Big 12: Teddy Lehman
With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:
RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).
RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.
WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.
TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.
OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.
OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.
OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.
OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.
C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.
APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.
DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.
DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.
DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.
LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.
LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.
LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.
CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.
S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.
S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.
K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.
KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.
PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.
See more on my criteria here.
Let's move on with the lsit:
No. 9: Roy Williams, S, Oklahoma (1999-2001)
Why he's on the list: Williams will hold a special place in Oklahoma history as the starting safety and the best player for the Sooners' seventh national title team back in 2000. That was Bob Stoops' second season at OU and Oklahoma hasn't taken home the crystal football since. Williams was one of the hardest hitters in Big 12 history and was a trailblazer for a position that's become commonplace in the Big 12. It's colloquially referred to as the "Roy" position by some around the program, but the 220-pounder was a safety who played closer to the line of scrimmage as a linebacker and introduced a lot more speed. It's not the exact same, but most programs call it the nickel back now, though Williams defended in a Big 12 with a lot less passing. Nobody at Oklahoma's been as good at doing what Williams did, but he cemented his legacy with one of the most famous plays in school history.
Nursing a 7-3 lead in the final minutes of the 2001 Red River Rivalry, Williams lept over the defensive line and hit Chris Simms a split second after the snap, knocking the ball loose and into Teddy Lehman's hands for a touchdown to clinch the win. That season, Williams won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's top defender and collected the Thorpe Award as the game's best defensive back, earning unanimous All-American honors along the way. He left Oklahoma a season early to pursue his lengthy NFL career that included five Pro Bowls, but there's no doubt about his status as one of the best and most influential defenders in college football history, much less Big 12 history.
The rest of the list:
- A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State
- Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State
- Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
- Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State
- Demontre Hurst, CB, Oklahoma
- Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
- Brodrick Brown, CB, Oklahoma State
- Stansly Maponga, DE, TCU
- Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
- Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
- Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
That's a pretty good list. The biggest snubs in my book are all cornerbacks. Where is Texas' duo of Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs? And what about Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert. All deserving.
Last season, Tyrann Mathieu became the second consecutive LSU player to win the award, following up Patrick Peterson in 2010.
Ndamukong Suh (2009) was the last Big 12 player to win the award. Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma (2003) was the last player among current Big 12 teams to take home the trophy.
All-time Top Offensive Player: Vince Young, QB, Texas
All-time Top Defensive Player: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
All-time Coach: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
QB: Vince Young, Texas
RB: Ricky Williams, Texas and Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech and Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State
TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri
OL: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska; Jammal Brown, Oklahoma; Aaron Taylor, Nebraska; Justin Blalock, Texas; Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
DL: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska; Tommie Harris, Oklahoma; Grant Wistrom, Nebraska; Brian Orakpo, Texas
LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas; Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M; Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma; Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma
DB: Roy Williams, Oklahoma; Terence Newman, Kansas State; Derrick Strait, Oklahoma; Michael Huff, Texas
All-purpose: Darren Sproles, Kansas State
K: Mason Crosby, Colorado
P: Daniel Sepulveda, Baylor
Here's how it breaks down by team:
1. Oklahoma: 7
2. Texas: 6
3. Nebraska: 4
4. Kansas State: 2
4. Oklahoma State: 2
6. Baylor: 1
6. Colorado: 1
6. Texas A&M: 1
6. Texas Tech: 1
11. Iowa State: 0
11. Kansas: 0
Who got snubbed? Who doesn't belong?
It was a tough choice at several positions, but here's my all-decade team.
Please feel free to provide any changes you would make, and explain why you would make them.
Believe me, it's a hard choice. I spent more than an hour trying to choose between Darren Sproles and Cedric Benson and Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman.
QB: Vince Young, Texas
RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
RB: Cedric Benson, Texas
WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
WR: Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State
TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri
T: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
T: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma
G: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
G: Derrick Dockery, Texas
C: Andre Gurode, Colorado
DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas
DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma
DE: Dan Cody, Oklahoma
LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas
LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma
LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State
CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma
S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma
S: Michael Huff, Texas
K: Mason Crosby, Colorado
P: Daniel Sepulveda, Baylor
Ret: Wes Welker, Texas Tech
All of those accomplishments are a testament to Bob Stoops, one of two conference coaches to direct his team throughout the decade.
