Big 12: Brandon Weeden

Big 12 lunch links

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
12:00
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This dunk is NICE.
Former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden was back in Stillwater, Okla., this week to watch the Cowboys practice.

“I hadn’t been up here in a while,” Weeden said. “I had some friends in town who wanted to get out and play a little golf and I figured while I’m up here, I might as well come watch them practice.”

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
AP Photo/Brody SchmidtJ.W. Walsh looks like a leader, according to Brandon Weeden.
Weeden, who remains the only Oklahoma State quarterback to earn first-team all-conference honors and quarterbacked the Cowboys to the 2011 Big 12 title, signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys last week.

Weeden met with reporters while on campus and had some interesting observations of the team:

On his observations from practice:

“Very good, talented team. I think there’s a lot of young guys that show a lot of promise, some names that I’m becoming pretty familiar with, some guys that may be new to the program, but I think are going to be guys we’re going to rely on for the years to come. You’ve got guys like [quarterback] J.W. [Walsh] that have been around here for a little while. You can just watch him practice and tell he’s a leader on offense and does things the right way. So, overall, good. I think Coach [Mike] Gundy’s got them going the right direction.”

On the quarterbacks:

“I thought they all looked pretty good. I think Daxx Garman can just flat-out spin it. I think he sits back in the pocket and throws a good ball, very accurate. J.W. ... I was around him for a few years so I kind of know what he brings. He’s just a football player. He throws a good ball. You can tell he’s in complete control of the offense -- again, just being a leader. [Freshman] Mason [Rudolph] looks good. From the reps I saw in team, he sits back there and he’s a big kid. You can tell he’s still learning, but I think he’s a guy that has a pretty high ceiling.”

On Gundy preparing players for the NFL:

“I think that’s one thing I’ve always given Coach Gundy a lot of credit about. He always tries to prepare guys for life after football in the professional ranks or a professional out in the business world or whatever it may be. He expects you to be on time, do things the right way, take care of your stuff off the field and then when you show up, be prepared and practice hard. I think the way he runs this organization, this program, again, it’s like a business. He doesn’t tolerate guys being late. He doesn’t tolerate guys not trying hard and those types of things, and I think that’s going to benefit these guys if they get a chance to play at the next level or when they get out in the real world.”
So much news today. So little of it in the Big 12.

AUSTIN, Texas -- When it came to David Ash, Malcolm Brown's answer was no different than any other Texas player has given over the past several years when the quarterback question has come up.

"Like Mike Davis said, he has a swagger about him now," the running back said of the quarterback.

Only now it might be time to believe in the rising junior. Not because of some huge personality shift in Ash, but because this time –-- the junior season following a multiyear starter's sophomore season -- is typically when said actions start to speak louder than words.

Looking back at eight Big 12 multiyear starting quarterbacks -- Texas’ Colt McCoy, Texas’ Vince Young, Missouri’s Chase Daniel, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Kansas’ Todd Reesing -- all but one had a dramatic leap in every statistical category from their sophomore to junior years. (Jones was the exception. In the six categories measured, he only increased his stats in one category, average yards per game.)

So the odds are Ash, who started 12 games in 2012, should follow suit. Maybe not to the extreme of Young, who topped the other seven aforementioned quarterbacks when it came to overall production increase. But there should at least be a measure of improvement to Ash’s stats. How much is up for debate for the next several months.

But if he follows the statistical average presented by those eight quarterbacks who have gone before him, Ash could see his passing efficiency rating rise by 17.10 points, completion percentage by 5 percent, touchdowns by 5.8, interceptions shrink by a nominal 0.25, overall yards move up 581.8 and yards per game to increase by 45.6.

Of course, there are mitigating factors that could shape whether or not Ash has a rise or fall in his stats in 2013.

One of which is that Ash already experienced a dramatic rise in his stats from 2011 to 2012. In his sophomore season, Ash finished in the top 25 in passer efficiency rating and increased that rating 45.9 points. He had 15 more touchdown passes as a sophomore, threw for 1,620 yards and completed 10.4 percent more of his passes. (He also had 144 more attempts as a sophomore than as a freshman.) The point being that quite possibly a ceiling, if not already hit, is at least within arm’s length.

