Big 12: Frank Solich

Nebraska's all-decade team

January, 20, 2010
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It was an eventful decade at Nebraska where two abrupt coaching changes took place after having only one – and no firings of head coaches – in the previous 38 seasons.

All of the Cornhuskers’ coaches experienced success in their own way over the decade. With Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini, Nebraska was the only Big 12 school to make championship game appearances in the 2000’s with different coaches. And Frank Solich, the Cornhuskers’ first coach of the decade, took them to a national championship game in 2001.

In 2001 Eric Crouch claimed the first of the Big 12’s three Heisman trophies in the decade. And Ndamukong Suh had a great case for one in 2009.

Pelini has the Cornhuskers pointed in the right direction after only two seasons. But here are my choices for the Cornhuskers' best players and brightest moments.

OFFENSE

QB: Eric Crouch

RB: Correll Buckhalter

RB: Cory Ross

WR: Nate Swift

WR: Maurice Purify

TE: Tracey Wistrom

OL: Russ Hochstein

OL: Toniu Fonoti

OL: Richie Incognito

OL: Matt Slauson

C: Dominic Raiola

DEFENSE

DL: Adam Carriker

DL: Ndamukong Suh

DL: Jared Crick

DL: Kyle Vanden Bosch

LB: Carlos Polk

LB: Demorrio Williams

LB: Barrett Ruud

DB: Keyuo Craver

DB: Josh Bullocks

DB: Prince Amukamara

DB: Daniel Bullocks

P: Kyle Larson

K: Alex Henery

Ret: DeJuan Groce

Offensive player of the decade: QB Eric Crouch. Received playing time early in his career as a receiver, but eventually became the most athletic quarterback to win the Heisman this decade. He finished as Nebraska’s career leader in total offense and total offense touchdowns.

Defensive player of the decade: DT Ndamukong Suh. His unique blend of athleticism gave him a skill set unlike those for many defensive tackles. Before his career was finished, Suh left with a legitimate claim as the greatest Blackshirt in history.

Coach of the decade: Bo Pelini. All three Nebraska coaches experienced success in different ways. Pelini gets the nod for his 20-8 record as a head coach and three bowl victories, including one as interim coach in 2003.

Moment of the decade: Eric Crouch’s throwback pass reception in 2001. Not only did Mike Stuntz’ 63-yard touchdown pass to Crouch wrap up a huge 20-10 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma, but it also provided a highlight that helped catapult Crouch to the Heisman Trophy.

Big 12 flourishes during its first full decade

January, 18, 2010
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The Big 12 fulfilled its promise and then some during the most recent decade.

Two national championships and five other trips to the BCS title game proved that the conference had earned its rightful position among the nation’s best in its first full decade of play.

How its teams did it was most interesting. The conference was transformed from its run-heavy roots from the Big Eight and Southwest conference beginnings into a cutting-edge passing league where high-powered aerial attacks captured the nation’s attention.

Young
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireVince Young led Texas to a national championship.
In 2000, the Big 12 had only five teams ranked among the top 54 teams in passing and none higher than 11th. By 2008, the conference had five teams ranked among the top eight passing teams in the nation and 10 among the nation’s top 38.

Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach deserves much of the credit for transforming the Big 12 from a ground-based conference to one where passing predominated. Leach helped convert Oklahoma when he arrived in 1999 as Bob Stoops’ offensive coordinator into the upcoming decade. After a season there, Leach continued his offensive mastery at Texas Tech, where he led the Red Raiders to a bowl game in every season of the decade before he was fired after the 2009 regular season.

That cost him a chance to become a coach who made it through his job during the entire decade. Only Stoops and Texas' Mack Brown remained at their jobs during the aughts -- understandable because of the enviable national programs both developed during the decade.

Stoops claimed six Big 12 titles and Brown won two championships to help account for a title tilt to the South Division as the decade progressed. In the first eight seasons of the conference, the Big 12 alternated between the South and North Division in titles. But since 2004, the Big 12’s title has been won by the South Division champion in every season.

The South has dominated in cross-division games, notching a 13-5 record in the most recent regular season. That continued a trend that has seen the South win the seasonal series against the North in seven of the last eight seasons.

Some of that has been because of the turnover at North programs. Nebraska went from playing for a national championship in 2001 under Frank Solich to seeing the former Cornhusker legend fired less than two seasons later. The Bill Callahan era represented a step backward from that, but Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers pointed back to national prominence after only two seasons.

Colorado claimed four North titles in a five-season span, but let Gary Barnett go after the last of those championship-game losses. The Buffaloes haven’t been back to the title game since.

And Bill Snyder, the last North coach to win a Big 12 championship, returned to prowl the sideline at Kansas State last season, restarting his career after a three-season sabbatical.

The conference’s star power was best shown in 2008 when Sam Bradford claimed the Heisman Trophy and the conference produced an unprecedented four of the top five Heisman finishers that season. Bradford was one of three Big 12 Heisman winners during the decade joining Eric Crouch in 2001 and Jason White in 2003.

The Big 12’s transition to an offensive juggernaut has helped capture the attention of the NFL. The conference notched a record seven first-round picks in the 2009 draft and likely will produce even more in the upcoming draft.

Kevin Weiberg resigned in 2007 to assume a position helping start the Big Ten’s cable television network. He was replaced by assistant Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who immediately inherited the challenge of trying to unify a conference where an uneven revenue sharing plan has been a point of controversy since the conference began. It remains the conference’s biggest trigger point -- as it has since the creation of the conference.

The conference has fallen behind the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten in its national exposure, lagging behind those conferences as they have settled their immediate television concerns.

That proposition will be Beebe’s biggest upcoming challenge into the current decade. A quick and equitable resolution will be a key factor in the Big 12’s potential for growth in upcoming years.

McNeill interested in Texas Tech job

December, 30, 2009
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SAN ANTONIO -- Texas Tech interim head coach Ruffin McNeill left little doubt that he would like to be considered as the Red Raiders' permanent replacement for Mike Leach.

"Yes, I'm very interested in the job. Make that a double-yes with some exclamation marks," said McNeill, who will serve as a head football coach for the first time in a 24-season college coaching career Saturday night in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Michigan State.

McNeill is listed among the early favorites for the job, along with Baylor coach Art Briles, former Auburn and Mississippi coach Tommy Tuberville and Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes.

The game will serve as an audition of sorts for McNeill showing Tech administrators he can handle the job.

"I've felt that my whole career," McNeill said. "My dad taught me when I first got into coaching, every time you step on the field, your product is your resume. I've tried to make sure I adhere to that during my entire time of coaching. I want to make sure my product is my resume."

McNeill becomes the third interim coach to serve in the history of the Alamo Bowl. Bo Pelini led Nebraska to a 17-3 victory over Michigan State in the 2003 game after Frank Solich was fired.

Texas A&M interim coach Gary Darnell wasn't quite as fortunate, losing a 24-17 game to Penn State in the 2007 game after Dennis Franchione was fired.

Pelini's defenses shows big improvement in postseason games

December, 29, 2009
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Nebraska coach Bo Pelini makes no pretense about his work in bowl games and postseason contests.