Setting the Sooners’ all-decade team was difficult. The choice at wide receiver next to Mark Clayton was extremely difficult. Malcolm Kelly, Juaquin Iglesias or Ryan Broyles all would have been good choices. I went with Broyles because of his proficiency despite constant double-team defenses this season when he produced 89 receptions.
And at quarterback, I went with Sam Bradford over Jason White in a tough positional choice between two Heisman Trophy winners.
Here’s my choice for Oklahoma’s all-decade team.
QB: Sam Bradford
RB: Adrian Peterson
RB: Quentin Griffin
WR: Mark Clayton
WR: Ryan Broyles
TE: Jermaine Gresham
OL: Jammal Brown
OL: Trent Williams
OL: Davin Joseph
OL: Phil Loadholt
C: Vince Carter
DL: Dan Cody
DL: Tommie Harris
DL: Gerald McCoy
DL: Jeremy Beal
LB: Teddy Lehman
LB: Rocky Calmus
LB: Curtis Lofton
DB: Derrick Strait
DB: Roy Williams
DB: Andre Woolfolk
DB: Brandon Everage
K: Garrett Hartley
P: Jeff Ferguson
Ret: Ryan Broyles
Offensive player of the decade: QB Sam Bradford. He became the first quarterback in Big 12 history to lead his team to back-to-back titles, capping his sophomore season by throwing for 50 touchdowns and earning the Heisman Trophy. His final season in college didn’t go as expected, but he still leaves school as a player who will be immortalized with a statue at Owen Field in the not-too-distant future.
Defensive player of the decade: S Roy Williams. He was such a natural that Bob Stoops created a position “the Roy” especially for his talents. He set the standard as a physical run-stuffing safety and sealed his legacy with the hit on Chris Simms that sealed the 2001 victory over Texas.
Coach of the decade: Bob Stoops. The only coach of the decade for the Sooners had more unprecedented early success than any coach in Big 12 history, winning the national championship in his second season and claiming a record six conference championships. They aren’t calling him “Big Game Bob” as much as before, but Stoops still ranks among the most pivotal figures in Big 12 history.
Most memorable moment of the decade: On a misty night at Pro Player Stadium, the Sooners’ defense turned in a masterful performance to claim the 2001 Orange Bowl and bring home the 2000 national championship. Josh Heupel managed to direct the offense despite a sore elbow and the Oklahoma defense would have pitched a shutout in a 13-2 triumph over Florida State except for a special-teams safety in the final minute of play.
- 1. Vince Young's game-winning touchdown in the 2006 Rose Bowl: Anyone who was there or saw it will never forget Young's 8-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left that led Texas to a 41-38 triumph over USC and the 2005 national championship.
- 2. Michael Crabtree's last-second grab stuns Texas: Crabtree's game-winning 28-yard catch with one second left did more than merely wrap up the biggest victory in Texas Tech history, a 39-33 win over Texas. It heralded a national coming-out party for Crabtree and the rest of the Tech program, setting the stage for the wild three-way South Division tie in 2008.
- 3. Superman's leap: Roy Williams' dramatic blitz forced Chris Simms to throw an interception to Teddy Lehman, who returned it for the game-winning touchdown in Oklahoma's 14-3 triumph over Texas in 2001.
- 4. Torrance Marshall's theft saves the season: Texas A&M was driving, but Marshall's 41-yard fourth-quarter interception return provided a game-winning touchdown and a 35-31 triumph over the Aggies at Kyle Field. The big play preserved Oklahoma's victory in the Sooners' toughest challenge en route to the 2000 national championship.
- 5. Eric Crouch's catch cements Heisman bid, beats Oklahoma: Crouch's 63-yard TD reception on a throwback pass from freshman receiver Mike Stuntz was Crouch's signature moment on his path to the 2001 Heisman Trophy and sparked a 20-10 triumph over Oklahoma.
