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Sunday, September 28, 2008
What we learned in the Big 12, Week 5


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas' defense finally is playing up to Will Muschamp's standards. The Longhorns' defense dominated Arkansas from the opening snap, posting seven sacks and limiting them to 11 yards rushing and a season-worst 191 yards of total offense. The resurgence of Brian Orakpo, Sergio Kindle and Henry Melton led to a feeding frenzy on beleaguered Arkansas QB Casey Dick that lasted throughout the game. The only touchdown the Longhorns allowed in a 52-10 beatdown came on a returned fumble late in the fourth quarter. Texas has notched 14 sacks in the last two games and appears to be peaking as conference play approaches.

The J-Train appears to be back on the track. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman must have had a late-game revelation against Army on Saturday. With the Aggies flirting with a third-straight home loss to start the season, Sherman turned to tailback Jorvorskie Lane, who responded with 34 yards on six-straight carries to salt away a tougher-than-expected 21-17 victory over the lowly Black Knights. With Stephen McGee doubtful with an injured shoulder, it behooves Sherman to keep using Lane to keep bleeding the clock. It might be his best hope for future success.

Bo Pelini has to learn to harness his emotions on the sidelines. The new Nebraska coach picked up a crucial unsportsmanlike penalty late in the game after he argued with officials when nose tackle Ndamukong Suh was flagged for a late hit. The penalties helped Virginia Tech wrap-up its 35-30 victory with a clinching touchdown. Something tells me that Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne will have a talk with his new coach about anger management. A bigger concern will be the play of Pelini's defense that yielded 377 yards by a team that came into the game ranked 112th nationally in total offense. Hey, Bo! Deep breaths. Start practicing, because you'll need them when Chase Daniel and Missouri's top-ranked offense visits next week.

Oklahoma State's offense might be its best defense. The Cowboys rolled up 612 yards and hung more than 50 points for the third straight week en route to an impressive 55-24 victory over Troy. But the most impressive statistic of all was that the Cowboys held the ball for 40 minutes and 25 seconds. If they can continue that trend in Big 12 play, it will give them a chance to keep an inconsistent defense off the field. Oklahoma State has notched only two sacks this season and forced only one punt on Saturday. That production has to improve if the Cowboys have any hopes of challenging the South Division powers.

Ron Prince's nocturnal sprints for his defense last week didn't teach much. The Wildcats were gashed for 335 yards rushing by Louisiana-Lafayette, marking the second straight week they gave up at least 300 yards on the ground. Prince was so perturbed after the first struggles that he made his team run when it got back home in the middle of the night. He probably didn't do it after Kansas State's 45-37 victory over the Ragin' Cajuns on Saturday, but he'll still be steamed when he watches the game tape nonetheless. The Wildcats nearly squandered a 28-3 first-half lead, permitting 27 points in the second half and 509 yards in the game. And it could get a lot worse when Texas Tech's high-powered offense, complete with a resurgent ground game, visits in the conference opener next week.