Big 12: Graig Cooper

What to watch in the Big 12, Week 5

October, 1, 2009
10/01/09
7:37
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here are 10 things to watch for in Big 12 games this weekend:

1. Will Sam Bradford play or not? Oklahoma didn’t look like it needed Bradford in back-to-back victories over Idaho State and Tulsa. A trip to Land Shark Stadium Saturday night against Miami might be different. The Sooners offense hummed when Landry Jones threw for a school-record six touchdown passes against Tulsa. It might be in for a more challenging game against Miami, which will be looking to bounce back after the its struggles last week at Virginia Tech.

2. Oklahoma’s defensive dominance: The Sooners enter the game with a scoreless streak of 123 minutes, 3 seconds after posting back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1987. The unit is still haunted by the late touchdown it allowed in the opener against BYU that ended up being the difference in that loss. Since then, the Sooners have forced nearly as many punts (19) as first downs allowed (22), and allowed opponents a scant 2.39 yards per snap. Miami, however, will be a different challenge with Jacory Harris, Graig Cooper, Javarris James and Leonard Hankerson all ready.

3. Texas A&M’s first big test: The Aggies have emerged as one of the nation’s biggest statistical surprises as they rank among the top seven teams nationally in rushing, passing, total yards and scoring and lead the nation in sacks. Those feats have all been accomplished against a tissue-soft schedule that hasn’t provided a true test yet. That will all change Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium as Arkansas and massive quarterback Ryan Mallett will challenge A&M in ways it hasn't seen yet this season.

4. Jerrod Johnson: The Aggies’ junior quarterback has shown vast growth since last season as he ranks third in the nation in total offense and is coming off a record game where he accounted for six touchdowns against UAB. Johnson has rushed for four touchdowns, passed for nine touchdowns and yet to be intercepted in 111 attempts this season. Arkansas will be his first BCS conference opponent of the season, but the Razorbacks have struggled against the pass. It could be more of the same for them against Johnson, too.

5. Alexander Robinson’s amazing recent rushing streak: Robinson’s cutback running has been a key to Iowa State’s 3-1 start as he’s rushed for 100 yards in his last three games -- the first Iowa State player to accomplish that feat since Ennis Haywood rushed for at least 100 yards in his first four games of the 2000 season. Robinson has provided some nice balance to what was expected to be a pass-heavy attack. His production will be pivotal as the Cyclones attempt to take a big step toward getting closer to bowl eligibility against Kansas State on Saturday.

6. Paul Rhoads vs. Bill Snyder: The conference’s two new coaches this season have a wide difference in coaching game experience as Kansas State’s Bill Snyder will be directing the Wildcats in his 209th career game and Paul Rhoads will be coaching Iowa State in his fourth. There’s some history between these two as Snyder used to recruit the high schools where Rhoads’ father, Cecil, worked during Rhoads' Hall of Fame career as a high school coach in Iowa. It will be interesting to see if Snyder’s experience provides him an edge in this matchup.

7. “The Dysfunctional Bowl:” Which coach has faced more off-the-field headlines this weekend? Is it Mike Leach’s Texas Tech team that dropped a disappointing loss at Houston, soon followed by the indefinite suspension of team captain Brandon Carter and Leach's banning of his team’s tweeting privileges after several uncomplimentary remarks became widely known. Or is it New Mexico’s Mike Locksley, who has received verbal and written reprimands from his superiors at New Mexico after splitting the upper lip of receivers coach J.B. Gerald after an altercation where a police report was filed. And that’s on top of an 0-4 start for the Lobos. It’s obvious that playing the game will be a relief for both coaches.

8. Texas Tech’s emerging running game: The Red Raiders appeared to have taken control of the game against Houston behind a bruising running game, keyed by a career night by Baron Batch, who rushed for a career-best 114 yards last week. Tech inexplicably got away from running the ball late in the Houston game and that switch might have cost them the game after the Red Raiders appeared to have dictated tempo during the middle of the game. They will have another chance Saturday against New Mexico, which ranks 111th in rushing defense and allowed 245 rushing yards to Texas A&M and 298 to Air Force earlier this season. The Red Raiders won’t run for that much, but they should be able to control the trenches against the Lobos, leading to a big game rushing if they want it.

9. Can Colorado build on its first 2009 victory? The Buffaloes are coming off a bye week after their triumph over Wyoming that turned some of Dan Hawkins’ self-described “conflama” that had dogged his program after two losses to start the season. His team will be facing a tough Thursday night challenge against West Virginia, which blew a fourth-quarter lead in the turnover-marred loss at Auburn. Colorado is a huge underdog in this game and will need a big effort to keep the game from getting away like earlier nationally televised losses to Colorado State and Toledo.

10. Baylor’s injury-plagued quarterbacks: Robert Griffin sustained a season-ending knee injury last week against Northwestern State. His backup, Blake Szymanski, bruised his shoulder later in the game and is listed as day to day. Szymanski will try to keep Baylor’s momentum going against Kent State, if he’s healthy. But if he can’t play, freshman Nick Florence will make the first start of his career against the Golden Flashes. Baylor’s bowl hopes -- so bright after their upset victory over Wake Forest to start the season -- have never looked more evanescent since Griffin’s injury.

