Back in December, when Swoopes floundered against Oregon in an Alamo Bowl cameo, it seemed his development was destined to be a long, multi-year project for whomever became his next quarterback coach. Or maybe, with his size, he'd someday make a great tight end.
He won't have to hear those backhanded comments any more. Not at the rate of growth he's displayed since being handed the keys to Texas' offense on Sept. 1. In the second start of his career, against a top-15 foe under the bright AT&T Stadium lights, Swoopes offered proof not only that he can handle pressure, but that his passing abilities are steadily improving.
Here are four throws Swoopes made Saturday, all on scoring drives, that showed what he can do when he has a little confidence.
1. Moving the feet and the defense
Situation: Second-and-21, 2nd quarter
Play: 15-yard completion to Jacorey Warrick to UCLA 48
There's a fundamental misunderstanding about Swoopes when you throw around the word "dual-threat." Yes, he can run. He cannot run like Vince Young. Not when he's 245 pounds. Swoopes is still learning this today, that he can't dance around much on runs and keepers because he doesn't have big-time speed and defenders close quick.
But co-offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has done a nice job of finding ways to put Swoopes' feet to use. On this play, after a 15-yard clipping penalty put Texas off-schedule, Swoopes took the snap at the left hash and rolled out all the way to the right hash, scanning the field throughout. The rollout put UCLA's linebackers, particularly the exceptional Myles Jack, in conflict.
Once Jack had drifted far enough over to account for the possibility Swoopes might tuck and run, the quarterback fired a 15-yard bullet to Warrick that set Texas up for a third-down conversion and kept a TD drive alive.
2. A laser under pressure
Situation: Third-and-6, 2nd quarter
Play: 8-yard completion to Jaxon Shipley to UCLA 40
On the very next play, another sharp decision. Right after the snap, UCLA's Deon Hollins Jr. easily got around Texas right tackle Kent Perkins and went right after Swoopes, forcing the quarterback to scramble back and right. Just as Hollins was 1 yard from the takedown, Swoopes chucked a pass off his back foot that was as good as it gets, a 22-yard laser that Shipley and only Shipley could catch.
Texas moved the chains, Charlie Strong fist-pumped toward his quarterback and the "Swoooopes" chants began.
3. Best play of young career
Situation: Fourth-and-8, 2nd quarter
Play: 33-yard completion to John Harris to UCLA 5.
Texas elects to go for it from UCLA's 33 and the Bruins responded by dropping eight in coverage and rushing three. Unsurprisingly, that pass rush still got into the backfield when a double-blocked Anthony Wallace pressured Swoopes from behind. Swoopes rolled right and threw on the run into a small window to Harris for the 33-yard pickup into the red zone. Through two starts, almost one-third of Swoopes' passing yards have come on throws outside the pocket.
Harris gets a lot of credit here. He broke on his route and took off toward the sideline when he saw Swoopes on the move. Then he climbed the ladder to catch the pass in front of Ishmael Adams and hold on. This one had Texas in the end zone four plays later and had Strong jumping, dancing, shouting and fist-pumping on the sideline.
4. The potential game-winner
Situation: Second-and-goal, 4th quarter
Play: 8-yard pass to Harris for touchdown
On the lone third-down situation of Texas' masterful 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to go ahead, Swoopes hit Harris on an out cut for a 6-yard gain. He went to him again to finish the drive in similar fashion.
This is just a textbook solid throw, a three-step drop and a fastball into one-on-one coverage just as Harris turned back to Swoopes. Another perfect out cut to beat UCLA's Jalen Ortiz rewarded with a precisely-located pass. With 5:13 left, the go-ahead score couldn't been the game-winner. But Swoopes would have to take the field again, and his misfire to Marcus Johnson on a slant on fourth down sealed the defeat.
But if the once-raw passer can make these throws now, the future looks brighter -- especially with two more weeks to improve before Texas takes the field again.