- 6. Darren Sproles sparks Kansas State's stunning 2003 Big 12 title game upset: Darren Sproles rushed for 235 yards -- the most gained against an Oklahoma defense ever to that point -- and Ell Roberson added four touchdown passes to help Kansas State claim its first Big 12 title in a 35-7 upset over No. 1 Oklahoma.
- 7. Hunter Lawrence's kick pushes Texas into national title game: Despite a sputtering performance by Colt McCoy that included nine sacks and three interceptions, Texas held on for a 13-12 victory over Nebraska in the 2009 title game on a 46-yard field goal by Hunter Lawrence on the final play of the game. Lawrence's game-winning kick came only after McCoy nearly squandered the opportunity by throwing the ball out of bounds on the previous play as the clock originally appeared to have expired. Officials put time back on the clock, setting the stage for Lawrence's heroics.
- 8. Chris Brown gashes the Cornhuskers: Colorado running back Chris Brown ripped Nebraska for 198 yards and six touchdowns, boosting the Buffaloes to a wild 62-36 victory over Nebraska that snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Cornhuskers. Brown's big game sent the Buffaloes to the 2001 Big 12 title game, which they won the following week against Texas.
- 9. Postgame clash of the titans: Oklahoma State's 49-45 victory over Texas Tech in 2007 produced one of the most memorable games in Big 12 history. The teams compiled 94 points, 62 first downs and 1,328 yards. But all of the action on the field was upstaged in a wild postgame battle of soundbites when Mike Leach questioned the toughness of his defense and Mike Gundy berated an Oklahoma City columnist who he felt had unfairly portrayed quarterback Bobby Reid.
- 10. Kyle Field's nod to patriotism: Texas A&M's 21-7 victory over Oklahoma State wasn't what was so memorable. It was that the Aggies fans decked out Kyle Field in red, white and blue in the first game after the 9/11 attacks on the country in 2001. Thousands of fans transformed the old stadium into a patriotic rainbow in a memory that endures to this day.
Texas' Sergio Kindle and Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon both were among the finalists announced Friday by the Butkus Foundation.
Kindle has produced 49 tackles, three sacks, 14 tackles for losses, 26 quarterback pressures , forced two fumbles and broken up two passes this season for the Longhorns. He's alternated between linebacker and defensive end.
Weatherspoon leads the Tigers with 93 tackles with 12 tackles for losses, 3 1/2 sacks, two pass deflections, an interception, a forced fumble and a quarterback pressure.
The winner of the award will be announced in early December.
The five Butkus Award finalists include:
- Sergio Kindle, Texas
- Rolando McClain, Alabama
- Eric Norwood, South Carolina
- Brandon Spikes, Florida
- Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
Four different Big 12 players have been awarded the Butkus Award since the conference began play in 1996 -- Colorado's Matt Russell (1996), Oklahoma's Rocky Calmus (2001), Oklahoma's Teddy Lehman (2003) and Texas' Derrick Johnson (2004). And schools from the Big 12 and the Big Ten have produced the most winners since the award began in 1985 with eight honorees apiece.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Four Big 12 linebackers were named Friday as semifinalists for the Butkus Award, presented each year by the Butkus Foundation to the nation's best linebacker.
Among those who were named include Oklahoma's Travis Lewis, Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon, Texas A&M's Von Miller and Texas' Sergio Kindle.
Interestingly, both Miller and Kindle have gotten much of their use this season as pass-rushing defensive ends.
Here's a look at the complete group of 16 semifinalists.
- Obi Ezeh, Michigan
- Chris Galippo, USC
- Greg Jones, Michigan State
- Sean Lee, Penn State
- Rolando McClain, Alabama
- Brandon Spikes, Florida
- Daryl Washington, TCU
- Eric Norwood, South Carolina
- Perry Riley, LSU
- Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
- Rennie Curran, Georgia
- Mark Herzlich, Boston College
- Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
- Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
- Von Miller, Texas A&M
- Sergio Kindle, Texas
Lewis has one thing going for him as he continues his quest for the award. No school has produced more Butkus Award winners than Oklahoma, which has four previous winners. Among the former Sooners who won the award include Brian Bosworth in 1985 and 1986, Rocky Calmus in 2001 and Teddy Lehman in 2003.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Superman's leap: Roy Williams' tipped pass leads to OU's game-clinching
Date: Oct. 6, 2001
Place: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
Score: Oklahoma 14, Texas 3
Bob Stoops warned Roy Williams not to leave his feet.