“I’ve had a lot of success,” Pelini told Nebraska reporters before leaving for Wednesday's Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against Arizona.

And if his defensive statistics are any indication, the Blackshirts have approached those games with intense preparation and production on the field.

The Cornhuskers are 2-1 in postseason games with Pelini. Nebraska has beaten Michigan State in the 2003 Alamo Bowl game and Clemson in the 2009 Gator Bowl. His only loss was a disappointing 13-12 defeat to Texas in the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 5.

Pelini has learned a little about preparation at several stops before becoming a head coach. He was Nebraska's interim coach after Frank Solich was fired after the 2003 regular season. His defense was singed the following season when USC blistered Oklahoma in a 55-19 triumph in the national championship game. And he masterfully led LSU's defense to the BCS title in 2007 shortly after accepting the head job to rebuild Nebraska.

But Pelini's numbers are extremely noticeable defensively in games where he has served as coach, compared against the other regular-season games. And remember that Pelini hasn't done shabbily in those contests with a 17-7 record after two seasons.

To the right is a graph comparing Pelini's defenses during the regular season against those in bowl and championship games when he's been a team's head coach.

Mailbag: No Big 12 games at baseball fields

July, 31, 2009
7/31/09
6:47
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

If it's a Friday, it must be time to open some e-mails from my mailbag.

Shane Riley from Arapahoe, Neb., writes: I know the Big 12 hasn't jumped on the bandwagon yet, but what is up with college teams wanting to play games in major league baseball stadiums? Why does Army want to play at Yankee Stadium so bad and why are Illinois and Northwestern looking to play at Wrigley Field? And if the Big `12 did jump on the bandwagon what teams would want to play at a Big 12 area baseball venue?

Tim Griffin: Shane, that has been an interesting trend in recent weeks. I've heard through the grapevine that Dodger Stadium would be interested in staging some college games there. Those baseball stadiums are looking for new revenue sources and they are trying to attract college games as another way to fill seats and sell more concessions.

I'm a football traditionalist and the idea of football returning to Yankee Stadium would be cool. I've heard all of the great stories about games there in the 1940s and 1950s. The New York Giants really got their fans turned on when they started playing there.

But even with the "wow factor," I would doubt if any Big 12 teams really would seriously consider any upcoming games in baseball stadiums. And the reason is because in every city with a major league franchise in the Big 12's geographic footprint, there is also a new football stadium with all of the bells and whistles that is significantly bigger than the baseball stadium in the city.

For example, I don't think that any college team would give up the chance for 25,000 extra seats by moving a game from Reliant Stadium in Houston to Minute Maid Park. I certainly don't think that will be the case in Arlington, Texas, where the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium has every accoutrement known to mankind and is much bigger than the nearby baseball stadium. And I don't see it happening in St. Louis, Denver or Kansas City, either.

The football stadiums are simply too big and it would hard to visualize any college giving up a shot for extra tickets to play in a baseball stadium that wasn't constructed to allow football in the first place.

It would be neat to see the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis lined up for a football game, but I'm not expecting it. The chance to play at the Edward Jones Dome at America's Center just provides too many more seats in a climate-controlled setting to boot.


Willis from Raleigh, N.C., writes: OK, I'm a traditionalist and love the old rivalries that college football has every year. When most conferences started to expand (SEC, Big 8 to Big 12, ACC), they kept the traditional games playing every year (Georgia-Auburn, Tennessee-Alabama, OU-Texas, Florida State-Miami, etc) and other conferences kept their "big" games (Michigan-Ohio State, USC-UCLA, etc). I mean, what is college football without Ohio State playing Michigan every year? That said, what was the Big 12 thinking when it got rid of the Nebraska-Oklahoma game every year? I grew up watching that game in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and it was one of the greatest rivalries in college football. It's a shame that they play each other every four or five years like Bonow.

Tim Griffin: I've heard that the lack of a yearly Oklahoma-Nebraska game bemoaned since the first conference schedules were generated for the Big 12.

The rivalry was a great one, although truth be told, it had slipped a lot in the 1990s in the Big Eight as Nebraska turned the conference into a cakewalk shortly before the Big 12 started.

One way around it could be making that game a designated rivalry game each season, although it would put those Nebraska and Oklahoma at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the teams in their divisions because they would be facing one of the powers of the other division every season.

I'm betting that Bo Pelini and Bob Stoops wouldn't like that idea nearly as much as some of the traditionalists.  

And actually, the gap between games isn't as bad as you wrote. With the Big 12's sliding schedule, the two old rivals meet twice every four seasons.

I know it's not like the days when Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne were roaming the sidelines, but it's the best we can do for now.


Jim Perry from Albuquerque, N.M., writes: About Bill Callahan, I liked a lot of things about his offense. It was one of the few that sent Michigan wondering what happened. Callahan had a lot of answers but still needed a hard-nosed defense. I liked that he had class when it came to dealing with unruly players. I still think Callahan could still do it at the collegiate level and I wish him the best.

Tim Griffin: I also wonder about some of the contentiousness that some hard-core Nebraska fans hold for the Callahan era. Sure, he tried to dismantle a lot of the tradition on which that storied program is steeped. But at the same time, he helped the Cornhuskers win a Big 12 North title as recently as 2006.

If Callahan had played more to the Nebraska tradition, it definitely would have helped him out -- along with maybe a choice of a different defensive coordinator than Kevin Cosgrove. If Callahan had embraced the image of Nebraska and played to it like Mack Brown did at Texas or Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, it might have helped him weather some of the storms that he eventually faced. Not all of them, but it might have bought him an extra season or two.

I think the majority of Cornhusker fans are more excited about the future now than they've been since early in the Frank Solich era. And it should only get brighter as Pelini starts getting better players.


Charles Seibert of Albuquerque, N.M. writes: A couple of weeks ago you had an e-mail in the mailbag basically saying "Mack Brown only has one conference championship? What do Longhorns fans see in him?" Your answer focused on Stoops' domination in that department. Here's the rest of the answer.

The Longhorn fans would love to have more Big 12 crowns, but we judge UT's football program on many criteria. The 'Horns under Mack have a national championship, a stellar win-loss record (having passed Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame among others on the all-time lists), regular finishes in the top five and top 10 (and ahead of the hated Sooners), near-automatic bowl wins (including 3-0 in BCS bowls) and solid records against their traditional rivals. With all of that, who wouldn't be proud to have Mack Brown coaching their team?

Tim Griffin: Charles, I agree with you. Mack Brown has the Texas program going as well as any in the country. And like you listed, he has many accomplishments and has his program pointed to claim a few more before he hangs up his whistle.

But with all of those facts in place, Stoops still has claimed six Big 12 titles and Brown has one. I hear from Texas fans all the time about their three victories in the last four seasons over the Sooners, but they also privately grumble they are disappointed that the Longhorns still have made only one trip to the Big 12 title game during that span compared to three for the Sooners. 

That shows the strength of the South Division and the struggles that winning a division championship provides in each season. And for all of the accomplishments you listed, I still bet Mack Brown wishes he had more than one Big 12 title to show for it.