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Blake Lynch is making the Bears look awfully smart for accepting his early commitment in 2013. The Gilmer, Texas, four-star athlete wowed this weekend against Tatum with 93 rushing yards, 115 receiving yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score. He played quarterback as a junior but has transitioned into a true offensive weapon since transferring to Gilmer.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: No commitments came in this weekend, but it'll be interesting to see how Iowa State's last-second win over Iowa impacts their in-state recruiting battles going forward. For example, could that win and some positive momentum help ISU's chances with 2016 linemen John Raridon and Jake Heinrich? No doubt Paul Rhoads and his coaches will be talking about that game for the next year while recruiting.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: KU has not landed a new commitment in almost a month and a half, and a blowout loss to Duke isn't going to help its efforts on the trail much either. One commit whose season is off to a nice start: three-star RB Taylor Martin has racked up 323 rushing yards and seven TDs this year at Fort Worth (Texas) Dunbar.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: A Thursday night game, no matter how gigantic the opponent, isn't necessarily ideal for bringing in a bunch of official visitors. K-State is reportedly expecting to have three-star RB Alex Barnes and junior college DT Deonte Reynolds in the house when Auburn comes to the The Little Apple. Both are taking midweek official visits, and they're critical targets for the Wildcats on what should be a pressure-packed week.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners hosted their biggest official visit weekend of the season and secured two pledges Saturday, from ESPN 300 safety Will Sunderland Jr. and junior college lineman Jamal Danley. The long-awaited pregame commitment from Sunderland was huge, but so was getting ESPN 300 studs Keisean Lucier-South, Kendall Sheffield, Ricky DeBerry and Neville Gallimore and four-stars Kahlil Haughton and Anthony McKee on campus.
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Pokes added to a promising offensive line class last week with 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Deya Mhiesen, a junior college lineman who can enroll in January. Mhiesen took an official visit to Baylor's season opener, then attended OSU's 40-23 win over Missouri State and decided to pull the trigger. He'll have three years of eligibility at OSU.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs had several commits in the stands Saturday for their 30-7 beatdown of Minnesota, including WR Jarrison Stewart and DT Joseph Broadnax, along with Baylor commit CB Ke'Shawn Somerville, DE Andrew Fitzgerald and several more intriguing recruits in the 2016 class.
Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Texas hosted some big-time recruits at AT&T Stadium for its 20-17 loss to UCLA, including top ESPN 300 targets Malik Jefferson and Ryan Newsome, ESPN Junior 300 WR Reggie Hemphill and commits DeShon Elliott, Charles Omenihu and Connor Williams. Two attendees who could end up in this class: three-star center Tyler Moore and Purdue three-star cornerback commit Isaac Warren.
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders were not able to get Tyron Johnson, the nation's No. 2 receiver prospect, in town this weekend for his official visit due to a scheduling conflict, but he's expected to make it out to Lubbock on Oct. 11 when Tech hosts West Virginia. Tech did have ESPN 300 QB signee Jarrett Stidham, four-star commit OG Conner Dyer and three-star DE Jalen Bates in attendance.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: With Oklahoma coming to town this weekend, expect a lot of talent on the West Virginia sideline before Saturday's big game. Among those reportedly expected to attend on official visits are ESPN 300 CB Jordan Whitehead and four-star ATH Tim Irvin.
We're only three weeks into the season but plenty of things have changed. Preseason expectations are out the window and some dreams of breakout seasons have been shattered while other preconceived notions have been re-affirmed.
Here's a review of nonconference play in the Big 12:
Biggest disappointment: Texas Tech. Wait, where are the Longhorns? Did you really expect more from Texas? More players have been kicked off the team (eight) than offensive touchdowns scored by Charlie Strong's team (seven). The Red Raiders are another story, however. Tech has never really looked outstanding at any point this season as penalties, turnovers and defensive struggles turning the Red Raiders' Big 12 title dreams into an early nightmare. Saturday's loss to Arkansas -- which included 438 rushing yards by the Razorbacks -- has Kliff Kingsbury looking for answers. Before the season Tech looked like a team that could catapult itself into the top 3 in the Big 12. Now it looks like a squad facing a fight to go bowling.
Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett. Raise your hand if you had Trickett as the first Big 12 quarterback to eclipse 1,000 yards in 2014. He's been outstanding for the Mountaineers while leading the Big 12 in passing yards (1,224) and completion percentage (75.4). He's in the top 3 among FBS quarterbacks in both categories. He's the main reason WVU is emerging as the Big 12's surprise team after three games.