Fortunately for the Sooners, Williams didn't listen. His well-timed jump led to arguably the biggest defensive play in Big 12 history and the clinching moment of one of Stoops' most memorable and satisfying victories.
With Texas at its own 3-yard line, the Sooners' blitzing safety came up with the biggest of plays. His leap enabled him to hit the elbow of Texas quarterback Chris Simms, deflecting his attempted pass. The ball squirted into the hands of surprised Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman, who returned it 2 yards for a clinching touchdown with 2:01 left, capping a masterful defensive performance.
The Sooners claimed the victory in the annual rivalry, which had added importance in 2001 because both teams were ranked in the top five coming into the game for the first time since 1984.
And both played strongly in a memorable defensive slugfest that was won by Williams' heroics and a gritty relief performance by Oklahoma backup quarterback Jason White, who replaced injured starter Nate Hybl in the second quarter.
White made the most of his coming-out party, finishing by completing 16 of 23 passes for 108 yards. And he was just as effective as a scrambler, rushing for a team-high 38 yards on 12 carries.
Oklahoma tailback Quentin Griffin, who gashed the Longhorns for six touchdowns in a memorable 2000 performance, accounted for the game's lone offensive touchdown. The diminutive tailback took an option pitch from White and scooted 2 yards for a touchdown around left end to give the Sooners an early 7-0 lead, capping an 11-play, 61-yard scoring drive.
Texas struck back when Dusty Mangum converted on a 27-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the first half to pull the Longhorns within 7-3 at the break.
And that's how the score remained for most of the rest of the game as both teams' defenses alternated coming up with big plays.
Simms was terrorized by a blitzing Oklahoma defense which produced four interceptions, including three in the fourth quarter. He was also sacked five times, including three by speedy Oklahoma defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson.
The Longhorns appeared to have grabbed momentum late in the third quarter after Duncan shanked a 24-yard attempt and the Sooners failed on three straight plays inside the Texas 5-yard line.
The Longhorns were turned away on their deepest fourth-quarter possession at the Oklahoma 34 when Simms was intercepted by Antonio Perkins in the Sooners' end zone. Simms was aiming for Sloan Thomas on a post pattern.
Oklahoma then took the ensuing drive for nearly six-and-a-half minutes as they marched to the Texas 27. But Stoops eschewed another field goal attempt by Tim Duncan, who had missed two earlier, in favor of a pooch punt from Duncan.
The strategy worked perfectly as confused Texas defensive back Nathan Vasher fielded the kick and was immediately stopped at his own 3.
With all of their timeouts remaining, Texas coach Mack Brown said after the game that his team planned to win the game on the ensuing drive.
But Williams and his leap took care of that on the next play, icing a dramatic victory that still resonates as one of the best defensive performances in the Stoops era.
They said it, part I: "To keep them out of the end zone, to have five sacks, force four interceptions. ... It's just amazing," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops on his team's big defensive effort.
They said it, part II: "Roy made a great play on the quarterback. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman on his interception caused by Roy Williams' "Superman" leap.
They said it, part III: ''We were so close. We knew it was going to be a dog fight. Nothing fooled us. We got exactly what we expected.'' Texas quarterback Chris Simms on his team's disappointment after the loss.
They said it, part IV: ''It was two great defenses and two offenses trying to scratch them. It was a great football game. Both teams played as hard as they could," Texas coach Mack Brown on the bitter defensive struggle.
They said it, part V: "It was like two Mack trucks running into each other for 3 hours and 15 minutes," Brown on the physical nature of the game.
They said it, part VI: "Jason showed great leadership and toughness. He executed exceptionally well today coming off the bench. He had a solid game all around," Stoops on White's relief effort.
