Big 12: Ell Roberson

Wildcats narrowing quarterback race

April, 6, 2010
Bill Snyder has a quarterback decision to make before his second season, and though it might not be made until fall, he's working toward it early this spring. Grant Gregory's graduation left him with Carson Coffman, Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur to step under center in 2010.

"I am not prepared to make any distinction at this particular point. When I say distinction, I mean a first-team, second-team, third-team," Snyder told reporters on Monday afternoon.

Coffman has the most experience of the three, earning the starting job in camp last season before later ceding the job to Gregory. He didn't appear in any of the Wildcats' final five games, but with that experience, he's the likely front runner.

Oregon transfer Chris Harper won't be taking reps at quarterback, instead working solely at receiver while Lamur plays the role of more mobile quarterback more in the mold of Ell Roberson and Michael Bishop, who Snyder saw plenty of success with.

"Sammuel probably has the longest route to travel because of inexperience, and not being involved with the offense for the same period of time that the others had," Snyder said.

Lamur worked mostly as a scout-team quarterback last season.

Klein, a 6-foot-5, 231-pound sophomore is back at quarterback after catching six passes for 38 yards as a freshman last season, when he worked as a receiver.

"We would like for someone to surface above someone else," Snyder said. "At this point in time that has not taken place, and I did not anticipate that it would this early. The sooner it happens the better, obviously."

Coffman, of course, is the conservative choice, and with Daniel Thomas likely to be the central figure in the Wildcats offense, the winner won't make or break the Wildcats season. But if Lamur can show some consistency and doesn't turn the ball over in camp, he could win the job, despite being a less-polished passer. Lamur's running ability could take some pressure off Thomas and open holes for him to run if Snyder turns to an option game. Thomas took snaps out of the Wildcat last season, so don't confuse Snyder as a coach who refuses to innovate.

KSU's all-decade team

January, 20, 2010
Kansas State was a dominant North division power early in the decade, earning title-game berths in 2000 and 2003. The Wildcats had three teams that finished among the top 15 teams nationally in the first four seasons of the decade.

That success vanished later in the decade, but Bill Snyder returned to help turn around the program in 2009.

Here are my choices for the top Kansas State players of the last decade.


QB: Ell Roberson

RB: Darren Sproles

RB: Daniel Thomas

WR: Quincy Morgan

WR: Jordy Nelson

TE: Jeron Mastrud

OL: Ryan Lilja

OL: Nick Stringer

OL: Jeromey Clary

OL: Andy Eby

C: Randall Cummings


DL: Tank Reese

DL: Ian Campbell

DL: Monty Beisel

DL: Mario Fatafehi

LB: Ben Leber

LB: Terry Pierce

LB: Josh Buhl

DB: Jerametrius Butler

DB: Terence Newman

DB: Jon McGraw

DB: Dyshod Carter

P Tim Reyer

K Jamie Rheem

KR Brandon Banks

Offensive player of the decade: RB Darren Sproles. The key player on the Wildcats’ 2003 Big 12 title team rushed for a school-record 4,979 yards during his career, scoring 45 rushing touchdowns and notching three 1,000-yard seasons. He finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003 after rushing for a school-record 1,986 yards to spark the Wildcats' championship season.

Defensive player of the decade: CB Terence Newman. Finished as the most decorated defensive player in Kansas State history, earning All-America honors and the Big 12’s defensive player of the year in 2002. In that season, Newman won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and was a finalist for the Nagurski Award.

Coach of the decade: Bill Snyder. Even a three-season sabbatical couldn’t diminish Snyder’s accomplishments for Kansas State. His 2003 team earned the school’s only Big 12 football championship, punctuating a run of four-straight bowl appearances to start the decade. After returning, he nearly took the team to another bowl game in his first season back in 2009, pushing the Wildcats into the Big 12 North title hunt until its final game of the season.

Moment of the decade: Kansas State notched a 35-7 victory over Oklahoma to earn the 2003 Big 12 title. The Wildcats overcame an early-season three-game losing streak to finish with a seven-game winning streak capped by the title-game upset over the No. 1 Sooners. Darren Sproles rushed for 235 yards and Ell Roberson threw four touchdowns in the wild upset -- the last time a North team has won the Big 12 championship game.