Fab freshman: Baylor receiver KD Cannon. The ESPN 300 receiver has no idea what it feels like to go into the halftime locker room without a touchdown catch. Cannon has made an amazing impact with an FBS-high 471 receiving yards in his first three games as a college receiver. The true freshman has 14 receptions, an average of 33.6 yards per catch, and five touchdowns. All-Big 12 receiver Antwan Goodley's biggest competition for the conference's most explosive receiver could be sitting alongside him in the receivers' room.
Newcomer to know: Oklahoma State athlete Tyreek Hill. The junior college transfer burst upon the scene with 278 all-purpose yards against Florida State as he buzzed around the turf in Arlington, Texas, while giving Seminoles defenders fits throughout the loss. His production has dropped significantly in OSU's last two games (24 touches for 154 yards) but it's clear the Cowboys are trying to save their top playmaker for their toughest games.
Best performance: It was the only Big 12 Conference game in the first three weeks but Kansas State doesn't escape Iowa State's upset bid without quarterback Jake Waters. Trailing 28-26 with 3:01 left, the senior led the Wildcats on a seven-play, 80-yard march to win the game. Waters accounted for 74 of KSU's 80 yards on the drive including an 8-yard touchdown run. KSU won 32-28.
Worst performance: Kansas laid an egg in its 41-3 loss to Duke last weekend. The Jayhawks opened the season with plenty of hope for a new and improved offense but, after gaining 457 yards in their season opener, KU took a clear step backward with 297 yards including 97 through the air against Duke. To make matters worse, the Jayhawks allowed Blue Devil freshman running back Shaun Wilson to rush for 245 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. Back to the drawing board.
Dream dashed: It was disappointing to see Iowa State receiver Quenton Bundrage lost for the season with an ACL injury just minutes into the Cyclones' first game. The junior spent the offseason working on becoming more consistent and had the talent to be one of the Big 12's top receivers in 2014. Now he has to wait until next season with an eye on becoming the Big 12 comeback player of the year when he returns to the field in 2015.
Best stat: TCU has held opponents without a first down or touchdown on 60 percent of its drives. In two games, the Horned Frogs have defended 30 total drives and 18 of those drives have ended without a first down including seven of Minnesota's 15 drives last weekend. Gary Patterson's defense is one reason the Horned Frogs cannot be overlooked when Big 12 play reaches high gear next month.
Best quote: "I haven't talked to [kicker] Josh Lambert since he got on campus, and we are going to keep it that way. I know his name and who he is but other than that I'm doing the hands-off approach." -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen after Lambert's game-winning kick to beat Maryland 40-37 last weekend.
Team of the week: West Virginia. The Mountaineers paid regional rival Maryland back for last year’s 37-0 beating with a dramatic 40-37 victory on a game-winning field goal as time expired. Truthfully, the Terrapins were fortunate just to be in the game. West Virginia jumped to a 28-6 lead and could have routed the Terrapins had it not self-destructed several times on Maryland’s side of the field. Still, the Mountaineers once again moved the ball at will. Clint Trickett was dishing out dimes. Mario Alford and Kevin White were producing plays. And a certain field-goal kicker, who I’ll get to later, came through in the clutch.
Disappointment of the week: Texas Tech. Something I was thinking about over the weekend: Had it not been for the sparkling win over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl, what would the perception of the Red Raiders be right now? Outside that Arizona State win, Tech hasn’t played a clean game since losing 38-30 at Oklahoma on Oct. 26 of last year. Meanwhile, Arkansas ran right at the Tech defense Saturday, and there was nothing the Red Raiders could do. The offense behind Davis Webb hasn’t been crisp enough to overcome all the deficiencies defensively. Given how difficult the back end of the schedule is again, the concern level in Lubbock should be high.
Big (offensive) men on campus: Trickett and White. If the season ended today, the three All-Big 12 receivers would be K.D. Cannon, Sterling Shepard and White, who is now second in the country (behind Cannon) in receiving. And if the season ended today, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year would be Trickett, who threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Maryland. The Trickett-to-White pass-catching combo has been nothing short of awesome so far this season.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Paul Dawson. TCU’s senior linebacker led the purple crushing of the Minnesota offense in a 30-7 win over the Gophers. Dawson finished with 15 tackles, including four for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Overall, the Horned Frogs forced five turnovers and limited Minnesota to just 268 yards of offense.