Steve Rodriguez of Sisson, Texas, writes: Tim, in reading your blog on a daily basis, I love your numbers and charts you come up with. I know of no other place I can find to get that kind of information with your spin on it. I wish you would share a weekly stat or tidbit in your mailbag or perhaps as a regular post that delv
es deeply into the numbers in the conference.

Tim Griffin: Steve, sounds like a great idea. And here's my tidbit for today. Or maybe I can "borrow" a term from the Tim Horton doughnut shops in Canada - thanks to my old CFL coverage I know about them - and provide a weekly "Timbit."

How about this one? During the course of the 13-season history of the Big 12 Conference, Bob Stoops has claimed six championship game victories. The most amazing fact is that no other coach has claimed more than one Big 12 title during that span. 

Here's a list of coaches and their titles

Bob Stoops -- 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008
John Mackovic -- 1996
Tom Osborne -- 1997
R.C. Slocum -- 1998
Frank Solich -- 1999
Gary Barnett -- 2001
Bill Snyder -- 2003
Mack Brown -- 2005

That list speaks about as well to Stoops' domination of the Big 12 as any I could find.


Wally Gonzales of San Antonio writes: Hey Tim, I was wondering if you had any information on the new linebacker group at KU. I am interested in Justin Springer, who is from my hometown of Los Fresnos, Texas. Also when Kansas plays UTEP, it will be the first time that Springer will play against his twin brother, Jeremy. It also gets even more interesting when Justin goes up against his best friend Eloy Atkinson who is also from Los Fresnos and is the center for UTEP. I'd love to hear some inside information about this game.

Tim Griffin: Wally, Justin Springer has a chance to step up at linebacker, which appears to be the biggest weakness for the Jayhawks coming into the season. But Springer was hobbled by a knee injury that he sustained last season against Kansas State that caused him to miss the Jayhawks' final four games last season.

Springer has prototypical size for football of the 1990s when you consider he's 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds. But Coach Mark Mangino has placed a premium on speed with his defense and will want his linebackers to move well in space. That has to be a concern for Springer, considering he's coming off knee surgery.

Mangino also has hinted he plans to go to a 4-2-5 defense this season as his base. And he mentioned earlier this week that Arist Wright and Angus Quigley have really looked good so far in spring practices.

Springer wasn't able to practice during the spring, but Mangino has said he expects him to be ready for preseason camp. His recovery will be one of the interesting stories to follow next month for the Jayhawks.

And I think the UTEP game might be more difficult for the Jayhawks then some might expect. If they can't get much pass rush against underrated UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, it might be a long evening in the Sun Bowl for the Jayhawks. Along with the potential matchup between the Springer brothers from Los Fresnos.


Chris Leonard from Minneapolis, Minn., writes: Tim, I read your summary of the Sporting News' all-time top coaches list. I was glad to see Tom Osborne on there, but 34th? And ninth among the college football coaches mentioned? I couldn't believe it.

Some writers have said that he didn't belong among the top 10 college head coaches and others have written that he wasn't a sexy enough coach to put on a top-10 list because of his perceived lack of flamboyance and personality.

What's with all the disrespect for the guy with the second-highest winning percentage in the modern era of college football? No one's ever reached 250 wins faster!

Tim Griffin: I agree with you that Tom Osborne was one of the greatest coaches in football history. He might not have been as verbose as Bobby Bowden or have the longevity of Joe Paterno, but his teams were always ready and he did a great job at making Nebraska a consistent national power.

I think the most significant facts about Osborne are that he won a share of the national championship three times in his final four seasons of coaching and nearly had another one in the previous season. And he finished the final five seasons of his career with a 60-3 record. Those are flashy numbers, in anybody's book.

Thanks for all of the good questions and I'll be checking in again next week.

Have a good weekend.

Pelini: No more issues with Snyder

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
7:02
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

IRVING, Texas -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini apparently has made up with Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.

Pelini was involved in a celebrated shouting match with Snyder after KSU notched a 38-9 victory over the Cornhuskers in Lincoln in 2003 when Pelini was defensive coordinator on Frank Solich's final team.

"That's nothing," Pelini said. "It's water under the bridge. It's nothing that I'm concerned about or Coach Snyder is."

Pelini was irate after Snyder kept his first-stringers in the game late in the one-sided contest. KSU fullback Ayo Saba rumbled for a isx-yard TD run with 1:31 left against a Nebraska defense composed of Pelini's substitutes.

That led to a meeting after the game between Pelini and Snyder where Pelini expressed his displeasure with Snyder's coaching methods in some rather choice terms.

Pelini appeared contrite when he described his actions after that 2003 game.

"I have a lot of respect for him," Pelini said. "It's a mistake I made six years ago and that's the way it is."

Snyder, who is returning to coaching after a three-season sabbatical, recently praised Pelini when he recently visited Lincoln for a Catbackers meeting. And it was a reason why Pelini ended discussion of the subject abruptly on Monday.

"It's a dead issue," Pelini said.  

Some other great Big 12 moments that almost made my list

July, 16, 2009
7/16/09
10:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I received more e-mails and correspondence this summer from fans about my Big 12 most memorable moments series than I have in a long time. This letter was typical of the missives.

Robert Godfrey from Olathe, Kan., writes: Tim, I really enjoyed the recent series on the Big 12's most memorable plays. How hard was it to settle on those 25 plays, and what are some others that almost made your final cut? Thanks again for the stories. They really got me excited about the coming season and how great this conference has been during its brief history.

Robert, you wouldn't believe the number of selections that I considered before I settled on my 25 most memorable Big 12 moments. It was one of the toughest assignments I've had in a long time, trying to cull those memories into a coherent list.

The only ramifications I had were that the moments had to make me go "wow" and every team had to be represented at least once. I think I was able to carry those out.

But there were about 25 more memories I wished I could have included, but just couldn't because of the list number. Here are the ones that just missed my cut, in no specific order.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 7

Crouch overcomes struggling effort for Heisman-defining moment vs. Oklahoma

Date: Oct. 27, 2001
Place: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
Score: Nebraska 20, Oklahoma 10

To all Nebraska fans, it's become a larger-than-life memory known simply as "Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass" -- one of the most unforgettable plays in school history.

But Crouch's heroic touchdown reception that helped beat Oklahoma in 2001 was more than just a great play.

It pushed the Cornhuskers into the No. 1 position in the BCS poll after the victory.

It also helped boost Crouch into the lead for the Heisman Trophy, an honor he claimed later in the season. His dramatic catch came in one of Crouch's worst statistical games ever.

The victory turned out to be the biggest in Frank Solich's coaching tenure with the Cornhuskers.

The Sooners carried a 20-game winning streak to the game and hadn't lost since Bob Stoops' first season when they brought their No. 1 team in the BCS poll into Memorial Stadium.

Oklahoma had built that streak on its defense and appeared ready to continue that during the game.

The game turned early when Oklahoma quarterback Jason White sustained a knee injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season -- save for a couple of plays later in the game.

Backup Nate Hybl then entered the game and engineered the game's first scoring drive. His 4-yard strike to tight end Trent Smith gave the Sooners an early 7-0 lead.

Nebraska matched that less than five minutes later on a 2-yard touchdown run by Dahrran Diedrick. Both teams traded field goals -- a 27-yarder by Nebraska's Josh Brown and a 20-yarder by Oklahoma's Tim Duncan with 15 seconds left in the half -- for a 10-10 halftime deadlock.