A counterargument could be that a shift in offensive philosophy, from traditional sets to spread, should serve to bolster his stats. In addition, the Big 12’s defenses -- at least that of top teams Oklahoma and Kansas State -- have experienced huge losses on their side of the ball. Add that fact to the unavoidable truth that the Big 12 is not exactly chock full of top defenses -- only TCU and Texas Tech finished in the top 40 in total defense in 2012 -- and it sets up for Ash to have at least a nominal rise in his statistical production in his junior season.

If all that is not enough to make a decision, there are still the words of Ash’s teammates to go by as well:

"Now that he has it down, he’s a lot more comfortable," Brown said. "He’s loosened up with us and he talks more now because he knows what he’s doing."

Given that this is Ash’s junior year and that history is on his side, it might just be time to believe those words.


Glenn Spencer climbed up the coaching ranks this offseason by assuming the Pokes' defensive coordinator post, vacated when veteran Bill Young's contract wasn't renewed at the end of the season.

He's already made it clear he wants Oklahoma State's defense to get a reputation as an aggressive defense, something it hasn't been in the past. The transition's been easier for one big reason: The same one that Spencer says makes this season a good one for him to take over.

"I’ll be the first to admit, you’ve got older guys, a lot of seniors on that defense that have played a lot of ball. You can’t coach that. They’ve seen the speed of the game in the conference. They know how to function. They know how to execute," said Spencer, who was promoted from coaching the Oklahoma State linebackers. "Typically guys like that that have played a lot, when something’s going wrong, they know how to fix it. They know how to approach game day mentality. They know how to travel. A lot of things you don’t think about but they make a difference on game day, and I’ve got some."

The Pokes are still trying to find their quarterback, but linebacker Shaun Lewis and cornerback Justin Gilbert are entering their fourth seasons as contributors for the Pokes and headline the unit. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett grew up late last season after transferring from junior college and safeties Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary can both provide senior leadership for the Cowboys defense that hovered in the middle of the Big 12 last year.

"We challenged certain individuals to play some different techniques just to get a different look. They did," Spencer said. "Not to say we didn’t give up plays here and there and not to say we didn’t fundamentally have a lot of things to improve on, but it’s a building from this spring and summer and keep building on that, but I think they’re buying into it and they’re excited and hopefully the results will show in the fall. That’s really all that matters."

The "results" Oklahoma State might be helped most by is another avalanche of turnovers. Spencer's aggressive style might help that. The Cowboys ranked in the top 11 in turnovers forced from 2009-2011, peaking with an FBS-high 44 forced turnovers in 2011 on the way to a national title. Last season, that number dropped to just 22, 58th nationally.

Oklahoma State's made a reputation for sending tons of offensive talent to the NFL, highlighted by first-round picks Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden in 2012, but offensive lineman Russell Okung made waves after going in the top 10 back in 2010, too. The defense doesn't have those types of talent, but Spencer's out to prove he can field a Big 12 title-caliber defense without one.

I can honestly say this since I’ve been here, going into Year 6, there’s more quality in numbers than I’ve ever had. Is there an All-Pro guy there? No," Spencer said. "There’s a lot of guys that know how to compete and compete in this conference and be successful."
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen could only chuckle when asked about his quarterback competition just days after the end of spring football.

Not only was that gig "wide open, man" according to Holgorsen, but he added that 20 or so other positions are still up for grabs for the rebuilding Mountaineers.

None of those spots will get more attention than an already spicy quarterback race that got spiced up even further with the addition of Florida State transfer Clint Trickett. The arrival of Jameis Winston, the nation's No. 1 quarterback in the 2012 class, led to Trickett seeking playing time elsewhere, and he believes he can find it in Morgantown. He'll have two years of eligibility remaining.

"WVU football welcomes Clint Trickett home. He basically grew up in Morgantown, and I know he feels very comfortable here," coach Dana Holgorsen said in a release. "He’s an excellent student and grew up around the game of football, which shows in his composure on the field. I am excited that he has decided to finish his career as a Mountaineer."

I don't buy the idea that Trickett's been guaranteed anything in the realm of playing time by Holgorsen, but the allure of what Holgorsen has done with basically every quarterback he's touched was attractive enough for Trickett to come back to compete to become the next passer at the state's flagship program.

Trickett lived in West Virginia for seven years, and returning to play for a passing game guru outweighed facing lesser competition in lesser offenses at Auburn and South Florida, two schools Trickett also considered.

He has the skills and experience to compete, even though he won't have the knowledge of the system Paul Millard possesses or Ford Childress' biggest asset: his arm strength.