Play of the week (other than the Lambert and Netten field goals): Late in the second quarter with the game knotted at 3-3, Texas elected to go for it facing fourth-and-8 at the UCLA 38-yard line. And in the biggest play of his young career, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes rolled out and delivered a 33-yard strike to John Harris. Three plays later, Swoopes hit M.J. McFarland for a touchdown to give Texas a 10-3 lead and all the momentum heading into halftime.
Stat of the week: Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight has two 300-yard passing games in his career, and both have come against SEC opponents. Knight threw for 348 yards in last season's Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, and he passed for 308 yards in Oklahoma’s 34-10 win Saturday over Tennessee.
Quote of the week: “I haven't talked to Josh Lambert since he got on campus, and we are going to keep it that way. I know his name and who he is, but other than that, I'm taking the hands-off approach.” -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, when asked what he said to Lambert before the game-winning kick. Holgorsen added he likes only special-teams coach Joe DeForest talking to his kicker.
DALLAS -- Authorities say a man is in critical condition after falling more than 12 feet from the stands into a field-level suite during the Texas-UCLA college football game.
A spokeswoman for John Peter Smith Hospital says the man was in the intensive care unit. No other information about him has been released.
An Arlington Fire Department spokesman previously said the man fell 12-15 feet on Saturday at AT&T Stadium. The man was wearing a Texas shirt and was conscious when he was transported. The cause of the fall is unclear.
The fire department has turned over the investigation to stadium authorities.
A stadium spokesman said in a statement Monday that "Arlington fire inspectors have checked and verified that the rail height exceeds building code requirements," however the incident is still under investigation..
The Longhorns lost the game 20-17.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
- In this story in the Kansas City Star, Kellis Robinett detailed how Kansas State is being careful about giving Auburn too much respect. No doubt Auburn is a great team. The Tigers are explosive offensively in Gus Malzahn's offense. But K-State is to be respected, too. This is a team that has lost once in its past nine games -- and that was to an Oklahoma program currently ranked fourth in the country. The Wildcats should respect Auburn. But they should also realize they are good enough to win Thursday night, too.
- West Virginia showed grit that had been missing in the recent past in a 40-37 win against Maryland, wrote the Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza. The Mountaineers lost several tight games last season, which fueled their first losing season in a dozen years. And even though West Virginia played Alabama tough, mistakes in the fourth quarter ultimately prevented the Mountaineers from pulling the upset. The Maryland win wasn't without mistakes. West Virginia made six scoreless trips inside Maryland’s 40. But when the Mountaineers had to make plays with the game on the line, they did. That will serve them well the rest of the season, and this weekend in a massive clash with Oklahoma.
- Even though the Longhorns fell 20-17 to UCLA, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes made strides, according to the Austin American-Statesman's Brian Davis. Before the UCLA game, I had serious doubts about the potential of Swoopes as Texas' long-term answer at quarterback. I'm still to be convinced. But like Davis, I could finally see the potential that Jaxon Shipley and the Texas coaching staff had been raving about from behind the scenes. That said, the road doesn't get any easier for the Longhorns or Swoopes. After an open week and Kansas, Big 12 co-favorites Baylor and Oklahoma await.
- An Iowa State program that had once forged a reputation under coach Paul Rhoads of winning big games got back to its roots in a 20-17 victory against Iowa, wrote the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse. Early in the Rhoads era, the Cyclones indeed had developed a rep as a giant-killer. But that had waned a bit in the past couple of the years, because of Iowa State's inability to close the deal in close games, including the narrow loss to Kansas State the week before. The Iowa victory should give this program plenty of confidence for the rest of the season, which could be a scary thought for some of the league's top teams.
- The TCU defense overwhelmed Minnesota in a 30-7 win, but the offense still needs work, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez. The biggest issue seemed to be third-down offense. TCU converted only twice on 12 third-down attempts. If they want to emerge into a Big 12 title contender, the Horned Frogs will have to clean that up. But, as the Gophers found out, TCU appears to have another Big 12 championship-caliber defense. If the offense can continue to make progress, this could be a team to keep an eye on.
