Big 12: Larry Smith

Davison's game-saving catch ranks as Big 12's No. 4 memory

July, 7, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Davison's dramatic grab keeps Nebraska's winning streak alive

Date: Nov. 8, 1997
Place: Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.
Score: Nebraska 45, Missouri 38 (OT)

Nebraska needed a huge break to keep its 1997 national title hopes alive.

The Cornhuskers got that and more when freshman receiver Matt Davison grabbed a kicked ball for a game-tying touchdown against Missouri. His dramatic play forced overtime and resuscitated the Cornhuskers' national title hopes.

The dramatic score is one of the most memorable play in the Cornhuskers' Big 12 history and certainly ranks with Johnny Rodgers' dramatic 1971 punt return against Oklahoma and Tommie Frazier's 75-yard scoring run against Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

The New York Times described Davison's heroics the following day in a headline as a "fluke score."

Nebraska was trailing by seven points with 12 seconds left when Davison's made the big play.

Quarterback Scott Frost's pass to the end zone was knocked out of wide receiver Shevin Wiggins' grasp. Missouri defensive back Harold Piersey appeared poised to intercept the ball, but Wiggins inadvertently kicked the ball into the air on his way down. Davison was ready to make a diving grab in the end zone, pouncing on it just before it hit the turf for the touchdown.

The dramatics shocked Missouri fans who had stormed the field. Those fans appeared ready to rip down the goal posts to celebrate what would have been the Tigers' first victory over Nebraska since 1978. Instead, they had to get ready for overtime.

Frost made the most of the break, scoring three plays into overtime on a 12-yard scamper for his fourth touchdown run of the game. Missouri had two incomplete passes and a 3-yard gain before quarterback Corby Jones was sacked by Grant Wistrom and Mike Rucker to preserve the victory.

Nebraska, which came into the game as a 29-point favorite, had to work hard to escape with the victory as Missouri dominated most of the game.

Jones jolted the No. 3 defense for three touchdown passes and also rushed for 60 yards, although he was sacked five times by the Cornhuskers.

He was effective early in the game, but Frost's touchdown runs of 16 yards and 1 yard before the end of the first quarter gave the Cornhuskers a 14-7 lead.

Missouri reclaimed the lead at 24-21 at the half after striking for 10 late points. Scott Knickman's 39-yard field goal and a 39-yard touchdown pass from Jones to tailback Brock Olivo gave the Tigers the lead.

Frost boosted Nebraska back into the lead late in the third quarter on a 1-yard keeper, but Missouri answered with Devin West's 62-yard kickoff return on the ensuing play for good field position. Jones then scored on a 6-yard run to enable the Tigers to reclaim the lead at 31-28.

The Cornhuskers tied the game on Kris Brown's 44-yard field goal with 10:50 left in the game. But Missouri responded after Piersey's interception to the Nebraska 30. Jones then hit H-back Eddie Brooks on a 15-yard scoring pass with 4:38 left, boosting Missouri to a 38-31 lead.

Missouri squandered a chance to ice the victory in regulation when Jones was stuffed on a third-and-3 option play. Jason Smith's ensuing punt pinned Nebraska at its own 33 with 1:02 left before the dramatic game-tying possession.

It was just enough time for a miracle. And Nebraska made the most of its opportunity.

They said it, part I: "One stinking play," Missouri coach Larry Smith, expressing his disgust to reporters after the game.

They said it, part II: "We wanted to shock the world tonight. But the end of that game shocked us. We should have won that game. That's all there is to it," Missouri guard Craig Heimburger, in his postgame comments to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

They said it, part III: "It was floating like a punt, kind of end over end. It seemed like it took forever for the ball to get there," Nebraska wide receiver Matt Davison, telling reporters about his recollection of the play.

They said it, part IV: "We fought our (butts) off and came up short. It hurts so bad. We could have had it, should have had it," Missouri fullback Ron Janes, expressing his disappointment to the Columbia Daily Tribune after the loss.