'05 Texas team was best Big 12 team of the decade

January, 20, 2010
The Big 12 had two national championship teams and five others that played in the BCS title game in the decade.

The two championship teams were the best of the conference's last 10 years. Some of the other BCS title participants were good, but not necessarily among the very best teams during the conference's recent history.

Here's how I rank the Big 12's top 10 teams over the last decade.

1. 2005 Texas: A star-studded team paced by All-Americans Michael Huff, Jonathan Scott, Rodrique Wright and Vince Young ran off 13 straight victories, capping the season with a BCS title-game victory over USC. The team averaged 50.2 points per game en route to a then-NCAA record 652 total points, earning Texas’ first undisputed national championship since 1969. It was the greatest team that Mack Brown ever coached and arguably the best team in the rich football history of Texas.

2. 2000 Oklahoma: Bob Stoops claimed a national championship in his second season coaching the Trojans behind Josh Heupel, who finished second in the Heisman race that season. All-Americans Heupel, linebacker Rocky Calmus and J.T. Thatcher helped the Sooners notch the first undefeated season and national championship in Big 12 history. After winning three of their final four regular-season games by less than five points, the Sooners dominated Florida State in a 13-2 triumph in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.

3. 2008 Oklahoma: Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy with this team, which overcame a midseason loss to Texas and still claimed the Big 12 title in a 12-2 season that was marred by a 24-14 loss to Florida in the national championship game. The Sooners rolled-up a record 702 points as Bradford passed for 50 touchdowns, Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray each rushed for 1,000 yards and Juaquin Iglesias topped 1,000 yards receiving. The Sooners scored 35 points in each regular-season game and finished the regular season with five straight games of at least 60 points before the BCS title-game loss.

4. 2004 Oklahoma: The Sooners charged to 12 straight victories before a dropping a 55-19 decision to USC in the Orange Bowl for the national title. Freshman running back Adrian Peterson rushed for an NCAA freshman record 1,925 yards to finish second in the Heisman. Jason White claimed the Heisman the previous season and his numbers were down with Peterson's arrival, but he still passed for 3,205 yards and 35 touchdowns. This group had strength in the trenches with All-Americans like Vince Carter, Dan Cody, Jammal Brown and Mark Clayton as it claimed Bob Stoops’ third Big 12 title.

5. 2009 Texas: After streaking to a school-record 13-0 mark through the Big 12 title game, the Longhorns dropped a 37-21 decision to Alabama in the national title game in a contest that changed when Colt McCoy was hurt on the fifth play of the game. McCoy became the winningest quarterback in NCAA history during this season, repeatedly hooking up with favorite target Jordan Shipley, who snagged a school-record 116 receptions, 1,485 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Longhorns led the nation in rush defense, and All-American safety Earl Thomas tied a school record with eight interceptions. Lamarr Houston and Sergio Kindle also added playmaking abilities to the defense.

6. 2004 Texas: The Longhorns overcame a midseason 12-0 loss to Oklahoma to finish the season with seven straight victories in a season capped by a dramatic 38-37 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The Longhorns ranked second nationally in rushing offense and seventh in total offense as Young gradually found his confidence as a passer late in the season. Cedric Benson rushed for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Young chipped in with 1,079 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. This team showed a knack for comebacks, overcoming an early 35-7 deficit against Oklahoma State and also coming from behind in an early-season victory at Arkansas.

7. 2007 Oklahoma: Bradford led the first of two consecutive Big 12 championships on a team that enabled the Sooners to become the first Big 12 school to win back-to-back titles. The Sooners dropped road games to Colorado and Texas Tech but still overcame Missouri in the Big 12 title game behind a huge defensive effort keyed by Big 12 defensive player of the year Rufus Alexander. Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency, but the Sooners' bowl struggles continued in an embarrassing 48-28 loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.

8. 2003 Kansas State: Don’t let the Wildcats’ 11-4 record fool you. After an early three-game losing streak to Marshall, Texas and Oklahoma State (by a combined margin of 15 points), Bill Snyder’s team won its final seven regular-season games by a combined margin of 271-66. That streak was culminated by a stunning 35-7 upset victory over Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game -- the last victory by a North Division team in the title game. The Wildcats ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing, scoring, total defense, scoring defense and pass defense as Darren Sproles rushed for 1,986 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Wildcats dropped a 35-28 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State in a game they fell into an early 21-0 deficit and had a chance to tie on the final play of the game after a frantic comeback directed by Ell Roberson.