Texas showed some fight, Oklahoma and Baylor cruised, and West Virginia continued to impress. Thursday night's matchup with Auburn looms large for Kansas State while a bye week comes at the perfect time for Texas Tech.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: TCU
Cactus Bowl: Texas
Seven of the 10 conference teams played against Power 5 opponents, and Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia and Iowa State all walked away as winners. Additionally, Oklahoma State beat a UTSA team that is earning its stripes with each week.
Oklahoma’s game against Tennessee may have been the most anticipated throughout the conference. The Sooners hosted a large group of recruits and ultimately landed two big-time commits in ESPN 300 DB Will Sunderland Jr. and highly touted junior college OT Jamal Danley.
Shane Buechele was in Norman and took to Twitter to show his love for the environment.
TCU scored a win against Minnesota, and three-star DT Joseph Broadnax was one of the athletes in attendance. Broadnax also is being courted by Baylor, North Texas and several other schools, but he's been a solid Horned Frogs commit since February. Malik Jefferson, who not only took time to take pictures with multiple fans ...
The game was sick last night! Great atmosphere and they got the W!?? #BoomerSooner— Shane Buechele (@BGShaneBuechele) September 14, 2014
Texas didn't get the win, but it still has the support of two important commits on the defensive side in ESPN 300 DB DeShon Elliott and three-star DE Charles Omenihu both were in attendance letting fans know their commitments are strong.
Front row no nosebleeds ???? ???? pic.twitter.com/Q5ltN6WrMZ— Malik Jefferson 4?6? (@Official_MalikJ) September 14, 2014
Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.
"I think I may be the winningest coach against Georgia here at South Carolina," said Steve Spurrier, who has now won more games than any other coach against Georgia, including four victories in five tries with South Carolina.
In its "red bandanna" game honoring Welles Crowther, a Sept. 11 victim and hero, Boston College shocks USC for its first victory over a top-10 team in a decade.
UCLA backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel, subbing in for an injured Brett Hundley, threw a 33-yard TD pass with three minutes left to rally past upset-minded Texas in Arlington, Texas.
A week after upsetting Ohio State, Virginia Tech is toppled by East Carolina after Pirates quarterback Shane Carden threw three touchdown passes and scored a rushing TD with 16 seconds left.
That’s how quickly Texas’ gut-check triumph became gut-punching torture. A No. 12-ranked UCLA team was all but finished. Had those five plays gone as planned, the Longhorns walk out of AT&T Stadium with their first huge victory under Charlie Strong.
The result of those four plays -- UCLA 20, Texas 17 -- left them devastated.
What makes the torment feel so much more raw was the fact that, with 4:17 left in the ballgame, they were celebrating a victory that felt almost assured.
When Steve Edmond stripped running back Jordon James and little-used defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. fell on it at the Texas 25, the party was on. That was it. The first turnover of the ballgame went Texas’ way. The signature victory was so close.
Tyrone Swoopes and the Texas offense took the field and got back to work with a 5-yard run from Malcolm Brown on first down.
And then, for reasons they’d later regret, they reverted back to the hurry-up pace that had, just moments earlier, helped spur an 80-yard, 10-play touchdown drive. The clock was rolling.
“We probably could’ve slowed it down a little and milked the clock,” Harris said. “I think we were still high emotion after the big touchdown. I don’t think we really grasped what was going on at that point in time.”
Brown’s next run lost 5 yards. And then Swoopes, on third-and-10, couldn’t connect with go-to receiver Harris.
Three plays. No yards gained. Only 1 minute, 11 seconds taken off the clock. Then Texas moved back to the 20 on a false start by safety Josh Turner, playing in his first game post-suspension.
While that’s not an ideal turn, not for a coach that preaches toughness and a team that knows it has to win with its run game, it’s still survivable.
Will Russ’ punt soared 58 yards. Ishmael Adams sped down the left sideline, past a crushing block by linebacker Cameron Judge. He bounced off a hit from Russ and picked up an extra 11 yards for a 45-yard return down to the 33.
And then, just as Charlie Strong and his defensive coordinator suspected, UCLA took the field knowing it was time to take the big shot.
“They ran double moves, wheel routes, fake bubble gos throughout the ballgame,” Texas DC Vance Bedford said. “For the most part we did a good job with it. Until that last play.”