The Cornhuskers went ahead early in the third quarter after Erwin Swiney picked off Hybl on a pass that bounced off the facemask of receiver Antwone Savage. Thunder Collins scooted 39 yards on an end-around to the Oklahoma 25 on the next play, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Brown.

Hybl injured his left shoulder on the next Oklahoma possession when he was slammed to the turf by Nebraska linebacker Chris Kelsay, but returned after missing two plays. Amazingly, White returned to action for those plays despite his earlier injury.

After recovering from his injury, Hybl rallied the Sooners in the fourth quarter. But the drive stalled at the Nebraska 36. Stoops then decided against a long field goal in favor of a pooch punt that pinned the Cornhuskers at their own 5. Similar strategy had boosted Oklahoma to a victory over Texas earlier that season.

Crouch gained 19 yards to get the Cornhuskers out of the shadow of their end zone. But Oklahoma appeared to have gotten a defensive stop after Tommie Harris and Cory Heinecke produced a seven-yard loss on third down. Officials ruled Heinecke had grabbed Crouch's face mask on the play, giving the Cornhuskers a first down at the Nebraska 37.

On the next play, the Cornhuskers struck. Crouch handed the ball to Collins, who then pitched it to freshman Mike Stuntz, a backup quarterback on what appeared to be a reverse.

Stuntz instead fired a perfect spiral to a wide-open Crouch, who caught the ball at the Oklahoma 38 and easily jetted past Oklahoma 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive tackle Kory Klein and defensive back Derrick Strait to the end zone. The play covered 63 yards.

Interestingly, Oklahoma had tried almost the exact play earlier in the game. The Sooners' play failed when Hybl fell down.

It wasn't the longest play for Crouch, who earlier in the season had run 95 yards for a touchdown against Missouri. It wasn't even his first touchdown reception.

But it was the kind of play that resonated with Heisman voters and helped him become the first Nebraska quarterback to win the award.

They said it, part I: "This was one of those games where you want some excitement, so we thought we'd come out and try it. It worked," Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch on his game-clinching touchdown reception.

They said it, part II: "In the end, losing is a strange feeling in our locker room (as far as) what to feel. We haven't experienced this in quite a while," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops on the end of his team's 20-game winning streak.

They said it, part III: "No matter what happened, I knew we were going to get the job done. It wasn't finesse. It wasn't gaining 500 or 600 yards, but we got it done when we needed to," Crouch on Nebraska's big-play effort against the Sooners.

They said it, part IV: "I won't lie. I was a little bit nervous. I was just thrilled to death,'' Nebraska wide receiver Mike Stuntz, on his game-clinching TD pass to Crouch.

Factoids: The loss was the first time that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops ever lost against a top-10 opponent, snapping a winning streak of eight games ... The Sooners came into the game as the nation's No. 1 ranked team in the BCS standings and Nebraska was No. 2 ... The Nebraska upset ended a 20-game winning streak for the Sooners that dated to their 1999 Independence Bowl loss to Mississippi. It was the nation's longest winning streak at the time of the game ... Crouch rushed for 21 yards on 13 carries and completed 10-of-18 passes for 102 yards. His rushing total was a career low in a game where he started at quarterback ... On the three possessions before Crouch's game-clinching TD reception, the Cornhuskers had produced three, eight and nine yards ... Hybl completed 17-of-36 passes for 184 yards and an interception ... The victory extended Nebraska's home winning streak to 20 games, a streak that would eventually stretch to 26 games before the Cornhuskers lost in 2002 to Texas ...

The upshot: Nebraska and Oklahoma switched spots in the BCS poll the following week, with Nebraska at No. 1 and Oklahoma at No. 2.

The potential for a rematch in the Big 12 title game never materialized as both teams lost the final game of the regular season to cost them a chance at their respective division titles. The Cornhuskers were blown out in a 62-36 loss at Colorado that snapped their 11-game winning streak to the start the season. And Oklahoma dropped a 16-13 home loss to Oklahoma State.

Even with the loss, Nebraska still qualified to play for the national championship in the Rose Bowl. But mistakes cost them three quick touchdowns as Miami cruised to an easy 37-14 victory. The two losses at the end of the season dropped the Cornhuskers (11-2) to No. 8 in the final Associated Press poll. The Cornhuskers haven't finished the season ranked as highly since then.

Despite the late struggles, Crouch still claimed the Heisman Trophy, winning the award by 62 points over Florida quarterback Rex Grossman. His touchdown reception against Oklahoma no doubt helped catapult him to the honor, becoming the first Big 12 quarterback to win the honor.

Stuntz never threw another touchdown pass for the Cornhuskers. He ended his career in 2005 as a defensive back.  

Oklahoma finished the season with a gritty 10-3 victory over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, limiting the Razorbacks to six first downs and 50 net yards as the Sooners wrapped up an 11-2 season. The Sooners ended the season ranked sixth in the final AP poll.

The countdown: 

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.


CU gashes Nebraska for 380 rushing yards in No. 12 memory

June, 25, 2009
6/25/09
6:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 12

A Buffalo stampede: Brown's six-touchdown binge boosts CU into its first championship game

Date: Nov. 23, 2001
Place: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.
Score: Colorado 62, Nebraska 36

Colorado came into the 2001 regular-season finale with a marked lack of success against old nemesis Nebraska. The Buffaloes had lost their last nine games in the series against the Cornhuskers coming into that game.

But Gary Barnett's team turned the tables by pulverizing the Cornhuskers' "Blackshirt" defense for 380 rushing yards and 582 total yards in a dramatic upset that was punctuated by delirious Colorado fans ripping a goalpost down in exultation.

The best way to shake those previous disappointments would be to get out to a fast start. But Colorado outdid itself by jumping to three early touchdowns in less than six minutes at the start of the game en route to a 28-3 lead after one quarter.

Bobby Purify started the avalanche with a 39-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the game.

After Nebraska's Dahrann Diedrick fumbled on the Cornhuskers' next possession, Colorado wasted little time. Quarterback Bobby Pesavento hooked up with tight end Daniel Graham on a 21-yard touchdown only 20 seconds after the first score for a 14-0 lead.

Colorado forced a change of possession and another long pass from Pesavento to Graham set up Pesavento's 1-yard keeper and a 21-0 lead.

Bullish Colorado tailback Chris Brown then got involved in a big way. Brown added touchdown runs of 12, 1 and 36 yards before halftime to extend Colorado's lead to 42-23 by the break.

The Cornhuskers looked poised to re-enter the game after Eric Crouch's 6-yard touchdown run pulled them within 42-30 early in the third quarter.

But Brown added Colorado's knockout punch by scoring three-straight touchdowns to put the game away during a period of only 189 seconds early in the fourth quarter.

His 1-yard plunge capped a 93-yard drive to extend Colorado's lead to 49-30.

Safety Michael Lewis intercepted Crouch several plays later, leading to a 13-yard touchdown gallop by Brown.

And after another interception by Colorado linebacker Joey Johnson, Brown added his school-record sixth rushing touchdown of the game on an 8-yard scoring run with 9:41 left in the game.

