Dallas Colleges: Montee Ball

Did you know: Cotton Bowl

January, 2, 2013
Time for another round of fun facts and tidbits about the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

As always, these come courtesy of our crack team at ESPN Stats & Information and sports information departments across the Big 12. Let's get started:

Did you know ...
  • Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has 784 of his 1,181 rushing yards on scrambles, averaging 9.7 yards a carry on those plays.
  • Manziel has been forced out of the pocket on 27.6 percent of drop backs this season.
  • Over the last three games, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is completing 77.7 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions when he's blitzed.
  • On the season, he has eight touchdowns and one pick when blitzed.
  • Jones has thrown just 12.2 percent of his career passes from outside the pocket, but thrown 25.5 percent of his career interceptions from outside the pocket.
  • In Oklahoma's first 10 games, Jones attempted 41 passes from outside the pocket. In the last two games, he's attempted just three such passes.
  • Texas A&M is 4-8 in its 12 Cotton Bowl appearances.
  • Oklahoma is 1-0 in its only appearance in the bowl, back in 2002.
  • If Oklahoma wins, it will have its first four-game bowl winning streak since 1978-81.
  • West Virginia's Pat White is the only player to ever go 4-0 in bowl games. Landry Jones could join him with a win.
  • A&M hasn't won consecutive bowl games since 1985.
  • A win would give Stoops 150 wins at Oklahoma, seven short of Barry Switzer's school record.
  • A win would give Texas A&M its first 11-win season since 1998.

Big 12 did you know: Week 10

November, 2, 2012
Time for another round of fun facts across the Big 12 that should come into play this week. As always, these come courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info and various sports information departments around the Big 12.

Thanks for all you do. We love you. You make our readers the smartest folks at their tailgates. Let's get to it!

