NCF Nation: Juaquin Iglesias
The two championship teams were the best of the conference's last 10 years. Some of the other BCS title participants were good, but not necessarily among the very best teams during the conference's recent history.
Here's how I rank the Big 12's top 10 teams over the last decade.
1. 2005 Texas: A star-studded team paced by All-Americans Michael Huff, Jonathan Scott, Rodrique Wright and Vince Young ran off 13 straight victories, capping the season with a BCS title-game victory over USC. The team averaged 50.2 points per game en route to a then-NCAA record 652 total points, earning Texas’ first undisputed national championship since 1969. It was the greatest team that Mack Brown ever coached and arguably the best team in the rich football history of Texas.
2. 2000 Oklahoma: Bob Stoops claimed a national championship in his second season coaching the Trojans behind Josh Heupel, who finished second in the Heisman race that season. All-Americans Heupel, linebacker Rocky Calmus and J.T. Thatcher helped the Sooners notch the first undefeated season and national championship in Big 12 history. After winning three of their final four regular-season games by less than five points, the Sooners dominated Florida State in a 13-2 triumph in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.
3. 2008 Oklahoma: Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy with this team, which overcame a midseason loss to Texas and still claimed the Big 12 title in a 12-2 season that was marred by a 24-14 loss to Florida in the national championship game. The Sooners rolled-up a record 702 points as Bradford passed for 50 touchdowns, Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray each rushed for 1,000 yards and Juaquin Iglesias topped 1,000 yards receiving. The Sooners scored 35 points in each regular-season game and finished the regular season with five straight games of at least 60 points before the BCS title-game loss.
4. 2004 Oklahoma: The Sooners charged to 12 straight victories before a dropping a 55-19 decision to USC in the Orange Bowl for the national title. Freshman running back Adrian Peterson rushed for an NCAA freshman record 1,925 yards to finish second in the Heisman. Jason White claimed the Heisman the previous season and his numbers were down with Peterson's arrival, but he still passed for 3,205 yards and 35 touchdowns. This group had strength in the trenches with All-Americans like Vince Carter, Dan Cody, Jammal Brown and Mark Clayton as it claimed Bob Stoops’ third Big 12 title.
5. 2009 Texas: After streaking to a school-record 13-0 mark through the Big 12 title game, the Longhorns dropped a 37-21 decision to Alabama in the national title game in a contest that changed when Colt McCoy was hurt on the fifth play of the game. McCoy became the winningest quarterback in NCAA history during this season, repeatedly hooking up with favorite target Jordan Shipley, who snagged a school-record 116 receptions, 1,485 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Longhorns led the nation in rush defense, and All-American safety Earl Thomas tied a school record with eight interceptions. Lamarr Houston and Sergio Kindle also added playmaking abilities to the defense.
6. 2004 Texas: The Longhorns overcame a midseason 12-0 loss to Oklahoma to finish the season with seven straight victories in a season capped by a dramatic 38-37 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The Longhorns ranked second nationally in rushing offense and seventh in total offense as Young gradually found his confidence as a passer late in the season. Cedric Benson rushed for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Young chipped in with 1,079 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. This team showed a knack for comebacks, overcoming an early 35-7 deficit against Oklahoma State and also coming from behind in an early-season victory at Arkansas.
7. 2007 Oklahoma: Bradford led the first of two consecutive Big 12 championships on a team that enabled the Sooners to become the first Big 12 school to win back-to-back titles. The Sooners dropped road games to Colorado and Texas Tech but still overcame Missouri in the Big 12 title game behind a huge defensive effort keyed by Big 12 defensive player of the year Rufus Alexander. Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency, but the Sooners' bowl struggles continued in an embarrassing 48-28 loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.
8. 2003 Kansas State: Don’t let the Wildcats’ 11-4 record fool you. After an early three-game losing streak to Marshall, Texas and Oklahoma State (by a combined margin of 15 points), Bill Snyder’s team won its final seven regular-season games by a combined margin of 271-66. That streak was culminated by a stunning 35-7 upset victory over Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game -- the last victory by a North Division team in the title game. The Wildcats ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing, scoring, total defense, scoring defense and pass defense as Darren Sproles rushed for 1,986 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Wildcats dropped a 35-28 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State in a game they fell into an early 21-0 deficit and had a chance to tie on the final play of the game after a frantic comeback directed by Ell Roberson.