It'll be a fascinating competition, and both current WVU quarterbacks will try and erase the memories of underwhelming performances in the spring game, but both are capable of winning games consistently in the Big 12. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen just has to decide if Trickett is the Mountaineers' guy who can do it best.

There's no way of knowing this soon how this chapter of West Virginia football will end, but it'll certainly be fun to watch it play out.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy doesn't allow first-year players to talk with the media. Last season, he proved that rule applies even if a player is his starting quarterback. Perhaps the rule even particularly applies in that case.

Regardless, Wes Lunt turned heads this time last year when he won the spring quarterback competition to replace Brandon Weeden in Stillwater. He didn't turn a single ear, though, because Gundy kept media microphones away.

That ended Wednesday night when Lunt, now a second-year sophomore, met with the local media after one of Oklahoma State's first practices of the spring.

"The best way to describe it is a rollercoaster. I had so many ups and downs," Lunt told reporters. "That’s expected your freshman year, but I’ve got to thank my team and my coaches for backing me up all the way."

Lunt completed the first 11 passes of his career in an 84-0 victory against FCS doormat Savannah State, but his first road start ended in a loss to an upstart Arizona team a week later. Lunt (and anyone who saw the replay) feared his season was over when he dislocated his kneecap and suffered a high ankle sprain in an ugly-looking injury early in Oklahoma State's win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 15.

The injury wasn't as serious as feared, and Lunt returned to start in a win over TCU on Oct. 27 and again a week later against Kansas State before throwing three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and suffering a concussion.

He's back this spring competing again with Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh, though the job is Chelf's for now after he helped Oklahoma State close the season strong with blowout wins over Texas Tech, West Virginia and Purdue sandwiched around narrow losses to Oklahoma and Baylor.

"It’s a competition between all three. Clint is getting the most reps, which he should -- he did a great job ending the season," Lunt told reporters. "J.W. and I are going to push him every day and whatever happens, happens."

Lunt admitted he was "shocked" when he was named the starter last spring as a freshman who wasn't quite sure what to expect and what a collegiate starter really looked like. Apparently, it looked like him.

"They get along real well and I think that speaks volumes about their maturity level and who they are as people," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich told reporters of the quarterbacks. Yurcich chose to refrain from commenting further on the competition until he'd seen more of the trio up close in practice.

"I know they care more about this program than they do their individual needs and that’s when you know you’ve got something special -- when you see unselfishness, you see leadership and you see those qualities and those young men have that."
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has two Big 12 players -- Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson and Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro -- potentially going in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

Fellow expert Todd McShay has the same two as Kiper and also is optimistic about the chances of West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Tavon Austin.

So let’s split the difference and label the potential Big 12 first-round picks as an optimistic three, with Johnson being the only absolute first-round lock.

Those three would represent the fewest Big 12 players taken in the first round of the NFL draft since 2008. Even if four went, the Big 12 still would have the fewest since 2008.

That year, only Kansas -- yep, the Jayhawks -- managed a first-rounder, Aqib Talib to Tampa Bay with the 20th pick. In the four drafts that followed, the Big 12 has always put at least five players into the first round, including the first four overall picks in 2010.

How well this year’s group of first-round picks will fare might not be known for years. What is known, though, is how well Big 12 players have done when they are selected in the first round. With that in mind, here is a ranking -- from worst to best -- of the Big 12’s best first-round draft classes over the past 10 years.

2008: It’s all about quantity, and a little bit of quality. In 2008, the Big 12 only produced one first-round pick, Talib. He has not produced dramatic returns in the NFL. In the past two years, he has only started nine games. He was somewhat productive for Tampa Bay in the previous three seasons, starting 41 games and playing in 53. But, again, he was the only Big 12 player taken in the first round in 2008.

2006: Vince Young is working out at Texas’ pro day at the end of March. Enough said. Davin Joseph and Michael Huff have been solid producers. But when the No. 3 overall pick is out of the league and having to work out at his alma mater's pro day, it means it was a bad year for the Big 12 in the first round of the NFL draft.

2004: Tommie Harris and Marcus Tubbs, the two defensive tackles taken in the first round, were productive for a few years, with Harris selected to Pro Bowls in 2005, '06 and ’07 before he was beset by injuries. Tubbs lasted four seasons in the NFL. Roy Williams had 5,715 receiving yards but never lived up to the hype he generated coming out of Texas. Rashaun Woods played only two years and had seven career catches.