Did you know ...
  • Kansas State is first nationally in drive starting position, at its own 40.
  • The nation's top five teams in that stat have just three combined losses.
  • Kansas State is tied for second nationally with 3.6 penalties a game.
  • Kansas State is tied for fourth nationally converting 54 percent of its third downs.
  • Kansas State has yet to give up a point off one of its turnovers, the best mark in the FBS.
  • K-State kick returner Tyler Lockett ranks eighth nationally with 29.7 yards per return. Five of his 12 returns have been longer than 30 yards.
  • On throws 20 yards or longer last year, Collin Klein completed 44 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and two interceptions.
  • This year, he's completing 60 percent of those same throws with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • On those throws last year against Oklahoma State, Klein was 2-of-6 for 56 yards and an interception.
  • Oklahoma State's Wes Lunt has completed just 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) of his passes longer than 20 yards this season. J.W. Walsh completed 47.4 percent of those passes this season.
  • Lunt was 1-of-4 for 38 yards last week against TCU on throws longer than 20 yards.
  • Kansas State's offense has just 86 drives this season, the second-fewest in FBS.
  • Kansas State's offense is fifth nationally in scoring, however. It has scored touchdowns on 42 of those drives.
  • It ranks first nationally in drives per touchdowns (2.2), plays per touchdowns (12), and touchdown percentage (48.8).
  • Over the past two seasons, Collin Klein leads the FBS with 45 rushes for first downs on third down, including 12 on third downs with longer than five yards to go.
  • Collin Klein averages 9.1 yards a carry on zone read plays this year, compared to 5.2 last season.
  • Lunt's completion percentage against the blitz (50) is 16 percentage points lower than when defenses drop at least seven defenders into coverage.
  • Klein, meanwhile, has completed 16 of 20 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns against the blitz in his past two games.
  • Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle has 479 yards after contact this year, the third-most among backs from AQ conferences.
  • Randle, though, averages three yards a carry after contact, a higher rate than the two backs ahead of him, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell.
  • Seth Doege has 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions on throws longer than 15 yards. That's the best ratio in the FBS.
  • He's completing 51 percent of his throws longer than 15 yards, the fifth-best mark nationally.
  • Texas' defense gave up 15 throws longer than 25 yards all last season.
  • The Longhorns have already given up 18 of the same completions this year.
  • Johnathan Gray didn't have a single carry longer than 20 yards in his first four games. He has three in his last four games.
  • His yards after contact per rush is up to 2.3 yards a carry vs. 1.6 in the first four games.
  • David Ash completed 55.6 percent of his passes longer than 15 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions through the season's first five games.
  • He's completed 23.5 percent of those passes in the past three games with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
  • In those three games, Ash is 3-of-6 when targeting Mike Davis on throws longer than 15 yards. He's 1-of-11 when targeting the rest of the team on those throws.
  • Seth Doege is completing 79.1 percent of his passes in the red zone, the second-highest percentage in the FBS. Last year against Texas, he was 5-of-7 with two touchdowns in the red zone.
  • Landry Jones completed 49 percent of his throws longer than 15 yards last year. This season, he's down to 39 percent.
  • Oklahoma averaged just 2.4 yards per carry against Notre Dame, the worst mark of the season. They also averaged just 1.2 yards per carry before contact, the worst mark of the season.
  • Texas' offense has 21 touchdown drives longer than 75 yards this season, the most in the FBS.
  • In his first four games, Geno Smith completed 72.4 percent of his throws longer than 15 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • In his past three games, Smith has completed 3 of 27 (11 percent) of those throws with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
  • West Virginia averaged 220 yards after the catch in its first five games, all wins.
  • It's averaging just 119 yards after the catch in its last two games, both losses.
  • Both of Smith's interceptions this season have come on throws targeting receivers other than Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
  • TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin completed all 13 of his pass attempts on third down against Baylor. He's just 9-of-25 since in losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
  • Baylor has 14 touchdown drives in under a minute this season. Against Iowa State last week, the Bears had just one.
  • Nick Florence has three of the top six games in Baylor history in single-game passing yards.
  • Steele Jantz tied the school record for completions (36) and touchdown passes (5) last week against Baylor.
  • Iowa State ran 102 plays last week, tying a school record and racking up 557 yards of offense, the most since 2008 against Kansas State.
  • James Sims' streak of four consecutive 100-yard games is the most in KU history since Tony Sands all the way back in 1991.
  • KU tackle Tanner Hawkinson has 44 consecutive starts, the most for a Jayhawk since 2000.
  • KU threw seven passes last week, the fewest in a game since 1992.
  • KU has already surpassed last year's interception total (8) with nine picks this season.
Rex BurkheadAP Photo/John RaouxRex Burkhead may not be flashy but he's one of the Big Ten's most consistent and valuable players.
Even if the weather had cooperated Saturday, Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead wouldn't have received much work in the spring game.

Burkhead, a Plano product, has nothing to prove to his coaches, to his teammates or to the tens of thousands of Huskers fans who would have been in attendance. If there's one player who doesn't cause angst in that football-crazed state, it's Burkhead, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors (coaches and media) last fall after rushing for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns. While Bennett and I could do a poll on Nebraska's most popular player, I think we'd be wasting our time and yours. The guy they call "Superman" would win in a landslide.

But Burkhead's name doesn't resonate nationally like it does in Nebraska or within the Big Ten footprint. It's puzzling for those who watch him play, like the Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht, who recently wrote about Burkhead's uphill climb for Heisman Trophy consideration. It's a topic I've been asked about several times on Nebraska radio stations in recent months, and one that will continue to be explored as the 2012 season approaches.

Barfknecht makes a convincing case for Burkhead, calling him "the most valuable offensive weapon at Nebraska since quarterback Eric Crouch did it all in 2001 while winning the Heisman." Anyone who watches Burkhead can appreciate his approach to the game, his consistent performances and his value to Nebraska's offense. He's also a star off of the field.

He has shown versatility, durability and reliability throughout his career.

But that's part of the problem, at least when it comes to national perception.

From Barfknecht's story:
His Heisman problem is that in today's Look-At-Me Generation, guys like him don't get many looks. ... Others will argue that Burkhead won't have the sexy plays -- those signature "Heisman moments" -- of other candidates. His long runs at Nebraska have been 34 yards as a freshman, 33 yards as a sophomore and 52 yards as a junior. As for 100-yard games, he has 10 in his career with a best of 170 yards last season at Wyoming.