Factoids: The victory extended Oklahoma's winning streak to 18 games and marked the Sooners' second-straight victory over Texas ... White had thrown six passes in his career before this game, including four in the 2001 season ... Simms completed 24 of 42 passes for 198 yards ... The victory stretched Stoops' record against top 10 opponents to 8-0 at the start of his career at Oklahoma ... Texas was limited to 27 yards rushing on 25 carries ... Texas controlled Quentin Griffin, who was limited to 27 yards on 16 carries ... Mark Clayton led the Sooners in receiving with six grabs for 65 yards ... Texas wide receiver Roy Williams produced five receptions for 64 yards and B.J. Johnson added five catches for 23 yards ... Simms threw interceptions on three-straight fourth-quarter possessions to enable the Sooners to wrap up the victory. It was the lowest number of points for Texas since the infamous 66-3 loss to UCLA in 1997.
The upshot: The victory appeared to put the Sooners in the driver's seat for the South Division title. But they lost twice in the final five regular-season games, including a tough 16-13 regular-season home loss to Oklahoma State that cost them a berth in the Big 12 title game.
Instead, Oklahoma produced a gritty 10-3 victory over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl to finish off an 11-2 season that saw them finish sixth in the final Associated Press poll.
Texas responded with a six-game winning streak that catapulted them into the Big 12 title game after Oklahoma's two late losses. But the Longhorns dropped a disappointing 39-37 defeat to Colorado in the conference championship game -- Mack Brown's second Big 12 title-game loss.
The Longhorns went on to defeat Washington, 47-43, in the Holiday Bowl to cap an 11-2 record. They were fifth in the final 2001 AP poll.
4. Davison's dramatic grab keeps Cornhuskers' national title hopes alive.
5. Bamboozled again and again and again. Boise'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 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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma's biggest defensive liability last season appears to have been bolstered by an influx of young players determined to start their careers early by meshing with the team.
A rash of injuries at linebacker left the Sooners scrambling for healthy bodies by the end of the season.
Those depth issues appear to have been alleviated with the addition of three key recruits who skipped their final semester in high school to start their college careers early.
Linebackers Tom Wort, Ronnell Lewis and Jaydan Bird all arrived determined to add depth -- the Sooners had four different starters at middle linebacker over the course of the last season.
Wort and Lewis have particularly interesting stories that have preceded them to college.
Wort, a 6-1, 210-pound linebacker from New Braunfels, Texas, was born in England and lived there until he turned 13. His earliest athletic exploits were on the soccer field.
That natural athletic ability reminds Oklahoma coaches of prototypical speedy linebackers like Teddy Lehman because of his speed and sideline-to-sideline tackling ability.
And Lewis, a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker from Dewar, Okla., was a standout two-way player who becomes only the second eight-man player to join up with the Sooners under Bob Stoops.
Despite Lewis' small-school classification, he rushed for 2,219 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. On defense he produced 156 tackles and 11 interceptions to showcase his ball-hawking abilities.
"All of them, Wort and Lewis and Bird, have been wonderful," Stoops said. "It's been our experience that there haven't been many (early-arriving freshmen) players who can handle what we ask during the winter conditioning. But these guys have fought through it and have made significant gains through the work so far. It's been exciting to see them do so well."
The linebacking trio are a part of a five-player early-arriving freshman group that started practice with the Sooners on Tuesday. Other early arrivals included quarterback Drew Allen and safety Javon Harris.
"They've all done great," Stoops said. "I'm really excited with this group."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Earlier this season, Travis Lewis didn't know if he would ever learn the intricacies of Oklahoma's defense.
Understand that Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables' concepts are sometimes difficult to comprehend for even the most seasoned of veteran players. So some growing pains were to be expected for a redshirt freshman like Lewis who had seldom played the position before coming to college.
|Jerry Lai/US Presswire|
|Travis Lewis (28) is looking forward to trying to slow down Florida's offense Thursday night.|
But when injuries and the struggles of others contributed to Lewis moving forward on the depth chart, he still burned with fury because he thought he hadn't won the starting job because of his play.
"Things contributed to me starting ... it wasn't me being the best option," Lewis said. "But I wouldn't have it any other way. Going through that taught me how to play with a chip on my shoulder.
"I still treat every day like I'm third on the depth chart. I think about it every day when I wake up and every day before I go to practice."
That rage has fueled a remarkable debut season for Lewis, who has developed into the most productive freshman linebacker in Oklahoma history despite his lack of playing experience at the position.
