NCF Nation: Anthony Cantele

The Big 12 bowl season is over, but just as we did for the weekend rewind all season long, it's time to look back on the best and worst of the bowl season.

Best offensive performance: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia. West Virginia got stuck in a snowstorm in New York City, and producing offense in that wasn't easy. Still, Bailey put together the best performance, grabbing seven passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the Mountaineers' loss to Syracuse.

[+] EnlargeAlex Okafor
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDefensive end Alex Okafor set the Alamo Bowl record with 4.5 sacks against Oregon State.
Best defensive performance: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas. This was the best performance of any player in the Big 12 the whole bowl season. Okafor was unblockable in the second half, racking up 4.5 sacks and five tackles for loss in the Longhorns' comeback win against Oregon State. He made eight tackles and forced a fumble.

Best play: David Ash, QB, Texas. Ash was nearly dragged down in the backfield, but somehow slipped out of a sack and rolled to his left to extend the play. Running back Johnathan Gray leaked out of the backfield, and Ash threw a perfect strike across his body and hit Gray in the hands for a 15-yard touchdown pass to get the Longhorns to within three points midway through the fourth quarter. Honorable mention: Ash's 36-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin to take the lead with 36 seconds to play.

Biggest impact play: D.J. Johnson, S, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson intercepted a pass in the final minute, returning it 39 yards to set up a game-winning field goal. Minnesota was driving in a tie game, but the Red Raiders' late flurry produced an unlikely comeback win.

Best catch: Isaiah Anderson, WR, Oklahoma State. Anderson caught five balls for 78 yards, but his crazy, spinning, aerial catch in the back of the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown put OSU up 45-0 and provided the best highlight of the Big 12 bowl season.

Worst play: Cornelius Lucas, OL, Kansas State. Kansas State faced a fourth-and-1 at Oregon's 18, but tried to draw Oregon offside and probably planned to go for it anyway after taking a timeout. The Wildcats trailed 15-10, but Lucas inexplicably moved early on a play that probably never would have happened. It backed up Kansas State five yards, and the powerful short-yardage offense couldn't go for it. Anthony Cantele missed the 40-yard kick that ensued, and Oregon answered with a quick touchdown before half to go up 12.

Most boneheaded play: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech. Amaro, who might be Tech's most talented player, missed half the season with a rib injury. He finally got to return, but he didn't seem to take that privilege very seriously. Right in front of an official, he pinned a Minnesota defender and threw a punch. He drew a flag and was ejected, but that flag backed up Texas Tech from the Golden Gophers' 1-yard line to the 16. The ensuing field goal was blocked, and Tech needed a late-game rally to win.

Craziest reaction to a boneheaded play: Texas Tech. According to a report from Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas Tech officials had to relay a message to Amaro telling him not to tweet about his ejection. Hours later, he tweeted a weak apology: "I want to apologize for being ejected. As bad as it seems, which it does, I had no intention of a punch. But the idea to get off of him," he wrote.

Best moment: Ash gets the win. It was an emotional bowl week full of distractions for Texas' team as two players were sent home after a police investigation into an alleged sexual assault. Texas' offense struggled for much of the first half, but Ash got hot late and capped the game with a 36-yard touchdown pass over the top to the speedy Goodwin. It gave Texas a huge win, the Big 12's best win of the entire season.

Worst moment: Michigan State takes the game back. TCU inexplicably blew a 13-0 lead when Michigan State's offense came alive, but Jaden Oberkrom gave the Frogs hope with a 53-yard kick to get the lead back, 16-14. It didn't last long. Michigan State strung together a drive and with 61 seconds to play, Dan Conroy boomed a 47-yard kick to take the wind out of TCU's sails after a difficult, emotional season.


GLENDALE, Ariz.-- Collin Klein could only stare and watch as the final seconds of his college career ticked away. Oregon would hand him a 35-17 loss at the Fiesta Bowl in his final game, an ugly offensive performance that featured a pair of interceptions, a pair of touchdowns and one painful finale.

With glassy eyes shadowed underneath his helmet, he congratulated a few of the Ducks before joining his teammates and locking arms, grabbing a spot on the front row in the middle of the final CatPack of his life.

He and his teammates trotted off the field for the last time. Together.

"It's hard," Klein said, "It's not the way any of us wanted to go out."

Coach Bill Snyder collected his team in the locker room and delivered his final address of the season. He thanked his players for the work they put in, but most importantly, he reminded them that no one thought they'd be playing in this game. No one thought these seniors would end their careers as Big 12 champions, even if they couldn't be Fiesta Bowl champions, too.

He finished his remarks and dismissed the team before sharing a few words and a hug with Klein before the two went out the door to answer questions at a postgame news conference.

"Everybody might not see us as the most talented team in America, but we hang our hat on toughness, giving the greatest efffort we can do and this dude sums it up," linebacker Arthur Brown said of Klein. "Probably one of the toughest dudes I ever met."