Jerry Neuheisel, the backup quarterback the Longhorns were more than happy to face, sold it to perfection. When he pump-faked with 3:05 left, and Texas corner Duke Thomas bit on the faked bubble screen, Texas was finished. Jordan Payton had Thomas beat by 4 yards when he hauled in the game-winning touchdown.
“He knew he should’ve stayed on top,” Bedford said. “After the fact, it’s always tough. I feel for the young man. He played his tail off.”
And so did Texas. Its four-quarter battle felt so even and, briefly, so winnable. Edmond made the strip at 10:15 p.m. CT. Payton was in the end zone at 10:18.
“It’s about finishing,” Strong said. “When you have those opportunities, you’ve got to take advantage of them. The good teams take advantage of the opportunities."
The story before that five-play swing was of a Texas team that rallied from embarrassment, with a young quarterback enjoying breakthrough moments and a hard-nosed defense saving the day against a Bruins team missing its Heisman-contending star.
This should've been Texas storming out of AT&T Stadium as don't-bet-against-us underdogs with renewed pride.
Not Saturday. Not yet. Instead, it's another painful ending, a familiar 1-2 record and a feeling that being this close only makes it hurt worse.
1. TCU and West Virginia might finally be finding their stride in the Big 12: Being in the Big 12 has been rough on the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers. In their first two years in the league, each went 11-14 overall. But with impressive performances Saturday, both are showing signs they are finally turning the corner. The Mountaineers racked up 33 first downs and almost 700 yards in a 40-37 win over Maryland, which was able to stay in the game only through the grace of West Virginia's three turnovers in the red zone. TCU completely manhandled Minnesota and picked off Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner three times on the way to an easy 30-7 victory. The Horned Frogs appear to be formidable on defense again, and TCU’s new offensive scheme has been generating more points. Meanwhile, West Virginia might have the two most improved players in the entire conference in quarterback Clint Trickett, who is completing 75 percent of his passes, and wideout Kevin White, who already has 460 yards receiving. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs still have to prove themselves in league play. But their performances through the nonconference suggest they'll give Big 12 foes a run for their money.
3. The league has some unshakable kickers: Two Big 12 kickers had the chance to produce winning field goals in the final seconds of their games. And both kickers delivered. First, Josh Lambert drilled a 47-yarder as time expired to give West Virginia a monumental victory over regional rival Maryland. Then, Iowa State’s Cole Netten connected on a 42-yard attempt with two seconds remaining to lift Iowa State to a 20-17 win over in-state rival Iowa. Netten actually misfired on his first try at the game-winner, but the Hawkeyes had called timeout first. Netten shook off that miss and came back and delivered in a moment he’ll remember awhile. Field goal kicking in the college game has become a lost art. But from Oklahoma’s Michael Hunnicutt to TCU’s Jaden Oberkrom, the Big 12 is loaded with talented place-kickers. In Lambert and Netten, the league has a couple of clutch ones, too.
4. Texas Tech’s run defense seems hopeless: Coach Kliff Kingsbury signed four junior college defensive linemen during the offseason to try to shore up what was the league’s worst run defense last fall. But in a disheartening 49-28 loss to Arkansas, the Red Raiders’ run defense looked worse than ever. The Razorbacks obliterated Tech in the trenches, rolling up 438 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. As a result, Arkansas dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for more than 40 of the game’s 60 minutes while keeping Tech QB Davis Webb on the sideline and out of rhythm. “They lined up and pounded us,” Kingsbury said. “We just didn’t have an answer.” The Red Raiders might not face a rushing attack like Arkansas’ until Oklahoma visits Lubbock in November. But it might not take a powerful rushing offense like Arkansas’ to exploit what has been a shaky Texas Tech defense that has yet to stop anybody through three games.
5. Texas still has some fight: There were few reasons to believe the Longhorns could hang around with UCLA after their dismal performance last week against BYU. But behind an inspired effort from sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, Texas had UCLA on the ropes until backup QB Jerry Neuheisel tossed a 33-yard go-ahead touchdown with three minutes remaining. The Longhorns lost the game 20-17 and still have various issues, such as getting the coin toss right. But this was a performance they can build off. Although he couldn’t lead them on a game-winning drive, Swoopes was solid in his second career start, completing 24 of 34 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. And unlike last week, the Longhorns didn’t lie down when things didn’t go their way. After a disastrous start in 2013, Texas bounced back to have a decent season. This team showed on Saturday it could do the same.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Without quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA could not win. It didn't matter that Texas was beaten up and beaten down. It didn't matter that Hundley was just one guy. He was The Guy, the face of the Bruins, the biggest reason some touted them in the preseason as national title contenders. Moreover, to put it gently, the depth chart behind him was unpromising.
