, Baylor                                          2           132        Iowa State      2008

Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M                                   2           210        Kansas State  2008

Scotty McKnight, Colorado                                     1           106      Colo. State       2007

Darius Darks, Iowa State                                       1           113       @Okla. State   2008

Jake Sharp, Kansas                                              1           107       @Iowa State    2008

Johnathan Wilson, Kansas                                     1           179      @South Florida 2008

Daymond Patterson, Kansas                                   1           130    Louisiana Tech   2008

Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State                                   1           103      @Kansas         2006

Aubrey Quarles, Kansas State                                 1           102        @Texas A&M   2008

Danario Alexander, Missouri                   &nb
sp;                1           117       vs. Kansas     2007

Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma                                 1           158      @Okla. State   2008

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma                                          1           141      Cincinnati        2008

Brandon Collins, Texas                                             1           103      Texas A&M     2008

Malcolm Williams, Texas                                           1           182  @Texas Tech   2008

Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M                                           1          110  @Iowa State     2008

Detron Lewis, Texas Tech                                           1          163  East. Wash.     2008  

Tramain Swindall, Texas Tech                                     1           101  @Texas A&M    2008

Source: research

Crabtree's catch ranks as Big 12's No. 2 memorable moment

July, 9, 2009

Posted by'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. 

The countdown:

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.

Wild game, even wilder rants boost OSU-Tech game to No. 14

June, 23, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

No. 14

The day that press conferences were bigger than anything on the field.

Date: Sept. 22, 2007
Place: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
Score: Oklahoma State 49, Texas Tech 45

Oklahoma State's wild victory over Texas Tech started the 2007 conference race with one of the most memorable games in Big 12 history.

The two teams combined for 94 points, 62 first downs, and 1,328 yards. There were also three lead changes in the final 12:25.

And that action was upstaged by the comments of both teams' coaches in the post-game press conference.

OSU coach Mike Gundy quickly became a celebrated national figure after he defended his backup quarterback Bobby Reid, who he felt had been unfairly portrayed before the game in a column in the Daily Oklahoman.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach had a similar eruption where he questioned the toughness of his defense after it had been gashed for 366 rushing yards.

It was a wild scene unlike anything that has been seen -- before or since -- in Big 12 history.

Earlier, the action on the field was nearly as memorable.

Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree had helped stake the Red Raiders to a 35-28 halftime advantage with three early touchdown grabs. But OSU stormed back to tie the game on Zac Robinson's 3-yard keeper with 1:15 left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, OSU's defense came up with a huge play when Tech wide receiver Edward Britton fumbled at the Tech 38. On the next play, OSU took the lead when Seth Newton hit Jeremy Broadway on a 33-yard option pass for a touchdown to give the Cowboys the lead.

Tech stormed back to tie the game four plays later when quarterback Graham Harrell threw his fifth touchdown of the game -- a 41-yard strike to Danny Amendola.

The Red Raiders withstood OSU on the next drive as Robinson was stopped on fourth down at the Tech 40 by Joe Garcia. Tech then marched 58 yards on a scoring drive capped by Alex Trlica's 19-yard field goal that gave the Red Raiders a 45-42 lead with 4:49 left.

After an exchange of punts, OSU had one final chance. And on the first play from scrimmage, Robinson hooked up with tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a 54-yard TD reception that gave them the lead for good with 1:37 remaining.

Tech marched to the OSU 15, but Crabtree dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone with 19 seconds left after OSU cornerback Ricky Price had flashed in front of him.

It provided Gundy with a victory in his first conference game of the season, emboldening him to make perhaps the most celebrated rant in college football history.

Factoids to note: Harrell's 646 passing yards was the fourth-best single-game total in college football history at the time of the game as he completed 46 of 67 passes. OSU had three backs who rushed for 100 yards for the first time in the same game in school history -- Dantrell Savage with 130 yards, Robinson with 116 yards and Kendall Hunter with 113 yards. Crabtree and Amendola both had huge games as Crabtree produced 14 receptions for 237 yards and Amendola snagged 14 catches for 233 yards ... It was only OSU's second victory in a Big 12 opener in nine seasons.