He was tough enough to carry his team to 10 wins a year ago when some wondered if the 'Cats were good enough to reach a bowl game. He was tough enough to carry K-State to 11 wins and a Big 12 title this season when it was picked to finish sixth in the league. Along the way, he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Thursday's bittersweet performance won't be easy to swallow, but as players dressed, there were a whole lot more hugs than tears. A whole lot of promises to stay in touch as careers ended and brothers went their separate ways.

[+] EnlargeCollin Klein, Bill Snyder
Jennifer Stewart/USA TODAY SportsThe final go-round for K-State QB Collin Klein didn't go quite as he and coach Bill Snyder had hoped.
"This was a fantastic year for us, we did a lot of things when people didn't believe in us," running back John Hubert said. "It was great. We like proving people wrong. Every year since I've been here, we always hear we couldn't do this or couldn't do that. Just to go out and prove people wrong and win is a great feeling."

That's what these Cats will always be remembered for. They're the team that did what no other in K-State history did: Reached No. 1 in the BCS standings. They're also a team that lost two of its final three games and let a chance at a national title slip through its fingers, but time will provide perspective, and many of the Wildcats already possessed it not long after their season had ended.

"The Big 12 championship, when we got that 11th win and beat Texas, seeing that crowd rush the field," Hubert said. "Holding up that Big 12 Championship Trophy and for it to be in our locker room is one of the greatest things we've done."

Added linebacker Justin Tuggle: "I hope we're remembered for the good things we did, and not for the two slip-ups we had."

These Wildcats absolutely will be remembered for those moments. Klein's interception on the final pass attempt of his career will fade away. So will Cornelius Lucas' second-quarter false start on fourth-and-1 that led to a missed field goal by Anthony Cantele and the loss of every bit of momentum the Wildcats had built after falling behind 15-0 and giving up a 94-yard return for a score from Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas on the game's opening kick.

"It had a significant impact on the outcome of the ballgame," Snyder said of the false start.

Well, Snyder had a significant impact on the individual lives of his players and the community in Manhattan, too. Those false starts and missed tackles and missed opportunities will fade away. That Big 12 trophy and Klein's memories from a trip to the Heisman Trophy presentation never, ever will.

Kansas State's season ended with a difficult loss and the extension of a bowl drought that now stretches beyond a decade. K-State wishes it could have won this game. Any one of the Wildcats would have told you that. But they'd also tell you that a loss in this game does little to diminish the accomplishments of the 2012 team, which will go down in history as one of the best in school history.

ESPN.com's 2012 All-Big 12 team

December, 10, 2012
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Congrats to all these guys for turning in fantastic seasons. Naturally, there will be some snubs and some things that need to be explained. Check the blog later today for more thoughts.

Without further ado, here's the All-Big 12 team from ESPN.com.

OFFENSE

QB: Collin Klein, Kansas State
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: James Sims, Kansas
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Terrance Williams, Baylor
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
DL: Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Jason Verrett, TCU
CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
S: Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS:

PK: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia; Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Anthony Cantele, K, Kansas State; Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Justin Brown, PR, Oklahoma; Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas; Jake McDonough, DL, Iowa State; Lane Johnson, OL, Oklahoma; John Hubert, RB, Kansas State; Travis Tannahill, TE, Kansas State; Durrell Givens, S, Iowa State; Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Arkansas proved it was the better team on Friday night with a performance solid enough to keep Kansas State at an arm's length for most of the night.

Time for some analysis. Plenty more on the way tonight.

How the game was won: Neither team brought its A game, but Arkansas' defense played one of its best games of the season and the Kansas State offense didn't do enough to chase down the Hogs, who jumped out to a 19-0 second-quarter lead, and a late third-quarter score helped put the game out of reach before Kansas State's Anthony Cantele missed a 43-yard kick with 6:36 to play.

Turning point: Kansas State took the momentum with 16 consecutive points to get within 19-16 less than four minutes into the second half, but the Hogs' Tyler Wilson put together a huge drive, going 58 yards in 11 plays to put the lead back to 26-16. He capped it with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton and completed 5 of 7 passes for 60 yards on the drive, thanks to penalties.

Stat of the game: Kansas State rushed 40 times for 86 yards. That average of just over 2 yards per carry isn't good enough for K-State's run-oriented offense to have a chance. Credit Arkansas' defense on that one.

Second-guessing: Kansas State's decision to punt to Joe Adams. He was dangerous more in the first half, but he broke a 51-yard return for a score to put Arkansas up 10-0. Kansas State should have known better or avoided him more deliberately. You don't need to look far to see why.