9. 2007 Missouri: Chase Daniel led Missouri into the Big 12 title game for the first time in school history, taking the team to No. 1 nationally heading into the conference championship game. The Tigers lost twice to Oklahoma during a 12-2 season that was capped by 38-7 beatdown over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Tony Temple made that game memorable by rushing for a record 281 yards and four TDs that pushed Missouri to No. 4 nationally at the end of the season. A star-studded collection of talent including Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, Martin Rucker and Sean Weatherspoon helped the Tigers rank among the top-10 teams nationally in passing, total offense and scoring and 11th in turnover margin.

10. 2007 Kansas: The Jayhawks earned Mark Mangino the national coach of the year award by running to an 11-0 start before losing to Missouri in the regular-season finale. The Jayhawks rebounded for a 24-21 victory over Virginia Tech in their first BCS bowl appearance in school history, finishing a 12-1 season that set a school record for victories. Todd Reesing passed for 33 touchdowns to highlight a high-powered offense that scored 76 points against Nebraska and scored at least 43 points in eight games. The Jayhawks were a balanced team that ranked second nationally in scoring offense, fourth in scoring defense and in the top 10 nationally in eight different team statistics. Anthony Collins and Aqib Talib earned consensus All-America honors.

Big 12 moments of the decade

January, 19, 2010
An array of memorable moments from the past decade in the Big 12 still resonate. Here are some of the most unforgettable to me.

  • 1. Vince Young's game-winning touchdown in the 2006 Rose Bowl: Anyone who was there or saw it will never forget Young's 8-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left that led Texas to a 41-38 triumph over USC and the 2005 national championship.
  • 2. Michael Crabtree's last-second grab stuns Texas: Crabtree's game-winning 28-yard catch with one second left did more than merely wrap up the biggest victory in Texas Tech history, a 39-33 win over Texas. It heralded a national coming-out party for Crabtree and the rest of the Tech program, setting the stage for the wild three-way South Division tie in 2008.
  • 3. Superman's leap: Roy Williams' dramatic blitz forced Chris Simms to throw an interception to Teddy Lehman, who returned it for the game-winning touchdown in Oklahoma's 14-3 triumph over Texas in 2001.
  • 4. Torrance Marshall's theft saves the season: Texas A&M was driving, but Marshall's 41-yard fourth-quarter interception return provided a game-winning touchdown and a 35-31 triumph over the Aggies at Kyle Field. The big play preserved Oklahoma's victory in the Sooners' toughest challenge en route to the 2000 national championship.
  • 5. Eric Crouch's catch cements Heisman bid, beats Oklahoma: Crouch's 63-yard TD reception on a throwback pass from freshman receiver Mike Stuntz was Crouch's signature moment on his path to the 2001 Heisman Trophy and sparked a 20-10 triumph over Oklahoma.
  • 6. Darren Sproles sparks Kansas State's stunning 2003 Big 12 title game upset: Darren Sproles rushed for 235 yards -- the most gained against an Oklahoma defense ever to that point -- and Ell Roberson added four touchdown passes to help Kansas State claim its first Big 12 title in a 35-7 upset over No. 1 Oklahoma.
  • 7. Hunter Lawrence's kick pushes Texas into national title game: Despite a sputtering performance by Colt McCoy that included nine sacks and three interceptions, Texas held on for a 13-12 victory over Nebraska in the 2009 title game on a 46-yard field goal by Hunter Lawrence on the final play of the game. Lawrence's game-winning kick came only after McCoy nearly squandered the opportunity by throwing the ball out of bounds on the previous play as the clock originally appeared to have expired. Officials put time back on the clock, setting the stage for Lawrence's heroics.
  • 8. Chris Brown gashes the Cornhuskers: Colorado running back Chris Brown ripped Nebraska for 198 yards and six touchdowns, boosting the Buffaloes to a wild 62-36 victory over Nebraska that snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Cornhuskers. Brown's big game sent the Buffaloes to the 2001 Big 12 title game, which they won the following week against Texas.
  • 9. Postgame clash of the titans: Oklahoma State's 49-45 victory over Texas Tech in 2007 produced one of the most memorable games in Big 12 history. The teams compiled 94 points, 62 first downs and 1,328 yards. But all of the action on the field was upstaged in a wild postgame battle of soundbites when Mike Leach questioned the toughness of his defense and Mike Gundy berated an Oklahoma City columnist who he felt had unfairly portrayed quarterback Bobby Reid.
  • 10. Kyle Field's nod to patriotism: Texas A&M's 21-7 victory over Oklahoma State wasn't what was so memorable. It was that the Aggies fans decked out Kyle Field in red, white and blue in the first game after the 9/11 attacks on the country in 2001. Thousands of fans transformed the old stadium into a patriotic rainbow in a memory that endures to this day.