They said it, part I: "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40!" OSU coach Mike Gundy's comments after he felt backup quarterback Bobby Reid was unfairly attacked in a newspaper column before the game.

They said it, part II: "We got hit in the mouth and acted like somebody took our lunch money. All we wanted to do was have pouty expressions on our face until somebody dabbed our little tears off and made us (expletive) feel better," Tech coach Mike Leach on his defense's inability to contain OSU's offense.

They said it, part III: "If I put it on the other shoulder, he's going to catch that easily and we win. If I put it a foot on the other side of him, we catch the ball and win. It's probably my fault. He played a heck of a game," Tech QB Graham Harrell on Michael Crabtree's late drop that cost the Red Raiders a game-winning touchdown.

They said it, part IV: "That was my Superman," OSU tight end Brandon Pettigrew describing his leap for the end zone on his game-winning touchdown.

The upshot: Gundy became a cult figure after his 3-minute 20-second outburst, which has been replayed on YouTube millions of times after the incident. Robinson claimed the starting position after the comeback victory and Reid never started at quarterback again. He eventually started at wide receiver later in the season, but transferred to Southern University after the season for his final year. In an interview with ESPN the Magazine's Tom Friend, Reid said that Gundy's rant "basically ended my life."

Leach fired defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich the following day and inserted Ruffin McNeill into the position. The move worked as the Red Raiders' defense improved markedly and helped spark them to a 9-4 season punctuated by a 31-28 victory over Virginia in the Gator Bowl. That triumph helped boost Tech to a No. 22 ranking in the final Associated Press poll that season.

OSU used momentum from the comeback victory to charge to a 7-6 record during the rest of the season, capping the season with a 49-33 triumph over Indiana in the Insight Bowl in the Cowboys' second-straight bowl victory under Gundy.

The countdown:

15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. Kansas State 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.

These Big 12 position groups are stacked with talent

May, 28, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Some Big 12 position groups are clearly above others as far as raw talent and athleticism. Here's a look at some of the most dominant in the conference.

Oklahoma's front seven: The Sooners go two-deep in talent in the defensive line and linebackers. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy anchors the defensive front and is an Outland Trophy candidate. Adrian Taylor and Cordero Moore also are capable players. The Sooners have the best collection of defensive ends in college football with Frank Alexander, Jeremy Beal, R.J. Washington and Auston English. Travis Lewis could develop into one of the finest linebackers in Oklahoma history and Mike Balogun, Brandon Crow and Keenan Clayton all are expected to contribute. If heady team leader Ryan Reynolds comes back from his knee injury, this group could rival any in the country -- if it doesn't already.

Texas' secondary: After producing only six interceptions last season, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp ratcheted up competition among defensive backs. The results were seen in the spring, when the group was the best defensive backfield group I saw in the conference. Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown have emerged as starters at the corners with Curtis Brown and Deon Beasley providing backup. Safeties Blake Gideon and Christian Scott both are emerging, but the key player might be sophomore safety Earl Thomas, who played the nickel position with tenacity and abandon. It's not a stretch to say that two Thorpe Award winners could emerge out of this group in the next several years.

Colorado's running backs: The Buffaloes seemingly have a back for every situation with the deepest backfield in the conference. Darrell Scott appears intent on making a comeback after a disappointing freshman season. Rodney Stewart looks recovered from a broken leg sustained last season that kept him from rushing for 1,000 yards. Sophomore Brian Lockridge appears to be the fastest back and 215-pound Demetrius Sumler is the biggest back with the best inside running ability among the group. This group will serve as the backbone for the Buffaloes' hopes of returning to a bowl game and perhaps their dark horse challenge for the Big 12 North title.