"He came from out of nowhere," Venables said. "Travis has been able to overcome his lack of experience and technique and fundamentals because he plays so incredibly hard. He's been able to cover up his mistakes because of that."
The Sooners' program has been dotted by playmaking linebackers during the era that Venables has served as the Sooners' linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. Playmakers like Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman, Curtis Lofton and Rufus Alexander all have turned the position into one of the biggest strengths throughout the Bob Stoops era.
But none of them has had as quick a start as Lewis, who was a consensus All-Big 12 player and was named defensive newcomer of the year by the Associated Press and the league's coaches.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's not unprecedented that Oklahoma could come back from a loss to Texas and still win the Big 12 South title and maybe a factor in the national title chase.
But it's going to be very hard.
The Sooners are left with this predicament after suffering a 45-35 loss to the Longhorns last week, twice blowing double-digit leads against their resilient archrivals who are now in the driver's seat for the South Division title.
If Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has any legitimate shot at earning a three-peat of Big 12 titles, he'll need to fix several nagging concerns quickly as the Sooners head into Saturday's pivotal game in Norman against North Division leader Kansas.
The Sooners' biggest concern is replacing playmaking middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds, who was lost for the season after blowing out his right knee early in the third quarter last Saturday.
After Reynolds' departure, the Longhorns took over running the ball, producing 164 rushing yards in the second half. Texas was limited to minus-3 yards rushing in the first half.
Before Reynolds' injury, the Longhorns produced 4.6 yards per snap. After he left the lineup, Texas gashed the Sooners for 8.3 yards per play and outscored the Sooners 25-7 to claim the comeback victory.
Brandon Crow struggled as Reynolds' replacement in the Texas game against both the run and the pass. It is unlikely he'll get the chance to start against Kansas.
Stoops mentioned starting weakside linebacker Travis Lewis as a possible replacement in the middle, but after the redshirt freshman produced 19 tackles against Texas, it is unlikely that he would move. A more plausible solution would be moving his backup, redshirt freshman Austin Box, or junior-college transfers J.R. Bryant and Mike Balogun.
The hole is the middle is present because 2007 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Curtis Lofton left school a year early to declare for the NFL Draft. And heralded 2007 junior-college prospect Mike Reed left school earlier this year, robbing the position of additional depth.
"These other guys are going to have to step up," Stoops said.
Another huge concern has been the Sooners' struggles covering kicks. The Sooners rank 109th nationally, allowing an average of 25.33 yards per kick. They've been burned for touchdowns by Mardy Gilyard of Cincinnati and Jordan Shipley of Texas and nearly gave up a touchdown to Aaron Brown of TCU.
The memory of Shipley's return still stings because it enabled the Longhorns to stay in the game when it appeared the Sooners were on the verge of a knockout after going ahead 14-3 early in the game.
"We just haven't been able to get it done," Stoops said.
The Sooners also rank ninth or worse in the Big 12 in punt return average and net punting. It's a very rare problem for a Stoops-coached team to have.
The Oklahoma coach was a pioneer among modern coaches of putting starting players on his special teams. Key contributors like Teddy Lehman, Rocky Calmus, Roy Williams and Trent Smith all had their time on those special-teams units.
But the Sooners have gotten away from that in recent years. Stoops hinted earlier this week that that attitude could change after playing only four starters on the kick coverage unit last week against Texas.
"We aren't doing anything differently, it's just people," Stoops said. "We have got to get the right guys in there who can recognize and be where they need to be. Sometimes, we've been where we needed to be and we just didn't make the play."
The Sooners also need to be more balanced offensively after struggling to run the ball against both Texas and TCU in their last three games. Oklahoma produced 48 yards against the Longhorns after netting 25 against TCU.
"We know that it hasn't been as good as it has been since the beginning of the season," Oklahoma tailback Chris Brown said. "We have to take responsibility for what is going on in the running game. It's not just the offensive line. It's the backs and the complete offense. This is a week where we have to establish our running game and get it back like normal."