Big 12 mailbag: Where are the great Texas RBs?

August, 7, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

If it's a Friday afternoon, it's time to dive into my mailbag.

I received a bunch of good questions this week. Here are some of the best: 

Justin from Austin, Texas, writes: I read your recent post about Texas having the most commits thus far from the ESPNU 150. One thing that interests me is the lack of a top running back on that list. I was curious as to your opinion on why Texas is not THE school to go to if you are a top quality running back, especially considering the Longhorns' lack of a true standout player at this position.

It would seem to me that someone with a lot of talent at the position would jump at the opportunity to come to a high profile school and potentially get 3 to 4 years of playing time right off the bat. Is it because Texas isn't perceived as a good running back school anymore, or are we already too stacked with players (though no "great" ones yet) so that recruits feel they won't get the playing time?

Tim Griffin: Justin, you make an interesting point. I, too, noticed that Texas hasn't attracted a blue-chip running back yet. Of course, Lache Seastrunk from Temple, Texas, would fit into that category. But it seems that Texas has missed out on the perceived great running backs and hasn't had a difference maker there since Cedric Benson graduated.

Maybe it's because of the Greg Davis' recent spread offense making top running back recruits shy away from the school as it becomes more heavily pass-oriented. But I think a bigger reason might be because of the development of spread offense as the de facto choice for many Texas high schools anymore. It means that more top athletes across the state are playing either quarterback or wide receiver.

There aren't nearly as many top running back prospects in Texas as there might have been 15-20 years ago. The days of top running backs like Earl Campbell, Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson now seems a little dated.

But if the Longhorns were successful in attracting Seastrunk, it wouldn't surprise me that Davis could develop an offense with him as a running back with 20-25 carries per game - even with a spread offense being employed much of the time.

Garon McClure writes: Tim, I am a Sooner fan and read your blog and columns almost daily. I was wondering what you thought about the Sooners trying to use Mossis Madu in the way that Florida used Percy Harvin the last few years. Have you heard any rumors or anything like that? I think it would be an intriguing wrinkle to the offense since they say they are moving him to the slot and he is a good runner too.

Tim Griffin: I think the Sooner coaches are tinkering with a variety of ways to employ Madu. His receiving skills, as well as the logjam at tailback with Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, led to his move as a slot receiver this spring. It wouldn't surprise me if they still found a chance to let him run the ball, maybe in a limited role like Harvin did for the Gators last year.

I was very impressed with Madu last season for the Sooners. He came up big for them in the Big 12 championship game against Missouri when he rushed for a career-high 114 yards and three touchdowns after Murray was injured. And I look for him to be occasionally featured as a runner at times in 2009.

Dan Kaminski of Des Moines, Iowa, writes: When most teams are blowing out another team, coaches pull their starting quarterback and put in their backups. Texas did this and Florida did this last season with Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow respectively.

How come everyone talks about Sam Bradford's numbers last season but no one talks about the fact that when OU was blowing teams out by 50 points, Bob Stoops rarely (or at the last few minutes of the fourth quarter only) put in his back-up and thus inflated Bradford's stats?

Don't get me wrong, I think Bradford is one of the top quarterbacks, but his stats wouldn't have been anywhere as impressive as McCoy's had McCoy stayed in and played all games until the end.

Tim Griffin: I think that the usage of Bradford and McCoy assuredly speaks to the comfort and confidence that Mack Brown had in his backup quarterback compared to Bob Stoops with his. But I don't think the scoring was as significant for Bradford in blowout games as you might think.