Kansas' wide receivers: Dezmon Briscoe missed all of spring practice for an undisclosed violation of team rules, but is back to serve as one of the nation's most explosive deep talents. Coach Mark Mangino hopes to be able to permanently switch Kerry Meier to receiver for his senior season after a breakout season in 2008. Meier and Briscoe were two of the nation's top-15 receivers last season when they combined for 189 catches, 2,452 yards and 23 touchdown grabs. And Wilson emerged as quarterback Todd Reesing's go-to receiver in the spring when Briscoe was gone, notching six catches in the spring game. Add Rod Harris, Tertavian Ingram and Raimond Pendleton and it might be among the most potent pass-catching groups in the nation.

Nebraska's running backs: With unproven Zac Lee starting at quarterback, look for Shawn Watson to lean heavily on a pair of talented returning backs. Quentin Castille trimmed about 20 pounds to get into better shape and leading returning rusher Roy Helu Jr. boosted his weight by 24 pounds to become a more powerful rusher between the tackles. Together, it wouldn't be a stretch that the two backs could combine for 2,000 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns if both can stay healthy.

Iowa State's running backs: With new offensive coordinator Tom Herman taking over with a spread offensive attack, a talented array of running backs still will have frequent opportunities to contribute. Leading returning rusher Alexander Robinson could be poised to become one of the most underrated rusher/receiver combination backs in the conference. But Robinson will have to fight for playing time with a stacked group that also includes bruising redshirt freshman Jeremiah Schwartz and heralded University of Florida transfer Bo Williams. Herman will be able to utilize all three backs in a variety of roles.

Missouri's defensive ends: The Tigers appeared loaded before spring practice with Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith back, but redshirt freshman Aldon Smith has developed into an immediate contributor. Converted offensive tackle Brad Madison and redshirt Marcus Marlbrough also had strong springs, leading Gary Pinkel to say it was his best group of defensive ends he's ever had at Missouri.

Texas Tech's wide receivers: Even after losing two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and Eric Morris, the Red Raiders developed several potential playmakers during the spring. Edward Britton appeared to have crawled out of Mike Leach's doghouse with strong late production. New quarterback Taylor Potts should have many productive targets including Detron Lewis, Tramain Swindall, Lyle Leong, walk-on flanker Adam Torres, 6-foot-7 Adrian Reese and redshirt freshmen Austin Zouzalik and Eric Ward. The Red Raiders won't have two players grab the majority of balls like Crabtree and Morris did in recent seasons. Instead, they will feature a more balanced attack featuring eight to 10 receivers capable of thriving in a tag-team approach.

These Big 12 positions got most help during spring

May, 22, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Sometimes the spring provides a chance for personnel holes to be filled. Sometimes it doesn't.

Here are some of the notable positions around the Big 12 that picked up some assistance during the spring.

Baylor: The quick development of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, a heralded transfer from Penn State, should turn a traditional position of weakness for the Bears into a strength. Joining him at the position will be Jason Lamb, who showed some promise after moving over from defensive end before spring practice.

Colorado: The emergence of hulking 260-pound middle linebacker Marcus Burton and B.J. Beatty at outside linebacker have helped transform the Buffaloes' defense. Burton led the team in tackles and was a prime playmaker in the spring game with eight tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He had eight tackles in 10 games last season.

Iowa State: Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerome Tiller outplayed starter Austen Arnaud in the spring game, passing for 210 yards and getting free for a 65-yard touchdown run. I'm not sure that Tiller will be starting come September, but he'll make Arnaud work harder to earn his job.

Kansas: The Jayhawks had questions in the defensive line before the spring, even with the return of all-Big 12 honorable mention selections Caleb Blakesley and Jake Laptad and late season starting defensive tackles Richard Johnson and Jamal Greene. The development of tackle Darius Parish and end Max Onyegbule should add to the depth. And that doesn't even account for the arrival of heralded junior college transfer Quintin Woods, who originally signed with Michigan out of high school before heading to Bakersfield (Cal.) Community College to get his grades in order.

Kansas State: The emergence of linebackers like Alex Hrebec, Ulla Pomele and John Houlik has helped turn the position into the strength of the defense, even as the Wildcats are transforming to a 4-2-5 alignment. Hrebec, a former walk-on, contributed 19 tackles in the spring game and Houlik is a huge hitter despite his 5-foot-11, 219-pound size.