2005: The lack of numbers might be what hurts this group the most. Cedric Benson, Jammal Brown, Derrick Johnson, Mark Clayton and Fabian Washington all proved they could play at the NFL level. Benson has had three 1,000-yard-plus seasons. Johnson is one of the top linebackers in the game. Brown remains a solid option on the offensive line. Clayton played seven NFL seasons; Washington played six. But there were only five guys selected and that isn't enough to push 2005 to the top of the list.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Andy Clayton King/Getty ImagesThe Big 12's 2007 draft class wasn't huge, but did feature 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
2009: Every Big 12 player selected in the first round in 2009 has produced and appears to be poised to continue to do so. Only Jason Smith didn’t have a start last year. But the offensive lineman still played in all 16 games for the New York Jets. Michael Crabtree, Brian Orakpo, Josh Freeman, Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Pettigrew and Ziggy Hood are all starters for their respective teams.

2007: It wasn’t the biggest group, but it did include Adrian Peterson, so there could be some quibbling that maybe 2007 should be higher in the rankings. Throw in Aaron Ross and Michael Griffin and the debate could get even more heated. Adam Carriker was also taken this year. He started his career strong but suffered an injury and only played in two games last season.

2003: Kevin Williams has been the standout of this group. The defensive tackle has started every game but four in his 10-year career. Terence Newman has been effective as a defensive back, first in Dallas and last season in Cincinnati. Tyler Brayton played at least 15 games on the defensive line in a nine-year career. Ty Warren played eight solid seasons for New England but tailed off last season with Denver. Andre Woolfolk lasted four seasons, mostly as a reserve.

2011: Von Miller, who was the highest pick among Big 12 players this year, has proved to be the top player so far. Aldon Smith is not far behind. Add in Prince Amukamara, Phillip Taylor, who when healthy is a starter at defensive tackle, a somewhat productive Blaine Gabbert and Nate Solder as well as reliable backups Danny Watkins and Jimmy Smith and this proved to be a successful year for Big 12 first-round selections.

2012: Three quarterbacks, and all were not only starters as rookies but also made huge differences for their respective squads. Clearly, Robert Griffin III made the most dramatic impact, but Ryan Tannehill, with the Dolphins, and Brandon Weeden, with Cleveland, were both solid. Kendall Wright and Justin Blackmon each had 64 catches, for Tennessee and Jacksonville, respectively. Blackmon was targeted more (133 to 104) and had 200 more receiving yards.

2010: This list maybe doesn’t have the star power and is not littered with offensive playmakers, but six of the nine players picked were selected for the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl: Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Jermaine Gresham. And the other three players -- Dez Bryant, Sam Bradford and Sean Weatherspoon -- were vital pieces for their respective teams.
I want to play Golden Tee with Andy Dwyer for 10 hours.

Best and worst of 2012: Kansas State

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
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Time to continue our series on the best and worst moments of 2012 for each team in the Big 12. Next up: Kansas State.

Worst moment: Nov. 17: The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Pretty much everything about the loss to Baylor on Nov. 17 was painful for Kansas State. It didn't have the gut punch quality of that Big 12 title loss to Texas A&M back in 1998, and the Wildcats weren't as close to tasting a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, but there's something to be said for a loss to Baylor that left most K-Staters watching with their hands on their head, screaming, "What. Is. Happening??" K-State had dominated so many better teams throughout the season before that night, but the Cats fell victim to Baylor's late-season resurgence out of nowhere. The Wildcats had six turnovers in 10 games. Collin Klein threw three interceptions in one game. K-State averaged fewer than four penalties a game, but the brand-new BCS No. 1 team had seven in the first half. It was an uncharacteristic, inexplicable performance in every way. The Bears jumped out to a 28-7 lead and it never really got close. Breakout star Lache Seastrunk finally broke K-State's back with an 80-yard touchdown run to provide the final 52-24 score in the final minute of the third quarter. The Wildcats became the second undefeated Big 12 team in two years to lose to a team with a losing record on the road in its 11th game. Like Brandon Weeden did in that game, Collin Klein lost the Heisman Trophy. Like Oklahoma State last year, K-State bounced back. Will it continue into the bowl game? Let's look at some better moments for the 'Cats.