Late in the season, Bradford played into the fourth quarter against Texas Tech and was needed in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State, considering the Sooners were nursing only a three-point lead midway through the quarter.

It was understandable for him to be in the fourth quarter of the Big 12 championship game, his last opportunity to shine for Heisman voters. Still, Bradford accounted for only seven of his 50 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, and three of those came in Oklahoma losses or games settled by two touchdowns or less.

Bradford's single-season numbers were the best in Oklahoma history by a quarterback, but I don't necessarily think that playing deep into games was that big a factor in them.

Cecil Wilson from Plano, Texas, writes: Tim, when are you hosting your next online chat? And what does Mack Brown and Co. have to do, besides go undefeated and win the Big XII Championship to get to the National Championship game in Pasadena? Thank you.

Tim Griffin: My next chat will be coming up probably not next week but the week after, likely on the same day as my Big 12 previews appear.

I'll give a couple of days notice when it will be approaching, because I always enjoy receiving all of your questions.

And I don't necessarily think Texas would have to go undefeated to win the national championship. I do think it would be crucial for them to finish quickly and win the Big 12 title game. And they should hope that the other contenders all have a loss or two to help winnow the field and make them stand apart from the rest.

I think if they do that, a Big 12 champion team with zero or one loss is going to have a good shot to make the national championship game. A one-loss team made it last year from the conference with Oklahoma.

Clayton Buehrle from Dallas writes: Tim, concerning the Top 40 teams in the BCS, could you please explain how ESPN expects to "play" the different teams against each other? What teams are playing (Current teams or past teams?)? The whole scenario is fun but seems a bit confusing. My friends and I could use some insight. Thanks.

Tim Griffin: My colleagues took a novel approach of breaking up the 40 teams into four 10-team conferences and then having a playoff. Mark Schlabach's story today spells out how the fantasy would play out.

My favorite part is a yearly relegation that would drop out the bottom feeders every year and replace them with teams from outside the top 40. I know that sounds a little like European soccer, but I think that would really be interesting to see teams jump up a level or drop depending on how they played the previous season.

And that's what makes the whole idea of relegation such a fun topic idea.

Brad Millican of Fort Worth, Texas, writes: How are fall practice schedules set? There seems to be a huge difference in when all the Big XII teams report for camp. Is this regulated by the NCAA?

Tim Griffin: Brad, different coaches have different strategies in how they want to break down the practices as they get ready for the season. Each school has 29 practices from the start of practice to the first game. The first three practices are without pads. But the schedule is
different based on the academic schedule of each school. Some coaches like to have a lot of two-a-days early to immediately challenge their teams. Other coaches like to backload things and test their teams a little closer to the start of the season.

Mark McCabe of Stafford, Va., writes: Tim, growing up a Cornhusker fan and now having lived in several places around the country... I found the recent ESPN poll asking, "What are you most looking forward to in the fall? College or Pro Football (never mind the World Series)." Both the Big 12 (TX and MO the exceptions) and the SEC areas picked college football.

Do you think fan support has a major impact on success or does success lead to fan support?

Tim Griffin: Mark, I noticed the same chart. I've lived in both the South and Midwest for extensive periods and think that the passion for college football is the strongest in those "flyover areas." The lack of competing NFL teams lead to that support. And I do think it has a major impact on success. Recruits know they can pick a school in that area and realize their games will be the biggest sporting events in their states. That's a heady feeling for a recruit and a big reason why places like Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama and Iowa have been able to continue their success over many years.

And it doesn't surprise me that Texas and Missouri aren't as excited about college sports as other Big 12 areas. The heavy influence of professional sports in both states - probably as strong there as any area in the conference - has tempered some of the excitement for college sports in recent years. The fans there still get excited when a team like Texas or Missouri makes a run at a national championship. But the NFL helps cut down some of the day-to-day excitement in college football there.

Kenneth Smith of Houston writes: Who do you think will win the starting QB spot at Kansas State? Also do you think that K-State will be in the mix for the Big 12 North title?

Me personally, I think the Wildcats are going to upset a team this year, maybe Missouri or Kansas. The offense seems to be pretty good with Keithen Valentine in the backfield again and Brandon Banks at wide receiver. The defense last season was OK, but they need to learn just to wrap up to make a tackle. Who do you think will be the two teams competing in the North?