Crouch produced a 7-yard touchdown run with 7:14 to finish the scoring but it was too late. The Buffaloes claimed the victory that catapulted them into the Big 12 title game for the first time in school history.

Factoids to note: Brown rushed for 198 yards on 24 carries and Purify added 154 rushing yards. Pesavento chipped in with 202 passing yards on only nine completions ... At the time, it was the most points ever scored against Nebraska, topping their previous total of 61 scored by Minnesota in 1945 ... The loss snapped a 13-game winning streak for the Cornhuskers coming into the game. Nebraska had been the No. 1 team in the BCS poll for the previous four weeks ... Crouch rushed for 168 yards and passed for 198 yards to set Nebraska's total offense record, but was victimized by two critical fourth-quarter interceptions ... Pesavento was starting for the Buffaloes only because starter Craig Ochs had been injured earlier in the season ... Colorado produced 223 rushing and 415 total yards in the first half. ... Colorado had lost the previous five games in the Nebraska series before the 2001 blowout by a combined 15 points ... The two teams combined for 1134 yards -- 582 by Colorado and 552 for Nebraska.

They said it, part I: "With the way the offensive line and Dan Graham were blocking, it was easy. The holes were huge. We weren't getting touched until we were 10 yards down the field," Colorado's Chris Brown on the way he was able to rip through the Nebraska defense.

They said it, part II: "You never think it will go like this, obviously. But once in a while, it all works. Sixty-two points is almost too overwhelming for me. It's going to take a while to sink in," Colorado coach Gary Barnett on the underdog Buffaloes' blowout victory.

They said it, part III: "We really had a big dream. But those are over with now. This is going to be a tough one to swallow," Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch on a loss that seemingly ended the Cornhuskers' national title hopes. But more on that later.

The upshot: The Buffaloes wild victory pushed them into the Big 12 title game the following week in Irving, Texas, where they notched another upset victory over Texas to claim the first and only Big 12 football title in Colorado school history.

Colorado's 39-37 conquest knocked Texas out of the national title hunt and catapulted Nebraska back into the national title game. The Cornhuskers then were hammered by Miami, 37-14, to finish an 11-2 season that left them No. 8 in the final Associated Press media poll.

The Colorado loss was thought to have diminished Crouch's Heisman chances, but a loss by Florida's Rex Grossman against Tennessee the following week resuscitated them. Crouch then won the Heisman in a close 62-vote margin over Grossman, who finished second.

Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohl wasn't as fortunate. The late losses by big scores in 2001 and a defensive collapse the following season led to his ouster at the end of the 2002 regular season.

It can also be argued that Nebraska coach Frank Solich never recovered from the Colorado loss and resulting loss in the national title game at the end of the 2001 season. He was fired after Nebraska won its regular-season finale in 2003.

Colorado made its only BCS bowl appearance after that 2001 triumph over Nebraska. But the Buffaloes' late-season success unraveled in a 38-16 loss to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, concluding a 10-3 season that saw them finish the season No. 9 in the final AP poll.

The countdown:
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 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.

Ochs' tackle of Crouch is Big 12's No. 16 moment

June, 19, 2009
6/19/09
5:49
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 16

KSU finally slays the Cornhuskers

Date: Nov. 14, 1998
Place: KSU Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.
Score: Kansas State 40, Nebraska 30

Kansas State had labored in the shadows of Nebraska for many years. The Wildcats' 10-0 start in the 1998 season had pushed them to No. 1 in the national rankings, but they were still looking for a breakthrough victory against their old nemesis to catapult them into their first Big 12 title game.

They got that and more in an impressive victory over the Cornhuskers  that clinched the Wildcats' North Division title -- the Wildcats' first football title of any kind since 1934.

And they did it with a flourish as a KSU defense that had struggled earlier in the game provided two key plays to seal the victory late in the fourth quarter.

Linebacker Travis Ochs made a critical fourth-down stop of Eric Crouch, grabbing his face mask to make the tackle. No penalty was called, although television replays showed that Ochs could have been flagged on the play.

A blitzing Ochs came around untouched on Crouch's left side. As the Nebraska quarterback ducked to avoid him, Ochs grabbed Crouch's face mask and never let go as he nearly spun his helmet around before throwing him to the turf at the Nebraska 20.

Kansas State took over but couldn't move the ball. Nebraska had one more possession, but Jeff Kelly picked up Crouch's fumble and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown with three seconds left to ice the victory.

But it wasn't easy. The Wildcats overcame an early 17-7 deficit after Nebraska had jumped ahead on a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes from Crouch and an 18-yard Kris Brown field goal. It was the first time in the season that KSU trailed.

KSU charged back and pulled within 17-14 at halftime after Michael Bishop added his second TD run of the game.

Bishop helped boost KSU into the lead early in the third quarter - the first time the Wildcats had led Nebraska since 1991 -- on a 17-yard TD pass from Bishop to Darnell McDonald and a 25-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica. But Nebraska tied the score when Ralph Brown recovered a Frank Murphy fumble and rambled 74 yards for a touchdown.


The lead changed again early in the fourth quarter when Gramatica boosted KSU ahead on a 21-yard field goal. Nebraska responded on a 9-yard scoring pass from Crouch to tight end Sheldon Jackson gave put them back in the lead with about 8 minutes left.

KSU then turned to Bishop, who finished with 446 yards of total offense in the game, for its late rally. His 11-yard TD strike to McDonald put KSU ahead for good at 34-30 with 5:25 left.

Delirious KSU fans rushed the field twice before the game ended. It took them about 30 minutes to tear down the goalposts to celebrate what likely is the biggest home victory in KSU history.

Factoids to note: The victory was the first by victory by the Wildcats over Nebraska since 1968 and their first home victory over the Cornhuskers since 1959 ... Bishop passed for 306 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 140 yards on 25 carries and scored twice ... KSU's McDonald produced a career-high 12 receptions for 183 yards ... Crouch completed only 10 of 21 passes for 139 yards, but passed for three TDs and added 108 yards rushing on 22 carries ... It was Nebraska's third loss of the regular season, the first time the Cornhuskers had lost that many regular-season games in 22 years ... The game was played before a then- record crowd of 44,298 at KSU Stadium.

They said it, part I: "I don't want to be branded as a cheater. But the referee was right there. Those are the breaks of the game," Ochs' post-game comments to the Associated Press about his late tackle of Crouch.

They said it, part II: "The torch being passed? I'm not falling for that. I don't believe it. I take nothing from their win. They're a good team. But I believe the best team in the country has three losses this season and it wears 'N' on its helmet," Jackson's post-game comments to the Associated Press about Nebraska's loss.

They said it, part III: "We knew if we lost, people would call us flukes. We had to beat them to get the respect we deserve," Kansas State defensive end Joe Bob Clements, who told the Daily Nebraskan that the victory was monumental for the KSU program.

The upshot: The victory guaranteed KSU a spot in its first Big 12 championship game three weeks later in St. Louis. But the 11-0 Wildcats squandered a 15-point fourth-quarter lead in a 36-33 double-overtime loss to Texas A&M.