This is an unfortunate truth about the Heisman race. It's a national award in every sense, and national name recognition is invaluable. Being an elite player is only part of the way to gain serious consideration.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesBurkhead may need some Denard Robinson-type games to garner some national attention.
It helps to be on a nationally elite team, as Crouch was in 2001. It helps to have a signature moment replayed over and over on "ESPN College GameDay" or "SportsCenter." It helps to be known as exciting or explosive. It helps to have a huge performance in a game that resonates around the country. It helps to have a unique back story, or a catchy nickname.

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson reflects many of these qualities. He hasn't been as consistent as Burkhead, or Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011. But Robinson's name resonates nationally. President Obama knows who he is. Every Heisman voter knows who he is and what he can do. They've probably seen his past two performances against Notre Dame. They've definitely seen his electrifying runs. They know about the shoelaces. The 15 interceptions he threw last year? Meh.

It's why Robinson still could be the Big Ten's top Heisman candidate entering the 2012 season. If not, he's 1A next to Ball. Robinson undoubtedly will be at or near the top of the Heisman watch lists if he delivers a big performance in Michigan's opener against Alabama.

Ball should have less trouble getting noticed this season than he did in 2011. Despite impressive performances from the get-go, he was overshadowed by teammate Russell Wilson. Only when Ball began closing in on Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season touchdowns record did he start gaining traction for the Heisman. While he finished a distant fourth in the Heisman voting, he became a name voters know entering this year's race.

Is there hope for Burkhead? Sure. He needs to announce himself early in the season. Nebraska's nonconference schedule lacks national appeal, but Burkhead can make a statement with a big performance in the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin. He'll need to outshine Ball that night in Lincoln. It wouldn't hurt to follow it up the next week with a big game at Ohio State.

He also would benefit if Nebraska gives the nation reason to pay attention. This isn't the Nebraska program Crouch starred for, and while the Huksers are talking big, they're not regarded as a national player. That might have to change for Burkhead to get the recognition he deserves.

"He's one of the top running backs in the country," quarterback Taylor Martinez said.

No one will dispute that in Big Ten country.

But to take flight nationally in the 2012 Heisman race, Superman needs a boost.

Richardson tops solid Heisman quintet

December, 6, 2011

My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.

I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.

Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.

It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.

With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.

The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.

Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.

Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.

But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.

Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.

LSU defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRunning back Trent Richardson has been at his best in Alabama's biggest games.
I still believe Richardson is the best player in the country. He looked like the best player on the field in No. 2 Alabama's 9-6 loss in overtime to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 5. He had 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards in a game where every yard mattered. He finished the season with 1,583 yards with 20 touchdown runs and three touchdown catches. He's also Mr. Dependable, not losing a fumble in his past 520 touches and only once in 614 career touches.

Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.

To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.

History at stake for Heisman hopefuls

December, 6, 2011

On Monday the five finalists invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony were revealed. This year has featured one of the most interesting races for the Heisman as no one player has stood from the rest.

Here's a look at what a Heisman Trophy win -- or loss -- would mean to these players and their respective schools.

Trent Richardson, Alabama
Two seasons ago Trent Richardson was a part of a National Championship team with a Heisman Trophy winner, when running back Mark Ingram became Alabama's first winner. Richardson has nearly identical numbers to Ingram this season, and has already totaled 23 touchdowns compared to Ingram's 20 TD's.

If Richardson were to win the award it would put him and Ingram in some rare company. In the history of the Heisman Trophy only three times have two different players playing the same position at the same school won the award in a span of three seasons. It last happened when USC QB Matt Leinart won it in 2004 after Carson Palmer had taken home the award in 2002.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck is listed second here as he finished second for the Heisman last season and Stanford has actually had the Heisman runner-up in each of the past two seasons (Toby Gerhart, 2009).

If Luck wins he would be the second player in Stanford history to win the award (Jim Plunkett, 1970) and join 1981 Herschel Walker as the only Heisman runner-ups to win the award the next season.