Tim Griffin: I think that Kansas State will be the mystery team in the North this season - even more than Colorado. I've always had huge respect for the coaching acumen that Bill Snyder brings to his program. He'll be facing a huge challenge at Kansas State, but I think his task will be a little easier because so many of his assistant coaches have coached or played for him and are familiar with his demands.

I think Carson Coffman will get the start for the Wildcats' opener Sept. 5 against Massachusetts. But I'm thinking that Grant Gregory and Daniel Thomas likely will have chances to play as well. I think Thomas could be the starting quarterback later this season, as Snyder has always favored quarterbacks who were adept at running and passing like Michael Bishop, Ell Roberson and Jonathan Beasley. Thomas fits that mold.

And as far as the last two teams competing in the Big 12 North, I'll go with Nebraska and Kansas. I think the regular-season finales for both teams - Nebraska at Colorado and Kansas and Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City - will have much importance in determining the North champion this season.

Thanks for all of your questions this week. We'll check back again next Friday. 

Stunning KSU 2003 title-game upset ranks as No. 8 memory

July, 1, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Sproles, Roberson send Stoops crashing to lone title-game loss

Date: Dec. 6, 2003
Place: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
Score: Kansas State 35, Oklahoma 7

Top-ranked Oklahoma was on the verge on running the table en route to a perfect season and a trip to the BCS championship game when it entered the title game aiming for their third championship in the last four seasons.

Kansas State had struggled earlier in the year, losing at home to Marshall, the start of a three-game losing streak. A trip to the Big 12 title game after an 0-2 conference start wasn't even a consideration for the Wildcats until they caught fire late in the season.

A stout KSU defense that had allowed only 39 points in its last five regular-season games was the reason the Wildcats claimed the North title. That group would be tested by an explosive Sooner offense keyed by Jason White.

The Sooners looked ready to continue that run after KeJuan Jones scored on a 42-yard run less than three minutes into the game on the Sooners' fourth play from scrimmage.

But when usually reliable kicker Trey DiCarlo shanked a 44-yard field goal to start the second quarter, KSU had an opening. And the Wildcats took advantage of it immediately as diminutive tailback Darren Sproles gashed the Sooners on a 55-yard run on the next play. Quarterback Ell Roberson hooked up with Brian Casey on a 19-yard TD pass three plays later to tie the score.

Roberson, a streaky quarterback during much his career at KSU, gave the Wildcats the lead for good on a 63-yard strike to James Terry 2:23 later. It typified a tough night for Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who had announced several days earlier he would accept the vacant coaching job at Arizona after the championship game.

Oklahoma, which had averaged 56.5 points in its last four games before the championship game, also struggled with offensive mistakes. A dropped pass by Jejuan Rankins killed the next drive on fourth down. And White was victimized on an end zone interception on the Sooners' next possession.

Sproles provided another big play shortly before halftime when he scooted 60 yards on a screen pass for a touchdown to give the Wildcats a 21-7 halftime edge.

The Sooners took the opening drive of the second half, but came up empty after a seven-minute drive when DiCarlo hooked a 28-yard field goal attempt.

Kansas State answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 10-yard strike from Roberson to Antoine Polite with 3:02 left in the third quarter.

And with 10:16 left, Kansas State linebacker Ted Sims snatched a White interception and rambled on a 27-yard TD return to ice the victory.

The stunning upset brought the Wildcats their first conference football championship since winning the Big Six in 1934, capping the biggest victory during Bill Snyder's coaching tenure.

They said it, part I: "We just got our butt whipped. I'm not going to sit here and lobby our way into a bowl game. If the BCS says we're in, we're in," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, after his team's loss.

They said it, part II: "Let the little man run it. If they don't respect him, we'll throw it. That's what it came down to," Kansas State quarterback Ell Roberson, describing the Wildcats' heavy use of Darren Sproles in the upset.

They said it, part III: "Our D-line was making him scramble all day and really getting to his head. He was so scared," Kansas State linebacker Josh Buhl, describing to the Associated Press the Wildcats' strategy against Jason White.

They said it, part IV: "They put pressure on us and got to us a few times. They hit us where we are weak," Oklahoma quarterback Jason White.