Tailback DeMarco Murray is clearly not the same back he was last season before dislocating his kneecap in a late-season loss at Texas Tech. Murray has had only one gain of more than 20 yards this season and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season after averaging 6.0 yards last season.
"We need to be a better run team because we're not trying to be a finesse team," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "If the run game is not going, I have to make it work and give us a chance to win."
Those adjustments will be critical for the Sooners to make immediately. Their Big 12 title hopes will be riding on them.
But the Sooners like their place in the national title hunt midway through the season -- even after the loss to Texas.
"There's still a lot of football left," Lewis said. "There's a lot of football still to be played."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After finally having a night to decompress after all of the Big 12 hype, I was wondering why I was only getting a trickle of responses to my early blogs.
That's when I remembered something about a mailbag icon. So after sorting through some e-mails and finding the password, I finally have some feedback.
I kind of feel like Tom Hanks in "Castaway" when he came upon his volleyball. "Wilson" became his friend and sounding board. I hope you guys will feel the same way about me, passing along any questions you might have about Big 12 football.
And as Warner Wolf would say...on to the questions.
Chance from Memphis writes: Much is being written about the record-setting, high-flying offenses of the Big 12. Without question 2008 should be the wildest, most competitive Big 12 race since the league's inception. But the question remains: Are the offenses in the league simply that good, or are the defenses weaker than they have been in the past?
Tim Griffin: I think it's a little bit of both. The offenses unquestionably are better than this league has ever seen. The quarterbacking in this league goes about 10 deep. And with the way that parity is, a team can catch a couple of breaks running the spread offense and have a chance for an upset victory almost any week. But you are also right about the weaker defenses in the conference. Oklahoma's defense is down significantly from the Rocky Calmus/Roy Williams/Teddy Lehman era. So is Texas. there's no Derrick Johnson or Michael Huff in the Longhorns' back seven. That's why both of those teams are susceptible to passing offenses than they were before.
But in the end, I think the team that plays the best defense will end up winning the conference. And it could be Missouri, particularly if Van Alexander and Sean Weatherspoon make quick recoveries from post-spring surgeries to return to productive defensive roles.
And also, I always go with the dry ribs when I'm in your fair city, which also happens to be my hometown.
Ryan from Austin writes: Who is your favorite team in the Big 12?
Tim Griffin: I'm just like a mother with 12 children. I love them all equally. It might sound like a copout, but it's true.
Chris from Denver writes: As an OU fan living in Colorado (and therefore interested in Big XII news, and not just one team), I have one thing to say: Best....blog....ev....er. I heard you on a Denver sports talk station the other day, and as a result, checked your blog out. I was intrigued. Since then, I can't stop reading it. I love your takes, and especially the number of updates. I hope you update the blog this much during the season. Awesome work, keep it up.
Tim Griffin: Thanks for the compliments and for trying the blog. I hope I can keep the pace going once the season begins and I aim to. And for those talk-show producers out there, I love to talk about some Big 12 football if you're ever looking for a guest.
Ben from Lubbock writes: Excuse me, but I find it terribly disappointing that a journalist of your stature used the word "enthused" in an article. "Enthused" is not a part of the English language at all. It is a common misconception that many people have used incorrectly. I am ashamed to see someone with your experience, writing for a national audience, with young people reading (much like myself) would be so completely unaware of such a blatant mistake. If there is any way you could change the title of your article to "Turnaround has the Jayhawks EXCITED about future" then that would be not only grammatically correct, but beneficial to your role as a journalist as well.
Tim Griffin: Ben, I appreciate your attention to detail. Dictionary.com claims it's a word that fit the meaning that I wanted to use, so I decided to employ it.
And please tell me the truth. Wouldn't you enthuse about a Red Raiders' trip to a Bowl Championship Series game this year?
Dwayne writes: If the Nebraska defense can cut down their yards allowed by about 30% to 40% and force twice as many turnovers do you think they'll have a real chance to win the Big 12 north?
Tim Griffin: It would make them a lot better and make Bo Pelini's transformation much easier. But Pelini's biggest chore will be to force turnovers and make third-down stops. And that's going to be tough with the group he inherited. Deep down, I bet Pelini would be satisfied with a 15-20 percent improvement from last year.