Best moment: Manhattan is Title Town

I really think K-State reaching the BCS No. 1 has a case for this spot, considering no other team in school history had done it, but I'm going with the postgame celebration after a 42-24 win over Texas. It truly was a special night in The Little Apple. The best development of the Big 12's new 10-team alignment is giving teams chances to win league titles on their home field, something that was never possible with a Big 12 Championship Game. We saw it last year in Stillwater, and this year, Klein, Bill Snyder and the rest of the Wildcats got to celebrate with a field storming and a trophy presentation on the field with fans that nobody involved will ever forget.

More best and worst of 2012:

Who had the Big 12's best offense?

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
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We did this poll in the preseason, but let's take a look back now that the regular season has been completed.

West Virginia ran away with the poll before the year began. Who wins now? Which Big 12 offense was best this year?

Note: We can only include five teams in polls. TCU was in the preseason poll, but obviously won't be in this poll. I also put Kansas State in here, rather than Texas Tech, which was fifth in the Big 12 in total offense.

Let's take a look.

SportsNation

Which Big 12 offense was best in 2012?

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    15%
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    16%
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    29%
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    19%
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    21%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,469)

BAYLOR

The Bears boast the nation's leader in total offense, quarterback Nick Florence, and led the nation in total offense. Florence even accounted for more yards per game than Johnny Football at Texas A&M. The Bears discovered another weapon in running back Lache Seastrunk late in the season and have one of the league's best offensive lines, but Biletnikoff Award finalist and the nation's leader in receiving yards, Terrance Williams, might be the most talented player on the roster.

OKLAHOMA STATE

The Pokes had quarterback issues, but finished the season with three (!!) 1,000-yard passers and finished fifth in the nation in total offense. Running back Joseph Randle is the Big 12's best, and receiver Josh Stewart broke out with 1,154 receiving yards as a sophomore. The rest of the unit is deep, but even without Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden, the Pokes got up and down the field quickly.

WEST VIRGINIA

Geno Smith got off to one of the greatest starts in the history of the Big 12, reaching 5-0 and throwing 25 touchdowns before his first interception. He came to Earth a bit in the middle of a five-game losing streak, but Tavon Austin definitely has a case as the league's best overall offensive weapon, even though fellow receiver Stedman Bailey racked up 23 touchdown catches, 10 more than any player in the league and more than Blackmon and Michael Crabtree in their Biletnikoff Award-winning seasons. The Mountaineers never found a consistent running game, but were sixth nationally in pass offense.

OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma relied heavily on Landry Jones, but found a home-run hitter in juco transfer Damien Williams. The youth at receiver showed up early in the season, but transfers Jalen Saunders (Fresno State) and Justin Brown (Penn State) provided solid targets late in the season for Jones, who racked up consecutive 500-yard passing games in wins against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Jones' season has already pushed him into third in NCAA history in passing yardage.

KANSAS STATE

Kansas State didn't rack up yardage by the bunches, but until late struggles against TCU and Baylor, the Wildcats led the Big 12 in scoring offense. Quarterback Collin Klein rumbled his way to New York City as a Heisman finalist, and the ground-inclined Wildcats offense had two of the Big 12's top five rushers, with Klein and running back John Hubert.
Dana HolgorsenPatrick McDermott/Getty ImagesDana Holgorsen returns to Stillwater to face an offense he installed two years ago.
Oklahoma State and West Virginia will meet Saturday. One team has to win.

Even if the Cowboys win Oklahoma State may have to, at least in part, thank Dana Holgorsen. He has helped take both programs to where they want to be, and on Saturday the former offensive coordinator will be back in Stillwater for the first time as a head coach.

At the end of 2009 Oklahoma State scored a total of seven points combined in a pair of embarrassing losses to close the season. Quarterback Zac Robinson was dealing with a bum shoulder, but seven points isn't enough to do much else but rack up frustrating losses that leave point-loving fans unfulfilled.

Coach Mike Gundy was designing his offense and decided to take a different approach to begin the following spring.

Robinson, a dual-threat quarterback built to run and take hits, was being succeeded by Brandon Weeden, a 6-foot-4, 218-pound junior with a big arm and we'll say ... hesitant legs.

With Gundy looking to take on a different role for his team, hiring Holgorsen made sense.

"I had a tremendous amount of respect for him for what he had done with the program," Holgorsen said. "His question to me was how [former Houston coach and current Texas A&M head coach] Kevin Sumlin did things from a CEO standpoint. I think Mike wanted to be more of a CEO type head coach, as opposed to being in the offensive room for 18 hours a day trying to get the offense better. I think he’s done a tremendous job of that.