Factoids: Oklahoma's defense came into the game allowing only 234 yards per game. But they were gashed by Sproles, who rushed for 235 yards on 22 carries -- most ever gained against an Oklahoma defense to that point in its history. Sproles also added three receptions for 88 yards ... Roberson did the rest, completing 10-of-17 passing for 227 yards and four TDs and adding 62 rushing yards ... Coming into the game, Oklahoma's defense had surrendered only seven touchdown passes all season ... Kansas State blistered the Sooners for 519 yards on 58 plays, an average of 8.94 yards per snap ... The loss snapped a 14-game winning streak for the Sooners, longest in the nation at the time of the game ... The seven points were the lowest point total ever for a team coached by Bob Stoops ... The victory was the first time that Kansas State beat a No. 1 ranked team in 10 tries ... White struggled with Kansas State's "Purple on White" defensive scheme. He completed 27-of-50 passes for 298 yards, but was intercepted twice. ... The Sooners produced only one score despite advancing inside Kansas State territory four times in the first half ... DiCarlo's two misses came after he had converted 19 of 20 field-goal attempts for the season coming into the game.

The upshot: Oklahoma's upset loss threw the Bowl Championship Series into turmoil when the Sooners fell to No. 3 in both major polls after the game. But they remained No. 1 in the final BCS poll, qualifying for a shot at the national championship against LSU in the Sugar Bowl. But the Tigers claimed a 21-14 victory over the Sooners -- the first of Stoops' current streak of five consecutive BCS bowl losses.

That loss dropped the Sooners to 12-2 for the season as they finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll.

Despite the loss against Kansas State, White won the Heisman Trophy the week after the game. He nosed out Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald by 128 points to become the first Oklahoma quarterback to win the award.

Kansas State's victory boosted the Wildcats into the Fiesta Bowl in their first BCS bowl trip in school history. But Ohio State claimed a 35-28 victory in that game, snapping the Wildcats' seven-winning streak coming into the game. Kansas State finished the season 11-4 and No. 14 in the final AP poll, the last time the Wildcats were ranked at the end of the season.

The countdown:

9. Emotional A&M victory brings closure after Bonfire tragedy.
10. Roll left: James Brown guarantees victory and then lives up to his prediction.
11. When BCS meant "Boo Chris Simms" after Colorado's upset.
12. A Buffalo stampede: Six Brown TDs lead CU to first Big 12 title game.
13. Run, Ricky, run. Ricky Williams breaks 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 pa
ssing 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.

Why experienced quarterbacking is so underrated

April, 29, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I haven't had a mailbag in a couple of weeks because of some outstanding assignments. The letters have kept coming in, including some questions that were interesting. I thought this thought-provoking query from a reader in Nebraska merited its own answer in a separate post, along with a chart that explains my answer.

So here's the bonus question and watch Friday for a usual mailbag coming. It will have a lot of topical questions and answers about Big 12 football.

Jack Nelson from Lincoln, Neb.: Hey Tim, love your blog. But I've got one question after reading your post about Colorado the other day. How can you discount Nebraska's returning talent when you compare them against the Buffaloes or anybody else in the North. Any reasons that you think the Buffaloes stack up better than the Cornhuskers?

Griffin: Jack, thanks for the compliment and also know that I thought only that Colorado could be competitive in the North because of an experienced, deep running game, along with a strong returning offensive line.

But the major reason I might discount the Cornhuskers is because of the lack of experience at quarterback. In the history of the Big 12, only one championship quarterback has been able to win a championship in the same season he made his first collegiate start.

That would be Sam Bradford of Oklahoma in 2007. And Bradford had a pretty strong supporting case around him on that 2007 team -- certainly better than any team in the Big 12 North this season.

My experienced quarterback theory will be tested this season as three of the five teams that shared part of the division championships last season -- Missouri, Nebraska and Texas Tech - all will be starting quarterbacks with no previous experience as a collegian.

Missouri likely will be looking to Blaine Gabbert as its starter. Texas Tech will likely have Taylor Potts. And Nebraska likely will be looking to Zac Lee manning the starting quarterback slot.

All are untested. And the North Division particularly could be an area where a team with an experienced quarterback could have an edge with either Todd Reesing at Kansas or Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins at Colorado all having an experience edge with previous starts coming into the season.