Scott writes: In yesterday's blog, you mentioned a post from weisnd.com asking if Bob Stoops is the modern day John Cooper. While I agree that Bowl Season in Oklahoma has not been fun the last few years, I too would say that is a tad extreme. While it's fair to ask Bob what is going wrong in bowl preparation, it's not fair to compare him to John Cooper.
I wanted to send you some statistics on the subject in the way of a comparison. John Cooper: 13 seasons at Ohio St. Record: 111-43-4 Bob Stoops: 9 seasons at OU. Record: 97-22. Cooper: Zero National Championships Stoops: 1 National Championship Cooper: 3 Big 10 Titles (shared, never won an outright title) Stoops: 5 Big 12 Titles (most in league history) Cooper: 3-7 Bowl Record Stoops: 4-5 Bowl Record Cooper: 2-10-1 against Michigan Stoops: 6-3 vs. Texas. As you can see, Bob compares pretty well against John overall.
Losing Bowl Games is disappointing for sure. But let's don't throw Bob into the same category as John Cooper just yet. We'd be elevating John Cooper by doing so! Thank you for your excellent coverage of the Big 12! I enjoy reading your work very much.
Tim Griffin: I agree with you. I just wanted to throw that blog post out to see if any Oklahoma fans would bite. It took them about 15 minutes.
The biggest reason that the comparison between Cooper and Stoops is specious at best -- on top of Stoops' national championship and Cooper's lack of one -- is their comparative records against their major foe. Cooper as you said was 2-10-1 vs. Ohio State. Stoops is 6-3 against Texas.
Those are the games that can get coaches fired at those schools. Stoops has won most of them and Cooper lost most of his. But Stoops probably needs to win a bowl or two to get back in the complete good graces of Sooner fans. It's not like he's on the hot seat or anything like that - except if it's January and he's playing in the Fiesta Bowl or something.
Brandon from K.C. writes: I have a couple of points in your blog post today. "Kansas' record won't be nearly as good this year as it was last..." Which is not the same as saying their team won't be as good as they were last year, so we didn't really get any information from that little tidbit. "...taffy pull masquerading as a cross conference schedule..." Another highly original comment. No really, I haven't heard that before.
Funny, though, where was all the sympathy for KU three years ago when they played this brutal south schedule? It's not like KU controls the Big 12 matchups, so pointing that out hardly seems fair. And just like any other year - not to mention one chock full of crazy upsets - a team can only play/beat the guys across the field. KU did that in every game they were supposed to and many they weren't last year. Discounting their season because the Big 12 decided to give them the most unbalanced conference schedule out of all 12 teams is a slap in the face of each one of those players and coaches. And let's remember that the non-conference schedule was designed for a team shooting for a mid-level bowl after a 7-5 season; and yet they're blamed for overachieving. Ridiculous.
Tim Griffin: Easy there, Brandon. That's the same Kansas team that I elevated to the top 10 of all Big 12
squads during the BCS era earlier this summer. A bunch of your neighbors over in Manhattan still haven't forgiven me for that.
But let's be fair. There's no way that Kansas would have had the same 12-1 record last season if they would have switched this season's opponents -- Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma -- for their three victories at A&M and at Oklahoma State and over Baylor. In fact, some very knowledgeable football people have told me that the Jayhawks might have had trouble beating any of those Big 12 South powers last season. I don't know if I'd go that far, but it would have been a challenge for them.
Let's see how they play out this season. And If Mark Mangino can pull a sweep over his South Division opponents this season, I'll be the first person to tell Lew Perkins he needs to give his coach another raise. Because I bet a lot of athletic directors who might be looking for a new coach would be willing to offer it to him if Perkins wouldn't.
Mike from College Station writes: Tim, what are some of the biggest non-conference games in the Big XII this year? Mizzou/Illinois, obviously. Baylor/Wake Forest? A&M/Miami? Do you have any choices?
Tim Griffin: Check back at my blog later this afternoon. I'll make my choices and have them ready as long as I can work on the airplane going back home. Hopefully the guy in front of me on the airplane won't be leaning back too far in his seat.
Guys, thanks again for the question and please feel free to drop me a line any time. I always enjoy the feedback.