"Since he’s gone back and made that switch, they’ve won a tremendous amount of ball games. Good for him."

Oklahoma State won a school-record 11 games the next season. Holgorsen left for West Virginia, a team that scored just seven points in a frustrating bowl loss of its own to close the 2010 season and wanted a new head coach.

Once he left, Gundy hired former OSU receivers coach Todd Monken to run the same offense Holgorsen installed in one spring.

"I knew a whole lot about it prior to going there, from a facilities standpoint, a coaching staff standpoint, culture and recruiting standpoint, knew a lot about it," Holgorsen said. "There wasn’t any surprises."

He spent nearly a decade at Texas Tech before coordinating Sumlin's offense at Houston, where the Cougars played Oklahoma State in each of Holgorsen's seasons. In 2009, the Cougars even upset a top five Oklahoma State team in Stillwater.

His first season as head coach at West Virginia -- which only came after scandal led to an early exit for the late Bill Stewart -- was his only season in the past 12 in which he didn't face the Cowboys.

"We were just a typical spread offense. Run/pass, no-huddle offense," Gundy said. "The impact it had was we changed our style of quarterback, so we brought in a scheme that could best fit what Brandon Weeden could have success with, which was pocket-style passing."

It worked. The Cowboys ranked No. 3 nationally in total offense in 2010, up from 70th in a nine-win campaign in 2009. A year later, using Holgorsen's system under Monken, the Cowboys won their first Big 12 title and once again ranked third nationally in total offense.

Meanwhile, Holgorsen was helping build West Virginia, who won the Big East in Year 1 and won a BCS bowl for the first time since 2007 -- Rich Rodriguez's final season in Morgantown.

West Virginia ranked 15th in total offense last season, a year after ranking 67th, despite possessing offensive talent like Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and speedster Tavon Austin.

"[Gundy] was with Pat Jones there for a long time, played for Pat Jones, which is old-school football, tough, hard-nosed physical football and incorporated it into our style of spread offense," Holgorsen said, "keeping it as physical as it can possibly be."

Holgorsen's fingerprints will be all over both sidelines, but without a stop at Oklahoma State and proof he could run his offense at a major conference away from mentor Mike Leach and away from a minor league like Conference USA, a high-profile head job like West Virginia might never have come along.

"It worked out good for everybody," Holgorsen said.

How OSU helped key K-State's title chase

November, 1, 2012
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Collin Klein dropped to his knees with bloodied, bandaged elbows and a crushed heart. His final pass on Nov. 5, 2011, fell incomplete, and Kansas State was 5 yards short of extending its game against undefeated, No. 3 Oklahoma State.

It was a painful night for Klein and his teammates, but a year later, Oklahoma State comes to Manhattan to face an undefeated K-State team. Without that night, this year's reprisal and role reversal might not have been possible.

"I think that showed us we can play with anyone on any given Saturday," receiver Curry Sexton told ESPN.com this week. "That just helped our confidence grow and showed us we can play with anyone. That was big for us through the end of that season and even going into this season. I think that’s probably the biggest thing we took out of that game."

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Collin Klein
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiCollin Klein and Kansas State came up just short against Oklahoma State last season.
A confidence boost -- even if it was a loss -- is exactly what Kansas State needed a week after getting run off its own home field by Oklahoma. The Sooners won by 41 in Manhattan, giving the Wildcats their first loss of the 2011 season and ending a magical run of comebacks and improbable upsets that got K-State to 7-0. That Oklahoma game provided plenty of evidence to those who did not believe the Cardiac Cats were for real. A week later, the Wildcats gave themselves reason to believe.

"This team put everything we had in that game, and just having the offense inside the 5-yard line with zeros on the clock was the most disappointing thing about that loss. We were so close. You could see it right in front of you, but we didn’t go out and get it," Sexton said. "Even though we did lose, it helped us with the confidence in ourselves."

The Wildcats rallied from a 14-0 deficit to take a 24-14 lead on an Allen Chapman interception return. Klein grabbed the lead and later tied the score with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs, but one final drive simply ran out of time.

A year later, Kansas State has lost just once in 11 games since -- in the Cotton Bowl to an Arkansas team that still had Bobby Petrino. The Wildcats are all but done playing close games these days. Only two of K-State's eight wins this season have been by fewer than two touchdowns, and the Wildcats beat a pair of top-15 teams by 41 (West Virginia) and 31 (Texas Tech) points in consecutive weeks.