That defeat sent the Wildcats careening to the Alamo Bowl, where they lost to Purdue and finished 11-2. After ranking No. 1 earlier in the season, KSU finished the season ranked 10th in the final Associated Press poll.

Nebraska rebounded to beat Colorado the following week, but lost to Arizona in the Holiday Bowl. Frank Solich finished his first season 9-4 and ranked No. 19 in the final AP poll - Nebraska's lowest end-of-season ranking in eight seasons.

The countdown:

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.

Tim's mailbag: Get ready for some sweet tweets from me

June, 5, 2009
6/05/09
5:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It wouldn't be a Friday afternoon without answering some reader mail. Here are some of the missives I've received during the last few days.

Scott Sauer of Norman, Okla., writes: Hey Tim! You should join Twitter. It would be a lot of fun to follow you for this upcoming season as your travel around the Big12 and cover games! I really enjoy your columns. Keep up the good work, Tim.

Tim Griffin: Scott, I appreciate your kind words. And like coaches and athletes around the country, I will be Twittering, or is it Tweeting, once the season begins. Look for our coverage of college football to expand during the upcoming season and that's one of the ways. I'll let you know more details as they occur.


Tim Garrison writes: Tim, does it seem to you that the sports writers on ESPN are already promoting Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy for the bronze trophy? If so why are they leaving out Bradford and other great players? Thanks and enjoy your blog!

Tim Griffin: I don't think that we are shaping the minds of voters yet. I do know that Colt McCoy had a trip to Bristol this past week to appear on a variety of programs while there. It's not unusual for players or coaches to do that. Gary Pinkel went to ESPN's studios during his team's off-week during the season to meet some of our people.

I really don't think any preseason publicity any candidate will receive will amount to much difference. I still think that most voters are cognizant of their actions on the field and the Heisman (which I presume is the bronze trophy you are talking about) will be settled that way.


Mike from Iowa writes: I live in Iowa but am a devoted Husker fan. Over the years, most of my friends and me have gotten into an argument about which program is better. So who in your opinion over the last 10 years has had a better program? Nebraska or Iowa?

Tim Griffin: Mike, sounds like it might be a little difficult convincing the natives. And hopefully, you didn't have any more wagered on this other than a pork tenderloin or a loosemeat sandwich from the Maid-Rite. But over the last 10 years, Nebraska has been better than Iowa, in my opinion.

At the start of the survey period, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz took over and struggled to 1-10 and 3-9 records in 1999 and 2000. Nebraska never won fewer than five games in any of those periods.

During the 10-year period you asked about, Iowa was 70-53 with a 4-3 record in bowl games. They made one trip to a BCS bowl game, losing to USC in the 2003 Orange Bowl.

Nebraska was 86-41 during that period with a 5-3 bowl record. Although the Cornhuskers had three head coaches during that period in Frank Solich, Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini, they did make two BCS bowl trips, winning over Tennessee in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl after the 1999 season and losing to Miami in the 2002 Rose Bowl for the national championship game.

And Nebraska's record is similar skewed towards the early years. Solich's first three teams had a combined record of 33-5.

So if you take the first three years of the equation out, Iowa has the most recent success. The Hawkeyes have a 59-29 record during that period, compared with a 53-36 record for the Cornhuskers.

But you specifically asked about the last 10 years. So when those first three seasons are included, I think you've got to say Nebraska was the more dominant national program.


Brett from Houston writes: I think it would be interesting if you performed some statistics on your "Lunch Links" and articles you post on your blog. What percentage of articles/links is devoted to which teams in the last couple of months? How about crafting one of your famous charts to tell us which Big 12 school gets the most love in your blog?

Tim Griffin: Brett, you raise an interesting question and it kind of asks in an indirect way where my primary sources of information are.

As far as my lunchtime links go, I try to spread them around to each school as evenly as possible. And I think I do a pretty good job of going to some mainstream media sources, but also some lesser-traveled parts of the blogosphere for coverage.

As such, I'm kind of at the mercy of those schools that receive the most coverage during the offseason. I think it's pretty clear to me that Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State consistently receive the most extensive daily coverage in their local newspapers of any Big 12 teams.

That's why the daily links sometimes seem so heavily skewed heavily to those schools -- mainly because those programs are the ones that are being written about most on a daily basis.

I'll try to look into what you said, because I also think it would be an interesting survey. And I'm always looking for another chart!


Heather for Austin writes: Tim, I keep hearing it reported that this year's Texas vs. OU game will be played at the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington, but I could have sworn that the game was still being played at the State Fair's Cotton Bowl. What's the correct story?

Tim Griffin: Heather, rest assured that the Texas-Oklahoma game will be played in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 17. Next time you're through there you might want to find a parking spot for the game. It's never too early.

But officials from both schools and the city of Dallas signed a contract in 2007 that will keep the game at Fair Park through 2015.

The Dallas Cowboys' new stadium will offer all of the bells and whistles imaginable. But there's still something to be said about playing the Texas-Oklahoma game at the venerable Cotton Bowl with the State Fair of Texas as the backdrop.

It's when I allow myself to have my one corny dog of the year. I couldn't think of staging that game without the taunts and heckling I hear every year on the midway before and after the game. It quite simply is the most unique backdrop for any sports event I've ever experienced. And the game would be lessened immeasurably if it ever was to move.


Spencer from Iowa City, Iowa writes: Tim, I'm thinking a lot about the 2009 college football season, and one of the things that I can't decide is if Texas or Oklahoma is better. I know that the Sooners lose a lot of offensive linemen and wide receivers, and Texas loses a lot on their defensive line. Who do you think will be better, and why?

Tim Griffin: Spencer, first of all, I'm thinking a lot about the 2009 season, too. I wish it started this weekend, to be exact.

But to answer your question, I give Texas the slimmest of margins over the Sooners because I think their defensive line will prove to be too difficult for the young Oklahoma offensive line to contain. I think everything else about cancels the other factors out. I expect the Sooners to be much better on defense this season. I think one critical part to watch for Oklahoma will be improvement in the special teams. That was a huge liability for them all season. The Jordan Shipley kickoff return against them last year turned the game around.

I know Bob Stoops will be working his group with zest and fervor to try to get those special-teams shortcomings straightened out all through fall camp. I think growth in that unit could be the key for the Sooners to turn around their recent slump against Texas that has seen them lose three of the last four games in the series to the Longhorns.


Justin Pin
kerman from Atlanta, Ga., writes:
Hi Tim, as a Husker fan in ACC/SEC country, your blog helps me stay abreast of Big 12 news. Thanks for all of the great content. When I assess Nebraska's 2009 schedule, I see five home games they should win: the three against Sun Belt foes, and the two versus Big 12 teams in transition (ISU and KSU). I also doubt NU can beat either of its likely Top 10 opponents: Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. To me the remaining five games on the schedule are all swing games that will define the Huskers? How do you envision them faring in these contests? 1) @ Missouri 2) Texas Tech 3) @ Baylor 4) @ Kansas 5) @ Colorado. I wonder if you could rank your chances of them winning all of those games in order.

Tim Griffin: Justin, thanks for the kind words. Here is the way I would rank the games in order of difficulty, with the easiest first.