What it means: Arkansas becomes the fourth consecutive SEC team to win the Cotton Bowl and grabs the third 11-win season in school history and first since 1977, a year after making the school's first BCS bowl. Coach Bobby Petrino has the Hogs rolling. They'll come back in 2012 with plenty of potential to chase after an SEC title. Wilson loses three of his top four receivers, but he proved his worth as a quarterback this season.

Kansas State finished with 10 victories, its first double-digit win season since winning the Big 12 in 2003. The Wildcats' pluckiness ran out in this one, and they couldn't earn a seventh win as an underdog this season.

Record performance: Collin Klein became the Big 12's single-season leader for rushing touchdowns with a 6-yard run in the third quarter for his 27th of the season, tying Texas' Ricky Williams.

Record performance II: Adams' first-half punt return was his fourth on the season, giving him the SEC single-season record for punt return touchdowns. He has five for his career.
K-State and Arkansas will get it started Friday in Cowboys Stadium at 8 p.m. ET on FOX, and here are three keys for Kansas State to grab a win.

1. Absolutely slow the big plays. K-State was blown out once all season. Oklahoma did it with touchdowns of 61, 31, 29 and 18 yards in a 58-17 win. Arkansas has the capability to blow Kansas State's doors off, but the Wildcats have proven mostly capable of at least slowing or keeping up with high-octane offenses such as Baylor and Oklahoma State's. Arkansas' not quite on that level, but the Razorbacks are really potent. The biggest way to let this get out of hand is pretty simple: quick scores and yardage coming in chunks.

2. Grind, grind, grind. We all know there ain't nothin' wrong with that. Even in the Big 12. Kansas State's a unique team, but it may finish this game with two 1,000-yard rushers. Collin Klein's already there, but running back John Hubert -- far underrated in his own right -- needs just 67 more yards to cross that mark. He's averaging nearly 5 yards a carry. This running attack can wear down Arkansas' defense, but the less the Hogs have the ball in their hands, the better for K-State. The Wildcats are fourth nationally in time of possession for a reason. They run the ball, and they've turned the ball over just 13 times in 12 games. Five teams have fewer turnovers.

3. Snyderball, baby. This is what K-State does. Chances are high it gets outgained in this game. That's nothing new. Earlier this season, it won four consecutive games in which it was both an underdog and outgained. This will almost certainly be another one. It wins by making defensive stops and forcing turnovers and capitalizing on special-teams play. Kick returner Tyler Lockett, who took two kicks back for scores, is the only piece missing. He's out with a kidney injury. Raphael Guidry loves to block kicks (he has four this season), and Anthony Cantele has been solid in the place-kicking game. K-State knows to win where it counts most. This team, especially.

Wrapping up the Big 12 regular season

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
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The Big 12's not so simple anymore.

Maybe it's unfair, but conferences are most often judged by their top teams. Glance at Oklahoma and Texas, the two teams that won every Big 12 title since 2003, and you'll see a combined eight losses in 2011.

The Longhorns improved from 5-7 to 7-5. Oklahoma? A 2010 Big 12 title bled into a national title chase in 2011 that ended with a third loss in its regular season finale, and a particularly embarrassing one, too.

Robert Griffin
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezRobert Griffin III's star turn got Baylor nine wins -- and himself an invitation to the Heisman ceremony.
Outright Big 12 champion stomped the Sooners in Stillwater, ending the Longhorns and Sooners' Red River Reign over the league. This year's second-place finisher, Kansas State, had been the last team not the Longhorns or Sooners to win the Big 12. Since that title in 2003, it's been all Texas and Oklahoma.

The league ain't what it used to be, in lots of good and bad ways. The newfound parity is a good sign.

Texas A&M and Missouri leaving for the SEC? A profoundly bad sign.

Texas A&M and Missouri's combined 0-6 record against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State? Another good sign.

TCU and West Virginia (probably) join the Big 12 next season, and will find a league that looks much different than it did even two years ago.

Texas' ascent still looks in-progress, and until the Longhorns find a quarterback, can't reasonably count on having any real shot at a Big 12 title. Oklahoma will be strapped for experience next season without Ryan Broyles and three of its best defenders. It will only get more difficult if Landry Jones, projected as a top-10 pick, leaves early for the NFL.

Oklahoma State broke the proverbial glass ceiling this year in resounding fashion, challenging the idea that 2011 was a "down year" in the Big 12. Oklahoma was a disappointment. Texas A&M tanked. The Longhorns were still too young and lacked enough offense.

But there's a reason why, even without a team in the national championship game for the second consecutive year, this was far from a down year for the Big 12. You just have to look a little harder.

Oklahoma State surpassed last year's 10-win regular season with 11 this year, the most in school history. Kansas State is one of the nation's biggest surprises, and was robbed of a spot in the BCS by the Hokie-loving Sugar Bowl. Baylor? All the Bears did was win more Big 12 games (5) than any year before, and put themselves in position for the program's first Heisman winner ever.