Missouri: Redshirt freshman Aldon Smith has only added to the Tigers' depth at defensive end, which already featured Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith in front of him. Smith was voted as the team's most improved player in the spring. Throw in converted offensive tackle Brad Madison and redshirt freshman Marcus Marlbrough and you'll see why Gary Pinkel considers it his best collection of defensive ends at Missouri.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers had serious questions at quarterback, particularly after the departure of projected starting challenger Patrick Witt before spring practice and Kody Spano's knee injury. But the strong spring by Zac Lee and the surprising development of converted linebacker LaTravis Washington eased some of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's concerns. Their strong spring work also should mean that heralded freshman Cody Green likely won't be thrown into action perhaps as quickly as Watson might have feared before the spring.

Oklahoma: After losing starters Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes, safety was the only position without returning starters for the Sooners on defense. Quinton Carter nailed down one starting position and Sam Proctor and Joseph Ibiloye are poised to fight for the other job beside him. Emmanuel Jones and Desmond Jackson also had strong spring efforts to challenge for playing time.

Oklahoma State: Defensive tackle was enough of a question that new coordinator Bill Young moved Derek Burton inside from defensive end to help bolster depth at the position. Burton and Swanson Miller appear to have won starting jobs with redshirt freshman Nigel Nicholas and junior Chris Donaldson providing strong depth. Their strong play helped the Cowboys rack up seven sacks in the spring game - more than half of their 2008 season total of 13.

Texas: The Longhorns were concerned about defensive end after the departure of NFL draft picks Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton from last season. Those fears appear to be assuaged after the seamless transition of Sergio Kindle to the position from linebacker and the quick assimilation by freshman Alex Okafor. Toss in Sam Acho and Russell Carter and the return injured pass-rushing threat Eddie Jones and the Longhorns appear stacked at the position.

Texas A&M: Safety was a question mark before spring camp after the loss of Devin Gregg and Alton Dixon and the move of 2008 starting free safety Jordan Peterson to cornerback. But the strong return to safety by converted cornerback Jordan Pugh and the noticeable development by Trent Hunter helped solidify the position during the spring. And the Aggies' depth at the position was improved after the move of wide receiver Chris Caflisch to the position along with strong play from DeMaurier Thompson.

Texas Tech: The departure of two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and underrated Eric Morris was supposed to cripple the Red Raiders' receiving corps. Mike Leach appears to have found several serviceable replacements after Tramain Swindall, Lyle Leong, Detron Lewis and walk-on flanker Adam Torres all emerged during the spring. And that doesn't include Edward Britton, who was in Leach's doghouse much of the spring after falling behind in the classroom but still is perhaps their most athletic force on the field.

Five early questions for Big 12 teams

May, 18, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at the Big 12's most pressing early concerns as teams break for the summer for a couple of weeks before returning in June to begin conditioning drills to prepare for the upcoming season:

1. Can Texas find a running game? The Longhorns are still looking for a featured back after no player really emerged during the spring. Cody Johnson had the best early production before he was slowed late in training camp with a hamstring injury. Neither Vondrell McGee or Fozzy Whittaker jumped forward during the spring. Heralded freshman Chris Whaley will get his chance once fall practice begins, but likely won't be counted on early. But filling the hole is important. The Longhorns desperately need somebody as they likely can't challenge for a national championship if Colt McCoy again is their leading rusher.

2. Is Oklahoma's offensive line capable of playing at a level to win conference championships and beyond? After being called out before spring practice for its lack of diligence in conditioning, Oklahoma's offensive line had an uneven spring practice. Four new starters need to emerge along with Trent Williams, who returns and moves to left tackle to protect Sam Bradford's blind side. The unit's growth will determine much of the Sooners' offensive success -- even with the return of talented skill-position players like Bradford, Chris Brown, DeMarco Murray, Jermaine Gresham and Ryan Broyles already in place.