If Luck finishes second, Stanford would set a record. No school has ever had a Heisman runner-up in three consecutive seasons.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Montee Ball earned his invite thanks to his impressive numbers. Ball needs one touchdown in the Rose Bowl to tie Barry Sanders' FBS record for touchdowns in a season (39). Sanders won the Heimsan trophy during that 1988 season.

Ball's 38 touchdowns are the most by a Big Ten player since Eddie George had 25 in his Heisman Trophy winning 1995 season.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor
RGIII finished off a great regular season in which he threw 36 touchdowns compared to only six interceptions, while also leading Baylor to nine wins, its most since the 1986 season.

Griffin's invite is an accomplishment in its own considering he plays for Baylor. The Bears have only had one player finish in the top five of the Heisman vote in school history. In 1963 Don Trull finished fourth.

If Baylor's Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman Trophy this year, he will be just the third player since the BCS was established in 1998 to win the Heisman without his team playing in a BCS bowl game.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
The Honey Badger will take the trip to New York looking to join Charles Woodson as the only defensive backs to win the Heisman trophy.

Despite being a defensive player, recent history is on Mathieu's side to take home the award. Since 2003, seven of the past eight Heisman Trophy winners have come from the team at number one in the BCS standings entering the National Championship Game.

Downhill Badgers are Gary Patterson's focus

December, 6, 2010
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Gary Patterson has put his TCU Horned Frogs defense to the test on multiple occassions through the years. Most notable remains the 17-10 win over the Adrian Peterson-led Oklahoma Sooners in 2005, and the 12-3 victory over Mike Leach's points-happy Texas Tech Red Raiders in 2006.

But, neither of those outfits compare with the downhill rushing attack of the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers-- tied with TCU as the fourth-highest scoring offense in the land (43.3) -- will bring to the 97th Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. This will be Patterson's greatest challenge of his career.

The Wisconsin offensive line far outweighs TCU's excellent defensive line, and a trio of running backs -- James White, John Clay and Montee Ball -- have at least 800 yards each, combining for nearly 3,000 yards and 44 touchdowns.

"You know what they’re going to do and they do a great job of running the football; they do a great of play-action," Patterson said. "They’re not one of those teams that are going to try to fool you. They come after you and say, 'Are you better than us?' And, for us we’ve got to go out and get ready to play and we’re going to have to tackle and tackle some more and tackle some more, and get ready to go."

The TCU defense, statistically No. 1 in total defense for a record third consecutive season, has been particularly stingy against the run this season, ranking third in the nation, surrendering less than 90 yards a game. The Frogs haven't allowed a team to rush for 100 yards since Oct. 23 and only the option attack of Air Force (184 rushing yards) and SMU (190) have topped 100 yards on the ground all season.

However, No offense the Frogs have faced, not Oregon State with Jacquizz Rodgers, not Air Force and not San Diego State with Mountain West Conference leading rusher Ronnie Hillman can compare to what Patterson's defense will see from the big, bad Badgers, the nation's 12th-ranked rushing offense.

"I don't know if we've played anybody specifically just like Wisconsin where they just keep coming at you with the power running game and then they try to stretch you on the edge," Patterson said. "It will be a great challenge for us because you find out as a football team what is the highest level you can play at, and that's why you play in the Rose Bowl. "

There is interesting film for Patterson to study, which he said he started breaking down last week. In its three games against Top 25 opponents, all within Big Ten play -- wins over Ohio State (31-18) and Iowa (31-30), and a loss to Michigan State (34-24) -- Wisconsin has rushed for an average of 163.7 yards, well below its season average of 247.3 yards.

"Obviously they come downhill and they come at you all day long," Patterson said. "As a football team, the best way to keep them off is for us to do well on offense. That’s one of the ways that you stop them. We have to tackle well. It’s one of the reasons why two weeks ago once we got done with the season, we got back in the weight room. We got back to running, getting ourselves back into beginning-of-the-season shape and getting our shoulders and our legs stronger.

"Good tackling teams tackle because you’re healthy and we’re going to need to be a healthy football team going into that ballgame."