Injuries morphed Oklahoma from great to just good, but this year, the Big 12's identity was much deeper than "How did Texas and Oklahoma do?"

The league went 27-3 in nonconference play, winning the eternal love of the BCS computers and landing eight teams in bowl games, despite switching to a nine-game conference schedule. In other words, every team replaced a likely nonconference win with a Big 12 opponent. The league, top to bottom, still put together an outstanding season. That .900 percentage was the best nonconference winning percentage of any league since the SEC in 1997.

Two of those losses, by the way, came from Texas A&M and Missouri, who will be gone to the SEC after this season.

The Big 12 missed out on the national title race, but it wasn't down this year. It was way, way up. You just had to look a little harder to tell.

Time to look back on the season that was:

Offensive MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Griffin might be the nation's offensive MVP, so why would it be any different here? The Heisman finalist (and likely favorite) helped carry the Bears to a 9-3 season and broke the NCAA record for pass-efficiency rating, at 192.31. He racked up 3,998 yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions on 267-of-369 passing.

Defensive MVP: Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma

Alexander played through a painful shoulder injury in Bedlam, and suffered a knee injury in the game, but he was outstanding throughout the season as the biggest wrecking ball on defense of anyone in the Big 12. He's got all the physical measurables, using his speed, flexibility and quickness at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds to lead the Big 12 with 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss.

Newcomer(s) of the year: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State and Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State

I couldn't decide between these two. Both helped completely revitalize a K-State defense that struggled last year. Brown transferred to K-State from Miami and Malone arrived via the City College of San Francisco. Brown was arguably the Big 12's surest tackler, ranking ninth in the league with 95 stops, including 7.5 for loss, two sacks and his first pick was a game-changer against Baylor to help K-State get the victory. He was the first player all season to intercept RG3, and one of just six all season. Malone, meanwhile, snatched seven picks, two more than any player in the Big 12. He also broke up nine passes and made 57 tackles (46 solo).

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Bill Snyder
Scott Sewell/US PRESSWIREBill Snyder molded Kansas State's crew of unknowns into the Big 12's biggest surprise.
Coach of the Year: Bill Snyder, Kansas State

Easy pick here. The numbers say it all. Kansas State was loaded with unknowns. Lots of first-year players, especially on defense (see above), and one of his most hyped players, running back Bryce Brown, left the team at midseason. He also had a former receiver at quarterback, Collin Klein, who became one of the nation's most valuable players. The big man took a beating, but ran for 1,099 yards and a Big 12-best 26 touchdowns. The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12, and don't exude talent as much as most other Big 12 teams do. They nearly won the Big 12, though, and finished eighth in the BCS standings.

Biggest Surprise: Iowa State 37, Oklahoma State 31 in 2OT on Nov. 18.

This one had the biggest impact, too. The Cowboys were 28-point favorites and raced to a 24-7 third-quarter lead. They didn't score again until overtime. Iowa State rallied to tie the game, and the usually reliable Quinn Sharp missed what could have been a game-winning 37-yard field goal with just over a minute to play. After Brandon Weeden threw an interception in the second overtime, Iowa State pounded the running game and Jeff Woody crossed the goal line to win the game, put Iowa State into a second bowl game in three years, and knocked Oklahoma State out of the national title chase. The morning of the game, Oklahoma State learned that women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna had been killed in a plane crash. After the gam, the Cowboys were left trying to stomach a painful, shocking loss on the field, where the stands at Jack Trice Stadium had emptied for an epic field rush.

Biggest Disappointment: Texas A&M

No question about this one. Texas A&M was a Big 12 contender and had the talent to possibly win a national title. The mental makeup, though, didn't exactly reek of toughness. The Aggies were favored in 11 games and led by double digits in all 11 of those games. They lost six, including five losses with double-digit halftime leads. They saved the most painful loss for last. Hated rival Texas, a catalyst for the move to the SEC, erased a 10-0 and 16-7 halftime lead to beat the Aggies 27-25 on a last-second field goal after a late two-minute drill. Less than a week later, Texas A&M fired coach Mike Sherman and is looking for his replacement before moving to the SEC next season.

Best Game: Kansas State 53, Texas A&M 50 in 4OT on Nov. 12

This might be the best game in Big 12 history. With just 6:38 to play, Kansas State trailed, 31-21. Klein hit Chris Harper for a 53-yard score to get the Wildcats within reach, and K-State forced overtime on a 44-yard kick by Anthony Cantele with just 2:12 to play. The two teams traded touchdowns in the first and third overtimes, sandwiched around field goals in the second overtime. In the third, though? Texas A&M elected to kick a 20-yard field goal on 4th-and-1 at the K-State 3-yard line. Kansas State answered with all running plays and drew a pass-interference penalty before Klein pushed the pile for a 1-yard touchdown to win the game.

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