3. Is Oklahoma State's defense really good enough to compete for the Big 12 title? Veteran defensive coordinator Bill Young was counted on to boost production in a unit that didn't seem ready late last year after being blistered for averages of 58.5 points and 593 yards per game in late-season losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma. The Cowboys have another season of experience and some strong individual players like Perrish Cox and Andre Sexton. But unless they find a pass rush, their hopes of challenging for their first Big 12 South title will be dubious.

4. Can Kansas find linebackers who will enable them to contain Big 12 defenses? The Jayhawks lost three capable playmaking linebackers in James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen from last season. Coach Mark Mangino has hinted that he's considering a 4-2-5 alignment to better combat the Big 12's spread offenses. But he still has to hope that Jake Schermer and Arist Wright prove to be capable replacements -- or it could be a long season for the Jayhawks against their tough schedule of Big 12 South power teams like Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech.

5. How much will Texas Tech miss Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree? Most are thinking that the loss of Harrell and Crabtree will be too much for the Red Raiders to overcome. But Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has quietly -- at least for him -- maintained that he likes his current group of replacements. Taylor Potts will have more experience coming into the program than any of the one-year players who preceded Harrell. All that group (Sonny Cumbie, B.J. Symons and Cody Hodges) did was average nearly 4,943 yards and 38.3 touchdown passes per season in their only season starting, so maybe Leach's comments should be considered. And at wide receiver, the Red Raiders won't have the overall star power of Crabtree, but will still have capable replacements in players like Detron Lewis, Lyle Leong, Edward Britton, Alex Torres, Adrian Reese and Tramain Swindall who should be ready.

Best of the Big 12's spring practices

May, 14, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I can't give out ESPYs for monumental spring performances. But I still have a few awards for outstanding achievement during spring practices around the Big 12.

Here are some of my more notable choices:

Best spring game performance by a quarterback: Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin picked up where he left off last season by passing for 310 yards and three TDs and rushing for 41 yards and another score in the Bears' spring scrimmage.

Best spring game performance by a non-quarterback: Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller produced nine catches for 154 yards and a touchdown and was the highest points producer in coach Mike Sherman's convoluted spring scrimmage that finished with a 117-107 final score. No, it wasn't an old ABA basketball game.

Best collective performance, offense: After finally getting healthy, Colorado's offensive line dominated throughout the spring. The Buffaloes culminated their development by producing 274 rushing yards and netting nearly 5.5 yards per carry, even when five sacks were factored into the statistics.

Best spring-game defensive performance: Kansas State's Brandon Harold was a pass-rushing beast, contributing three sacks along with a tackle for loss and nine tackles in the Wildcats' Purple-White game.

Best collective performance, defense: Texas' secondary showed two-deep talent throughout the camp, but saved their last for the Longhorns' spring game. They terrorized Heisman Trophy runner-up Colt McCoy, who completed only 11 of 24 passes for 95 yards. Most importantly, they produced two interceptions after notching only six during the entire 2008 season.

"Mr. April:" What is it about spring games and Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks? Franks produced two interceptions, including a 42-yard return for a touchdown, in the Sooners' Red-White game. Last year, Franks had three interceptions in the Sooners' spring game.

Best unlikely spring performance: Former Kansas State walk-on linebacker Alex Hrebec thrived in new coordinator Vic Koenning's new defense by notching 19 tackles in the Wildcats' spring game.

Best position change: Missouri redshirt freshman Brad Madison's move from offensive tackle to defensive end didn't catch many eyes early in spring practice. But Madison came on with a productive finish, capped by two sacks in a late scrimmage and development that pushed him into the mix for playing time in the fall.

Best performance by a freshman: Texas is looking for a boost in its pass rush after the departure of starters Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton from last season. Early enrollee Alex Okafor was stunning in his early work. Texas coach Mack Brown has always been hesitant to play freshmen, but Okafor's quick development in Will Muschamp's defense might cause him to change his opinion.

Best spring game atmosphere: What is it they say about there being no place like Nebraska? That certainly was the case for Bo Pelini's second spring game. Even with some paying a $10 admission, a Big 12-high 77,670 turned out for the Cornhuskers' spring game. The total ranked third nationally, trailing only Ohio State and Alabama.