1. Texas Tech: Division-winning teams are supposed to win home games like this.
2. At Baylor: The Bears will be better, but Nebraska still should win this one.
3. At Missouri: I know the game will be on Thursday night, but it will be the first major conference test for Blaine Gabbert. And something tells me that Bo Pelini will have his defense watching the films of last year's game for inspiration leading into the game.
4. At Kansas: The Jayhawks will likely be desperate for a victory considering their tough South Division schedule. But if Nebraska can rush Todd Reesing like last season, they might have a better chance to sneak out with an upset than some might think.
5. At Colorado: I think the Buffaloes will be ready for this game this season. The two teams were very close last season and I think playing at altitude might benefit the Buffaloes this time around.


David Gibson of Vernon, Texas, writes: When will the first (preseason or whatever) 2009 college football poll be released? By whom? Thanks.

Tim Griffin: David, I take it that you are talking about the two major polls that most people consider as the most reputable -- the Associated Press media poll and the USA Today coaches' poll.

I don't have the exact dates that they will run, but typically the coaches' poll comes out in early August, usually on a Friday morning. The AP media poll will be released a couple of weeks later, usually on a Saturday a week or so before the season starts.

Several of my readers wrote to disagree with my stance on preseason polls. They do play an important part of shaping national perception and if we backed off on them for a couple of weeks into the season, it would drastically change them.

But they also add excitement to the month of August. Every college football fan voraciously devours those polls. They are curious where their teams are ranked, as well as others. I think we would missing out on something if we stopped this. That's why I would hope that they remain.


Chuck Roberts of Dallas writes: Seriously, what is the deal with coaches not signing their contracts? I don't think Bob Huggins signed his during his brief stay at K-State. Billy Gillespie may be wishing he'd signed his at Kentucky. I've always wondered why the schools go ahead and pay the coaches when they haven't signed their contracts. It seems to me they should withhold the paycheck until the contract is signed. That would get some results. What do you think?

Tim Griffin: Chuck, I agree with you. I find it hard to believe that anybody would ever leave the opportunity of confirming a multi-million dollar contract with a simple signature won't take the time to do it. But then, I'm sure most of them are in a different income-tax bracket than either me and you are, aren't they?

Thanks again for all of the good questions this week. Enjoy the weekend and I look forward to more next week.

Wonder if Snyder visited with Pelini during his Lincoln trip?

June, 3, 2009
6/03/09
12:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder ventured deep into enemy territory Tuesday night when he visited with a group of Kansas State alumni in Lincoln, Neb.

About 175 people attended the event, which was billed as a meeting of the "Nebraskans for K-State Catbackers" club.

Several KSU fans told Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star that they were happy the legendary Snyder has returned to coaching after a three-year sabbatical.

Snyder had some interesting comments, most notably about the difficulty of returning the Wildcats to their former position among the North Division powers.

"Whether we can replicate what took place in my first tenure here, I don't know. It's far more complex, I think," Snyder told the Journal Star. "This is going to take a little time and I think most people really understand that and have an appreciation for that.

"We're all impatient. I'm impatient. Everyone else is. But patience was a virtue with all of our people back in 1989. So they've experienced that and, by and large, I think they'll be patient and understand we have a long ways to go."

The visit was notable as well because it foreshadows an intriguing Nov. 21 game between the Wildcats and Nebraska in Lincoln.

It will be the first time that Snyder will have faced a Nebraska team where Bo Pelini is the head coach.

The two were involved in a memorable confrontation on the field after a 2003 game when Kansas State posted a 38-9 victory over Nebraska when Pelini was coaching the Cornhuskers' defense.

Pelini was irate after Snyder kept his first-stringers in the game late in the one-sided contest. KSU fullback Ayo Saba rumbled for a 6-yard TD run with 1:31 left against a Nebraska defense composed of Pelini's substitutes.

That led to a meeting after the game between Pelini and Snyder where Pelini expressed his displeasure with Snyder's coaching methods.   

"I don't think I care to repeat what he called me," Snyder said at the time.

Pelini said he told Snyder he was running up the score and that he didn't appreciate it.

"That's not the way I've gone about things in the organizations I've been in," Pelini said after the loss.

Snyder appeared to beyond the old confrontation when asked about Pelini's recent success with the Cornhuskers.

"I think he's doing things the right way. I think he's matured into that position quite well," Snyder said. "I know as a coordinator and accepting all the responsibilities he had when he was at LSU, he was very, very exceptional at it. And I know (Nebraska) dramatically missed him. So I think he's doing it the right way. I think he's going to be very successful."

That 2003 KSU team claimed the Big 12 championship and might have been one of the best teams ever coached by Snyder. The Nebraska team qualified and won an Alamo Bowl that season, but not before then-coach Frank Solich was fired after the last regular-season game.

The roles will likely be reversed this season. Nebraska will have a team that most observers predict will be challenging for a Big 12 North title. KSU is in the midst of a rebuilding period.

The game between the two bitter North Division rivals should be interesting.

But not nearly as much as the meeting on the field after the game between their two head coaches -- no matter how many platitudes that Snyder had for Pelini's program Tuesday night.

And I, for one, can hardly wait.  

Judging Big 12 coaches by conference records

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
7:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Who was it that said necessity is the mother of invention?

They must have had a pretty good handle on football statistics, because I wracked my brain twice in the last week looking for a specific set of figures that I thought any upstanding conference would compile as part of a basic statistical package.

Surprise for me, I guess.

I wanted to find out the overall conference records of every coach in the history of the Big 12. These records are a strong tool to comparatively analyze coaches, I think.

All of the games are against Division I teams (unlike overall records). And the games are typically between coaches who typically get a chance to coach against each other on more than one occasion, providing a chance to make adjustments over the years as they learn more about their opponents' tendencies.

That's why I found these statistics -- compiled by me during the second half of a boring Cleveland-Atlanta basketball game last night -- to be so fascinating.

Here are my Big 12 conference won-loss figures. Records are for conference games, conference championship games and overall conference records.