Fast-learning Marve improves in second start

September, 20, 2008
9/20/08
9:33
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Even after an unexpected break Saturday and some early success, Miami freshman quarterback Robert Marve was determined to come back for more.

 
 AP Photo/Dave Einsel
  Robert Marve threw two touchdown passes as Miami picked apart Texas A&M's defense in a 41-23 rout Saturday.

Marve rebounded after missing a couple of series midway through the second quarter to efficiently direct the Miami offense in a convincing 41-23 victory over Texas A&M.

It wasn't always easy. Marve felt the crush of Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, who knocked him out of the game after a well-timed blitz.

"It was one of those plays where you're wide open and have your chest exposed," Marve said. "They had a great rush all day. They just got under my pads and knocked me down. It was kind of hard getting back off of it."

After collecting his senses along the sidelines, Marve wanted coaches to know he was ready. After several plays out he rifled a 26-yard TD pass to Thearon Collier -- his first career touchdown pass -- to extend Miami's halftime lead to 24-10.

If anybody needed any reminders of Marve's toughness, they could be seen looking at his playing apparel. He still wears a plastic glove on his left hand after missing last season after severe injuries to his left hand -- a broken wrist, deep cuts and a dislocated ring finger -- sustained in an automobile accident.

So something like a blitzing linebacker definitely wouldn't keep him down, he said.

"I knew I was coming back," Marve said. "I just had my wind knocked out. It wasn't any big thing. I knew I would be back."

Marve looked much more relaxed and composed in his second career start. The Hurricanes' big-play was visible with eight "explosive plays" -- runs of 18 yards or more and passes of 20 yards or more -- including five in the first half. Their single-game high last season for a game was five explosive plays.

Included in the surge Saturday were early touchdown runs of 19 and 51 yards by Graig Cooper on Miami's second and third running plays that enabled Miami to take early control of the game. Those big plays set the tone for Miami's 398-yard offensive production.

"We got those touchdowns early and it really gave us confidence," Marve said. "That really boosted us early and we went from there."

It would have been understandable if his confidence had been dragging after the Hurricanes' disappointing 26-3 loss at Florida on Sept. 6. Marve made his first career start, but the Hurricanes produced only 140 yards and less than three yards a snap in a feeble performance against a ferocious Gator defense.

"Anybody playing against a top-five team at their place on national television, of course, everybody will be a little tighter," Marve said. "We just tried to relax a little bit today and go from there."

Even as Marve said his demeanor didn't change from his first start, some elements came easier for him. The result was his first career victory and something for the Hurricanes to build on as Atlantic Coast Conference play approaches.

"I saw the safeties out there better and I think my eyes were open a little more," Marve said. "I'm very satisfied with the win. It's something good to build on."

Hurricanes cruising as Johnson struggles early

September, 20, 2008
9/20/08
5:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The development of Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson has endured a few rocky plays along the way in his first start.

After a fast start, two bad plays by Johnson helped set up Miami's final two scoring drives en route to a 24-10 halftime advantage.

Johnson ran out of bounds to kill the clock late in the first half. It provided just enough of an opening to allow Miami to score its final touchdown of the half on a three-play drive with 20 seconds left.

Earlier in the second quarter, Johnson fumbled while carrying the ball loosely on a scramble, knocking A&M out of field position.

His start came as Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee was unable to play with a sprained shoulder that he sustained Sept. 6 against New Mexico. Johnson will play better as career continues. But he'll look back to the first half of his first career start with more struggles than success. 

Miami quarterback Robert Marve was knocked out for several series midway through the second quarter after he was smashed by A&M linebacker Von Miller on a blitz.

But Marve bounced back to direct Miami's final drive, including a TD pass to Thearon Collier to punctuate Miami's offensive blitz.

Miami's speed and athleticism appears to be the major advantage -- just like last season when the Hurricanes cruised to an easy victory over the Aggies in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes took advantage of two big special teams plays -- a 41-yard kickoff return by Brandon Davis and a 44-yard punt return by Travis Benjamin -- to set up two scoring drives.

Early scoring binge at Kyle Field

September, 20, 2008
9/20/08
4:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Miami and Texas A&M were supposed to be struggling on offense.

Redshirt freshman QB Robert Marve sparked the Hurricanes to two touchdowns on their first three plays from scrimmage to give them an early 14-10 lead after the first quarter.

Defenses were expected to dominate in this game. But both offenses -- Miami came in ranked 105th in total offense and Texas A&M 109th -- looked like they had received a shot of adenaline before the game.

The Aggies were having trouble matching up with tailback Graig Cooper, who scored a pair of touchdowns to account for Miami's early scoring. And Miami had another touchdown wiped out when a 61-yard pass from Marve to Thearon Collier was wiped out by an illegal shift.

A&M dominated time of possession in the first quarter and rolled up 174 yards of total offense. Quarterback Jerrod Johnson played confidently in the early going, completing a 62-yard pass to Michael Goodson for a touchdown on his first play.

If this pace continues, the scoreboard operators are going to get as big of a workout as the players on the field. But something tells me the muggy conditions aren't going to allow this scoring binge to continue.

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