Best story of the spring: After struggling as he recovered from a career-threatening hip injury, Oklahoma State defensive end Richetti Jones finally started living up to the form that once earned him the nickname of the "Sack Master." Jones' development into a consistent threat will be important as new OSU coordinator Bill Young tries to cook up enough consistent defensive pressure to push the Cowboys into contention for their first South Division title.

Biggest spring non-story: The Robert Marve victory tour. The former Miami quarterback kept showing up around the Big 12 trying to find his next playing situation. He appeared for a few minutes at the Nebraska spring game and also met with Texas Tech coach Mike Leach about transferring there. Earlier, he unsuccessfully tried to convince Oklahoma and Oklahoma State coaches to join their programs.

Quotes of the spring:

"Young is not in our vocabulary. There will be no excuses. We've got to go out there and we've got to play as good as any linebacker corps in the country." Nebraska linebacker coach Mike Ekeler, telling the Lincoln Journal-Star he's not satisfied with his unit's improvement during the spring.

"Have you ever seen anything as boring as that?" Kansas State coach Bill Snyder after not exactly being enthused with his team's performance at its spring game.

"This isn't a team that walks around like the Steel Curtain. They know they gave up a lot of points, they know they gave up a lot of yards and know they didn't tackle well. That's where you have to start." Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads on his team's need for defensive growth.

"It doesn't matter to me at all. I know there isn't one on ours. And I know where the trophy is." Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, commenting to the Norman Transcript about Texas' claiming of the 2008* Big 12 title. The Longhorns briefly included last season -- with an asterisk -- among a group of team championships at the Longhorns' football training facility.

"Ed didn't like showing up and studying at places I felt like he needed to and like the academic people asked him to, so he can go study out there on the 50-yard line." Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who explained to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal why wide receiver Edward Britton was forced to study in the middle of the field at Jones AT&T Stadium after an early spring practice -- during the middle of a brief snowstorm.

"I challenged them. We have to do things that exceed what other people do because we need to get further faster." Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, on his team's need for immediate improvement heading into the season.

Texas Tech spring wrap

May, 14, 2009
Posted by's Tim Griffin

Texas Tech Red Raiders
2008 overall record: 11-2

2008 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 7, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

RB Baron Batch, WR Detron Lewis, T Brandon Carter, LB Brian Duncan, DT Colby Whitlock

Key losses

QB Graham Harrell, RB Shannon Woods, WR Michael Crabtree, T Rylan Reed, G Louis Vasquez, DE Brandon Williams, S Daniel Charbonnet, S Darcel McBath

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Baron Batch* (758 yards)
Passing: Graham Harrell (5,111 yards)
Receiving: Michael Crabtree (1,165 yards)
Tackles: Brian Duncan* (94)
Sacks: Brandon Williams (15 1/2)
Interceptions: Darcel McBath (7)

ing answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 North Dakota
Sept. 12 Rice
Sept. 19 at Texas
Sept. 26 at Houston
Oct. 3 New Mexico
Oct. 10 Kansas State
Oct. 17 at Nebraska
Oct. 24 Texas A&M
Oct. 31 Kansas
Nov. 14 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 21 Oklahoma
Nov. 28 Baylor (at Arlington)

1. Taylor Potts: Tech's replacement at quarterback is assuming the starting position with more experience as a first-season starter than most of Tech's recent quarterbacks. He played in 15 games and passed for 669 yards and five touchdowns earlier in his career. Potts is bigger and stronger than most and also has shown a live arm and a quick knack for reading defenses. He had a strong outing in the spring game, completing 20 of 27 passes for 211 yards, and he showed steady development throughout the spring. And for his part, Tech coach Mike Leach has been very consistent in praising Potts throughout the spring.

2. Help in the trenches: After taking over the starting job for the final eight games last season, defensive tackle Richard Jones had a strong spring both in production and leadership. He's bigger than in the past -- about 15 pounds -- and much stronger. He'll combine with Colby Whitlock to provide some interior depth.