No top-15 teams remain on the schedule, but the task ahead will be convincing voters the Wildcats belong in the national title game.

Style points, though?

"I don’t even know what a style point is," coach Bill Snyder said. "I don’t have an attitude toward it. I just think you prepare and you go out and play as well as you can."

The Wildcats have Oklahoma State this week, their sixth consecutive team with zero or one loss in Big 12 play. Week after week, the Wildcats have had to fend off suitors for the Big 12 title, a trophy that has eluded the SnyderCats since 2003, their only Big 12 title.

Nobody on Snyder's staff studies the BCS formula and passes along any information. The task is the same every week: Win. How "stylish" that win is? Snyder apparently has racked up a whole bunch of style points already this season with wins the past two weeks and an earlier blowout at home against Miami without even trying.

"That’s not significant in my thinking at all. I don’t think anybody likes to run scores up," Snyder said. "I don’t think about those things."

This week, Oklahoma State comes with the intention of winning another game against the revived Cats and getting the inside track on a second consecutive Big 12 title. Just don't tell K-State.

"We don’t look at the standings. We don’t look at anything else. We just focus on Kansas State and getting better every week. I think that’s been big for us, because we don’t really look at the bigger picture," Sexton said. "We don’t look at the conference standings and stuff like that. We realize that if you start looking at that stuff, you slip up and lose and then all of a sudden none of that stuff matters anymore."
You just bought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's bones, and he's not even dead!

A Baylor-WVU shootout? Not so fast

September, 26, 2012
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Prepare yourselves for as many lame high-scoring game jokes as possible before West Virginia and Baylor kick off Saturday at noon in Morgantown.

"Make sure all the bulbs on the scoreboard work!"

"Gentlemen, start your engines!"

"West Virginia state law forbids the possession of defense-like substances, so..."

Hardy har har har, or something. The over/under for Saturday's game is a healthy 79.5 points, and the prediction? A prescription for plenty of aspirin for defensive coordinators Phil Bennett (Baylor) and co-coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson (West Virginia).

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWill we see shootout when Geno Smith and West Virginia host Baylor on Saturday?
That over/under? It's nothing new for DeForest, who's seen higher. It's been a whole 11 months to the day, in fact, since DeForest last saw it.

Last season, the Big 12's top two quarterbacks and top two offenses went head to head in Stillwater, where DeForest spent 11 years coaching special teams and safeties, also earning a title as associate head coach under Mike Gundy.

His safeties were tasked with reigning in eventual Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, and the prediction was for a pointsplosion of the highest order.

At halftime? Oklahoma State had given up exactly zero points while the offense raced to a 35-0 lead that grew to 49-3 after three quarters. RG3? Please, said the Pokes defense, who forced five turnovers on the day and walked away with a 59-24 win that did, in fact, clear that over/under after Baylor scored three garbage time touchdowns.

"Oklahoma State did such a good job of moving the ball on offense," Holgorsen said of that game and another in 2010. The over/under for that RG3/Weeden showdown was 72.5, but Oklahoma State again held Baylor scoreless in the first half, forced three turnovers and raced to a 41-7 lead over the Bears before winning 55-28.

"Baylor was always playing from behind," Holgorsen added.

Could DeForest work his magic against Briles again in Morgantown on Saturday and turn a shootout into a blowout?

"We’re going to look at those tapes to try and just like coach Briles and his staff’s going to look at those tapes to try and see those similarities," Holgorsen said. "There’s some things that we can do better. There’s some things that they can do better, and so forth. Every year’s different."

It is, but Oklahoma State's seemed to have the magic touch in shutting down Baylor's high-powered offense. Now, DeForest and Holgorsen are the biggest two pieces of Morgantown's program that's become a sort of "Stillwater East" since Holgorsen took over. DeForest replaced Jeff Casteel, who took his talents to Arizona to follow his former boss, Rich Rodriguez. Holgorsen added running backs coach Robert Gillespie and former OSU cornerback Andrew McGee as a graduate assistant.

Now, it's up to a new group of players but another big-armed quarterback and playmaking receivers to be the Kryptonite to the supermen of Baylor's offense who have the nation's No. 6 offense this year and were No. 2 in 2011.

"When Baylor lines up to play Oklahoma State this year, it’s going to be a completely different ball game, so you can try to take some things and learn from it, but ultimately, it’s preparing the team you have this year the best you ultimately can to be in position and make some plays," Holgorsen said.

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