I just think that previous starting experience is critical in college football. And it will take a special kind of quarterback to be able to win a title without previous college starting experience at the position.

Here's a look at the Big 12 championship teams over the years, who they had playing quarterback and their previous starting experience.

  • 1996 Texas: James Brown had more than a year of starting experience coming into the season.
  • 1997 Nebraska: Scott Frost had a year of starting experience coming into the season.
  • 1998 Texas A&M: Both Branndon Stewart and Randy McCown had started games in previous seasons before their championship year.
  • 1999 Nebraska: Eric Crouch had started most of the games in the previous season before his championship year.
  • 2000 Oklahoma: Josh Heupel had started a complete season of games the previous year.
  • 2001 Colorado: Both Craig Ochs and Bobby Pesavento had started games in previous seasons before their championship year.
  • 2002 Oklahoma: Nate Hybl had started games in the previous season before his championship year.
  • 2003 Kansas State: Ell Roberson had started games in the previous season before his championship year.
  • 2004 Oklahoma: Jason White had started more than a year's worth of games before his championship season.
  • 2005 Texas: Vince Young had started nearly two previous seasons before his championship season.
  • 2006 Oklahoma: Paul Thompson had started one previous game during his previous year at quarterback and several more at wide receiver.
  • 2007 Oklahoma: Sam Bradford had never started a college game before his championship season.
  • 2008 Oklahoma: Sam Bradford had started one previous season before his championship season.

Those trends make the odds daunting that the Cornhuskers, Tigers, Red Raiders or Kansas State will be able to claim the Big 12 title this season.

It's even more likely that the championship team could come from a group of three teams with the most experience at quarterback -- Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

ESPN Classic features two Big 12 games today

April, 23, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I know it's still more than four months away from the start of the regular season. And for some fans, the NFL draft just won't do more than merely whet your appetite for more football that won't be forthcoming.

That's why ESPN Classic is so cool, especially with its occasional offerings of previous Big 12 games.

Kansas State fans should tune in at 11 a.m. ET today to check out the 2002 Holiday Bowl game against Arizona State. Watching Darren Sproles and Ell Roberson rip through the Sun Devils might convince Wildcat fans -- and maybe even coach Bill Snyder -- how much better the past was.

And at 5 p.m. today on the same channel, Nebraska and Oklahoma will meet in the replay of a 2005 game between the two old rivals. That era -- with Rhett Bomar directing the Sooners against a Nebraska team coached by Bill Callahan -- probably isn't remembered nearly as wistfully by Sooner and Cornhusker fans.  

Freeman's departure leaves huge void at KSU

January, 1, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Bill Snyder's rebuilding job at Kansas State just got a lot more difficult.

Quarterback Josh Freeman told's Joe Schad Thursday that he will declare for the NFL draft. It leaves a giant hole for the Wildcats' new coach as he attempts to bring the program back to the success it had when Snyder led it to a Big 12 championship and 11 consecutive bowl appearances from 1993-2003.

Freeman appeared to have been an ideal quarterback to work in Snyder's system, which always valued big, tough running quarterbacks who could move outside the pocket like Michael Bishop, Matt Miller and Ell Roberson. But that won't happen for the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Freeman as he moves on to the NFL.

The Wildcats return a workable nucleus next season keyed by do-everything wide receiver Brandon Banks, sophomore running back Lamark Brown and wide receiver Deon Murphy. Most key players on the defense also return, giving Snyder some talent when he starts coaching again.

But the loss of Freeman was huge. Although the highest-regarded quarterback of the modern KSU era never developed into the player that some recruiting analysts thought when he picked the Wildcats over Nebraska, he still was a solid quarterback. He had a special knack of tormenting Texas, beating the Longhorns in 2006 and 2007.

It means that sophomore Carson Coffman inherits the starting quarterback heading into spring practice. But expect new KSU offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to be beating the bushes the next several weeks in hopes of turning up a junior-college quarterback who could contribute immediately or perhaps even start for KSU.

The North Division appears wide open with no real true favorite next season. Nebraska and Missouri were the two best teams in the division this season and both lose their starting quarterbacks to graduation. Freeman could have helped push the Wildcats into a potential darkhorse role as a North Division challenger if he had stayed.

That now changes without Freeman. It will be a big struggle for Snyder to work his magic and take the Wildcats back to a bowl game.