3. Alex Torres: It's hard to duplicate Michael Crabtree's big-play ability at flanker. But Torres, a transfer from the Air Force Prep School, was a revelation as he showed a knack for making tough catches in traffic as well as good speed. He adds depth to an underrated position where the Red Raiders already return Detron Lewis, Edward Britton and Lyle Leong, who combined for 129 catches and 12 touchdown grabs last season.

Fall questions

1. Finding a pass rush: End McKinner Dixon was suspended early in spring practice for academic reasons. Leach says it's unlikely he will return. Coupled with the loss of leading sacker Brandon Williams to the NFL, the Red Raiders are looking to replace players who accounted for 22 of their 34 team sacks last season. Seniors Sandy Riley, Brandon Sesay, Brandon Sharpe and Daniel Howard got most of the work outside after Dixon left. The heat is on them to provide defensive pressure to protect Tech's green safeties.

2. Inexperienced safeties: Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet were the best pair of safeties in the conference last season, combining for 12 interceptions and three touchdown returns as they provided consistent play throughout the season. Not only are they gone, but so are their backups from last season. Defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill will be trying to find replacements among a group that includes only junior Franklin Mitchem and redshirt freshman Cody Davis as scholarship players.

3. Kicking woes: The midseason switch to walk-on wonder Matt Williams was done after scholarship kicker Donnie Carona struggled earlier in the season. Tech coaches hoped that Carona would rediscover his confidence over the offseason, but he shanked two of three PAT attempts in the spring game. The job likely will be open again in August.

Potts sizzles in Tech's Red-White scrimmage

April, 20, 2009

Posted by'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."

Among receivers, Austin Zouzalik produced five grabs for 67 yards and Edward Britton had five catches for 43 yards.

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.

Several players played both ways, including running backs Baron Batch and Jeffers, receiver Adam James and defensive end Sandy Riley.

"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.

Big 12 lunch links: Bring back the power game at Colorado

April, 15, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Happy Tax Day to everybody. Hopefully, there won't be many midnight filers among my readers and there will be a healthy return coming to most of you.

Me, I wasn't quite so lucky, but took care of my payment to Uncle Sam a few days ago. And I've been dealing with a cranky Windows system all morning that has made work a bear -- and then some.

But nothing can stop lunchtime links. (Hat tip to my wife's computer -- you can never tell when you need a good backup).

  • Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk urges Dan Hawkins to bring back Colorado's traditional power running game.  
  • Kansas State running back Keithen Valentine is excited about getting a second chance in the program with new coach Bill Snyder, Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle beat writer Jeffrey Martin writes.
  • Iowa State players are learning that peak conditioning is the most important factor in picking up Tom Herman's spread offense, Ames Daily Tribune beat writer Bobby La Gesse writes.
  • Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle notes that Texas A&M linebackers are becoming more proficient with their blitz packages.
  • Six-foot-7 Adrian Reese has moved from tight end to split end for Texas Tech, where he conceivably should be able to take advantage of height mismatches with smaller cornerbacks. Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal writes that Reese will challenge Edward Britton and Rashad Hawk for playing time at the new position.
  • Former Oklahoma assistant Charley North has stacked his new staff at Dibble High School with former Sooners players, Ryan Aber of the Oklahoman reports. Among the members of North's staff include Stephen Alexander, J.R. Conrad and Jacob Gutierrez.
  • Veteran Lawrence Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan details the recent development of Kansas wide receiver Johnathan Wilson.
  • Who gets to wear the gold jerseys at Missouri's spring game on Saturday? Matt Schiffman of the Columbia Missourian writes about the spirited battle between the Tigers' offensive and defensive units to determine who will wear those prized uniforms.
  • Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins, already the conference's highest paid athletic director, could be in line for another cash bonanza, Andy Hyland of the Lawrence Journal-World reports. Perkins could pocket a retention bonus of $750,000 if he remains at Kansas through June 30.



Thursday, 11/27
Saturday, 11/29