Records of all coaches in Big 12 history
Name/School Conf. game W-L Pct. Conf. title game W-L Pct. Overall conf. W-L Pct.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 67-13 .838 6-1 .857 73-14 .839
Mack Brown, Texas 72-16 .818 1-2 .333 73-18 .802
Bill Snyder, Kansas State 53-27 .663 1-2 .333 54-29 .651
Mike Leach, Texas Tech 42-30 .583 0-0 .000 42-30 .583
R.C. Slocum, Texas A&M 34-22 .607 1-1 .500 35-23 .603
Gary Barnett, Colorado 34-22 .607 1-3 .250 35-25 .583
Frank Solich, Nebraska 33-15 .688 1-0 1.000 34-15 .694
Gary Pinkel, Missouri 32-32 .500 0-2 .000 32-34 .485
Dan McCarney, Iowa State 26-62 .295 0-0 .000 26-62 .295
Mark Mangino, Kansas 22-34 .393 0-0 .000 22-34 .393
Spike Dykes, Texas Tech 19-13 .594 0-0 .000 19-13 .594
Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M 19-21 .475 0-0 .000 19-21 .475
Tom Osborne, Nebraska 16-0 1.000 1-1 .500 17-1 .944
Les Miles, Oklahoma State 16-16 .500 0-0 .000 16-16 .500
Larry Smith, Missouri 16-24 .400 0-0 .000 16-24 .400
Bill Callahan, Nebraska 15-17 .469 0-1 .000 15-18 .455
Rick Neuheisel, Colorado 14-10 .583 0-0 .000 14-10 .583
Bob Simmons, Oklahoma State 14-26 .350 0-0 .000 14-26 .350
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State 13-19 .406 0-0 .000 13-19 .406
Terry Allen, Kansas 10-30 .250 0-0 .000 10-30 .250
John Mackovic, Texas 8-8 .500 1-0 1.000 9-8 .529
Ron Prince, Kansas State 9-15 .375 0-0 .000 9-15 .375
Dan Hawkins, Colorado 8-16 .333 0-0 .000 8-16 .333
John Blake, Oklahoma 8-16 .333 0-0 .000 8-16 .333
Guy Morriss, Baylor 7-33 .175 0-0 .000 7-33 .175
Bo Pelini, Nebraska 5-3 .625 0-0 .000 5-3 .625
Art Briles, Baylor 2-6 .250 0-0 .000 2-6 .250
Glen Mason, Kansas 2-6 .250 0-0 .000 2-6 .250
Mike Sherman, Texas A&M 2-6 .250 0-0 .000 2-6 .250
Gene Chizik, Iowa State 2-14 .125 0-0 .000 2-14 .125
Dave Roberts, Baylor 2-14 .125 0-0 .000 2-14 .125
Chuck Reedy, Baylor 1-7 .125 0-0 .000 1-7 .125
Kevin Steele, Baylor 1-31 .031 0-0 .000 1-31 .031

Note: Active coaches are in yellow. Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads will be in his first season as a head coach in the conference.

The numbers provide some interesting factoids.

  • I think these figures indicate that the two most underrated coaches in Big 12 coaching history are R.C. Slocum and Frank Solich.

Texas A&M has never had a Big 12 coach with a career winning percentage above .500 other than Slocum, who remains the only A&M coach to take his team to a Big 12 title game and win a conference football championship.

Solich ranks fourth in career conference winning percentage, trailing only Hall of Famer Tom Osborne and future Hall of Famers Bob Stoops and Mack Brown.

  • Here's a strike against the Bill Callahan era at Nebraska. Callahan is the only Nebraska coach since the start of the Big 12 era to have a below .500 career conference record.
  • Another underrated figure from the early days of the conference was Texas Tech's Spike Dykes, who compiled an impressive 19-13 conference record in the first four seasons in the conference. The Red Raiders have had one below .500 record during the 13-season history of the conference.
  • Want an indication of the Baylor program over the years? The three coaches who directed Baylor before Art Briles piloted the Bears to a combined 11-85 conference record, for a winning percentage of .115. That's an average of less than a victory per season.

Briles was 2-6 in his first season with Baylor last season -- more than doubling the school's average in conference victories during its previous history.

  • Bo Pelini's fast 5-3 start last season makes him one of only seven Big 12 coaches with a career winning percentage in conference games of more than .600.
  • Mack Brown leads the Big 12 with 91 conference games -- 88 regular-season games and three titles. Dan McCarney of Iowa State is second with 88 regular-season Big 12 games.   

Could Carl Crawford have saved Frank Solich's job?

May, 5, 2009
5/05/09
10:04
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Ah, what might have been.

Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star had an interesting column this morning about Carl Crawford after the jet-quick Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder tied a modern-day major-league record by stealing six bases in a game on Sunday.

Some of us still remember Crawford as a speedy quarterback from his time at Jefferson Davis High School in Houston. He also was a signee for Nebraska before opting to turn pro in baseball, where he was a second-round draft pick for the Devil Rays in the 1999 draft.

Sipple caught up with former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, who remains convinced that Crawford was an outstanding football prospect.

How good?

Solich told Sipple that if Crawford had stuck with his commitment to the Cornhuskers, Crawford could have started at quarterback for the Cornhuskers.

That's likely not a reach, considering that Crawford was offered scholarships from schools like USC, Oklahoma and Florida. He also received a basketball scholarship offer to play point guard at UCLA and was an award-winning swimmer for his high school team.

Solich said that that Crawford's arrival would have led to the move of Jammal Lord to strong safety. And Solich adds that if Lord had played that position in college, he likely would still be playing there today in the NFL.

Of course, Crawford would have faced some long odds if he had opted for a college football career. The Cornhuskers had a couple of players in front of him at the position in 1999 -- Eric Crouch and Bobby Newcombe.

But if Crawford had showed the patience and the athleticism he now shows on the baseball diamond, who's to doubt he could have lived up to Solich's claims?

Imagine if Crawford had carried on the tradition of productive multi-faceted Nebraska quarterbacks Crouch, Scott Frost and Tommie Frazier who played before him.

"He was a complete kind of quarterback -- a guy who could throw the ball well but obviously had great running ability," Solich told the Journal-Star. "We thought he could really fit everything we wanted to do. In fact, his kind of ability would've allowed us to do a great number of things."

And would it be a reach to think that maybe Solich might still be coaching the Cornhuskers if Crawford had been as good as advertised at quarterback?

The Cornhuskers were less than two seasons removed from a trip to the BCS title game when Solich was fired late in the 2003 season.

Maybe his dismissal was inevitable, considering the Cornhuskers' slide during that time.

But if Crawford had played to his lofty expectations, he might have been able to have delayed Solich's fall from grace -- if not kept it from happening altogether.

Pelini's team developing gritty attitude for comebacks

March, 23, 2009
3/23/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

A good indicator of a coach's success is how a team responds after trailing at halftime.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini had a strong first season, twice leading the Cornhuskers back from halftime deficits.

His number is even more remarkable considering that the Cornhuskers were 0-17 in games where they trailed at the half under his predecessor, Bill Callahan.

Callahan's numbers gain even more context when compared against those of his predecessor, Frank Solich. The Cornhuskers were 7-12 in games where they trailed at the half in the five-season coaching tenure of Solich.

The Huskers Playing From Behind Under Bo Pelini
Here's a look at how the Cornhuskers fared last season in games in which they trailed or were tied at halftime.
Opponent Score at half Final score
Virginia Tech 10-18 30-35, L
Missouri 10-31 17-52, L
@ Texas Tech 7-17 31-37 (OT), L
Baylor 17-20 32-20, W
@ Oklahoma 14-49 28-62, L
Kansas 14-14 45-35, W
Colorado 24-24 40-31, W
Clemson (Gator Bowl) 3-14 26-21, W

And here's a look at how the Cornhuskers' last three head coaches have fared in games where they were ahead, behind or tied at halftime. 

How The Last Three Cornhuskers Coaches Have Fared
Coach Behind Pct. Tied Pct. Ahead Pct. Overall Pct.
Frank Solich 7-12 .368 3-1 .750 48-6 .889 58-19 .753
Bill Callahan 0-17 .000 2-2 .500 25-3 .893 27-22 .551
Bo Pelini 2-4 .333 2-0 1.000 6-0 1.000 10-4 .714

Note: Pelini's record also includes his victory over Michigan in the 2003 Alamo Bowl as an interim coach.

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