Backup Jerry Neuheisel? Son of Rick Neuheisel, the guy who was fired before Jim Mora built the Bruins into contenders? The guy who some suspected got a scholarship only because his dad was the head coach? No way.
So when Hundley was surrounded by trainers after going down with an apparent elbow injury in the first quarter against the Longhorns, you could sense impending doom. You could sense the Bruins, who had struggled to beat Virginia and Memphis with Hundley, joining teams such as Ohio State, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia and Michigan State on the slag heap of exposed contenders.
"[Neuheisel and Hundley] are two different quarterbacks," Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "One guy is up for the Heisman and the other guy is someone we've never heard of."
Yet there was Neuheisel eyeballing Diggs' cornerbacking counterpart, Duke Thomas, in man coverage against receiver Jordan Payton with three minutes left in the game, sensing his moment had arrived.
"As soon as I saw [Thomas'] eyes, I thought, 'Oh, my God, this might just work,'" Neuheisel said.
The Bruins were down four on Texas' 33-yard line and pretty much hadn't allowed Neuhiesel to throw downfield since he came off the bench, but offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone expected man coverage and decided Payton might get free with a double move.
In fact, Thomas appeared to bite on Neuheisel's pump fake, and the ball arrived soft and sweet into Payton's hands. Touchdown. After the defense forced a four-and-done, the Bruins hoisted Neuheisel onto their shoulders. They'd won 20-17 without Hundley to improve to 3-0.
"I felt like it was going to be a little bit of a defining moment for us," UCLA coach Jim Mora said of when Hundley went down.
While it might seem to some like an ugly 3-0 for the nation's No. 12 team, it was a dream come true for Neuheisel. Literally. He told his teammates that at halftime. He grew up dreaming of following in his dad's footsteps as the UCLA quarterback, imagining throwing winning touchdowns in his backyard. The general expectation from fans and media, however, was the redshirt sophomore would remain on the bench behind Hundley, holding for field goals and then backing up whoever won the job next year when Hundley was off to the NFL.
Yet a point of emphasis from Mora and the Bruins after their victory was never doubting Neuheisel.
"We all expected it," Payton said.
Said Mora, "His team fricken' loves him. There was never any doubt."
Well, there was and is some doubt. What's next, for one, is a big issue. Hundley's status is questionable, to say the least. Mora would only say Hundley would be evaluated by UCLA team doctors back in Los Angeles. While beating a struggling Texas team with a backup QB is one thing, the Bruins visit Arizona State on Sept. 25 after a bye week. That's an entirely different deal, a critical South Division showdown. Of course, in an unfortunate twist of fate, both teams could be without their starting quarterbacks, as Taylor Kelly suffered a foot injury against Colorado on Saturday.
Neuheisel, who completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, could square off with Sun Devils backup Mike Bercovici in a game with major Pac-12, and even national, implications. The Bruins, however, were still operating inside the 24-hour rule Saturday, which means their primary concern is enjoying the present, not refocusing on the next foe.
Neuheisel is his father's son. He looks and sounds like Rick Neuheisel, and he's quick with a quip like his dad. When he walked into the postgame interview room, he noted, "Holders don't get this kind of publicity." After the elder Neuheisel led the Bruins to an upset of Illinois in the 1984 Rose Bowl, he cracked wise during a postgame interview about the Fighting Illini band blasting music behind him.
"I just talked to my dad," Jerry Neuheisel said. "He said, 'You did it. It's kind of a Neuheisel thing.'"
On a day when UCLA's crosstown rival, USC, wilted at Boston College, the Bruins found a way to dig deep, overcome adversity and win. UCLA might not be a beautiful 3-0, but it is 3-0 and that's what matters.
"They never flinched," Mora said. "They never blinked. That's kind of what we are trying to become. And we're getting closer and closer every day."