They said it, part V: "He told me, 'We got lucky.' And he's right, they did," Smith, telling reporters of his postgame conversation with Nebraska coach Tom Osborne.

Factoids: Frost rushed for 141 yards on 23 carries and passed for 175 yards by completing 11-of-24 passes ... Jones completed 12 of 20 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns with one interception ... Missouri failed in its bid for its first upset over a No. 1 ranked team in school history ... The Cornhuskers' victory extended their winning streak of 37 consecutive conference games and 19 straight victories over Missouri ... Brown's fourth-quarter field goal was his 10th straight -- a then-Nebraska school record ... Nebraska produced 353 rushing yards, paced by a game-high 189 rushing yards by Ahman Green on 30 carries ... Nebraska had a 528-386 edge in total yards ... Davison had caught only seven passes for 117 yards and no touchdowns before his memorable reception.

The upshot: Nebraska fell from No. 1 to No. 3 in the polls the following week. But they returned to No. 2 two weeks later and remained there, even after a smashing 54-15 victory over Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game in San Antonio. The Cornhuskers then whipped No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, 42-17 in the Bowl Alliance's top game.

That victory enabled Osborne to finish his career with a 14-game winning streak as the Cornhuskers spoiled Peyton Manning's final college game. Nebraska (13-0) finished No. 2 behind Michigan in the Associated Press media poll, but nosed out the Wolverines in the coaches' poll for a share of the national title.

Missouri finished the season with a 35-24 loss to Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl. The Tigers were 7-5 and No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll, the first time they had been ranked at season's end since finishing No. 19 in 1981.

The countdown:

5. Bamboozled three times. Boise State's gadget plays doom Oklahoma.
6. Yes, Sirr. Parker's' dramatic catches lead A&M to first Big 12 title.
7. Crouch's TD catch cements Heisman bid, beats Oklahoma.
8. Sproles and Roberson stun top-ranked OU, leading KSU to its first Big 12 title.
9. Emotional A&M victory brings closure after Bonfire tragedy.
10. Roll left: James Brown guarantees victory and then backs it up.
11. When BCS meant "Boo Chris Simms" in Colorado's first Big 12 title.
12. A Buffalo stampede: Six
Chris Brown TDs
lead Colorado past Nebraska.
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.

Mythical Big 12-SEC challenge: No. 11 KSU vs. No. 11 Vandy

June, 26, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Kansas State (Big 12 No. 11) vs. Vanderbilt (SEC No. 11)

Kansas State's record against the SEC: 1-1
Vanderbilt's record against the Big 12: 0-0
Previous series: Vanderbilt leads, 1-0
Most recent meeting: Vanderbilt, 26-14, in a 1984 game in Nashville.

Distance between them (according to How Far Is It): 576 miles
Where they should play: Pottersville, Mo. (295 miles from Nashville, 305 from Manhattan)

Who wins: Vanderbilt

Why: The Commodores appear to have more experience coming back with nine starters offensively and defensively. And underrated coach Bobby Johnson has the kind of back seven on defense that could give whoever plays quarterback for Kansas State fits. With top players like cornerback Myron Lewis and linebackers Chris Marve and Patrick Benoist, the Commodores likely could keep Brandon Banks bottled up, too.

I would also give a slight advantage to the Commodores at quarterback. Bill Snyder will be starting a player with little game experience when he finally makes his decision later this summer. The Commodores could lean on Larry Smith, who led them to their bowl victory last season, or senior Mackenzi Adams, who started nine games last season.

The coaching acumen of Snyder would keep the Wildcats close in this one, but the Commodores have too much experience and too many defensive playmakers.

Monday: Texas A&M (Big 12 No. 10) vs. Tennessee (SEC No. 10)

The count: SEC, 2-0.

Judging Big 12 coaches by conference records

May, 6, 2009

Posted by'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.