9. 2007 Missouri: Chase Daniel led Missouri into the Big 12 title game for the first time in school history, taking the team to No. 1 nationally heading into the conference championship game. The Tigers lost twice to Oklahoma during a 12-2 season that was capped by 38-7 beatdown over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Tony Temple made that game memorable by rushing for a record 281 yards and four TDs that pushed Missouri to No. 4 nationally at the end of the season. A star-studded collection of talent including Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, Martin Rucker and Sean Weatherspoon helped the Tigers rank among the top-10 teams nationally in passing, total offense and scoring and 11th in turnover margin.
10. 2007 Kansas: The Jayhawks earned Mark Mangino the national coach of the year award by running to an 11-0 start before losing to Missouri in the regular-season finale. The Jayhawks rebounded for a 24-21 victory over Virginia Tech in their first BCS bowl appearance in school history, finishing a 12-1 season that set a school record for victories. Todd Reesing passed for 33 touchdowns to highlight a high-powered offense that scored 76 points against Nebraska and scored at least 43 points in eight games. The Jayhawks were a balanced team that ranked second nationally in scoring offense, fourth in scoring defense and in the top 10 nationally in eight different team statistics. Anthony Collins and Aqib Talib earned consensus All-America honors.
There’s a natural tendency to overlook Dejuan Miller when considering Oklahoma’s speediest wide receivers.
|Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images|
|Oklahoma receiver Dejuan Miller scored his first touchdown against Kansas State.|
That is, until Miller lines up and actually runs a few routes.
“When people look at me, they automatically think I’m some kind of possession receiver,” Miller said. “But I ran track in high school. I can get out and run when I have to.”
That speed might be a stunner to some defenders. But it’s a natural advantage that Miller likes to spring on unsuspecting opponents.
“It’s fun and I love it,” Miller said. “When they see somebody 6-4 and 224 pounds they think I can just catch the ball. But it’s nice to surprise and shock them sometimes when I run.”
Earlier this season, teammates were mesmerized by his combination of size and speed. Several Oklahoma defensive backs compared him to NFL superstar Larry Fitzgerald because of his bountiful natural gifts.
But despite those tools and a strong effort in fall camp, Miller has had to wait his turn to work his way into Oklahoma’s receiving rotation.
“There was a frustrating point,” Miller said. “It was kind of like climbing a mountain and trying to stay positive every day and have positive outlook. I knew things would fall into place. I just needed my chance to shine and get a chance to play.”
That opportunity finally arrived last week when he produced a career-best nine receptions for 93 yards to help spark the Sooners’ victory over Kansas State.
His first catch was a 23-yard touchdown grab in which he broke several tackles. It was the first touchdown of his career.
Miller also produced three key third-down receptions on drives that led to Oklahoma touchdowns against the Wildcats.
“I feel like this was kind of my coming-out party, a chance to show what I could do,” Miller said. "It was huge because I’ve been waiting for a breakout game like that. I just wanted to showcase what I could do and be a playmaker for us.”
That development provides a capable No. 2 threat behind the speedy Ryan Broyles, who leads the nation with 10 touchdown receptions. The sophomore duo has Oklahoma fans excited about the future.
“Me and Ryan bring something different to the table,” Miller said. “He’s a natural playmaker and I think I bring more of a physical standpoint. I bring the physical and he brings flair and finesse. We kind of feed off each other.”
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones' connection with Miller in Oklahoma’s offense also appears to have grown in the last several weeks. Miller is listed as a first-string receiver on the Sooners' depth chart heading into Saturday's game at Nebraska.
"I always had confidence in him," Jones told the Tulsa World. "I've seen what he does in practice and what he's done since spring. He's a hard-working kid. He's going to make every play for you."
Miller was one of the three top wide receivers who chose the Sooners in the 2008 recruiting class along with Josh Jarboe and Jameel Owens. But Jarboe was dismissed from the Oklahoma squad two days before practice began last season when an expletive-laced rap video he had crafted ended up on the Internet.
And neither Miller nor Owens got much playing time last season as the Sooners preferred to use senior receivers like Manny Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney.
“I was in kind of a rough situation last year because there were a lot of older guys in front of me,” Miller said. “I had to wait on my turn and be patient. I learned patience is a virtue.”
Family members in the Oklahoma City area were the major reason why Miller chose to leave his hometown of Metuchen, N.J., for the Oklahoma program. Among the other schools he considered included Penn State, Florida, Michigan, Boston College and Cincinnati.
But after the first big game of his career, Miller is happy he chose to come to Oklahoma -- even if he had to wait for his chance to play.
"I knew things eventually would get better,” Miller said. “It might be a rocky road, but I wanted to stick with it. I always had a good attitude because I knew it was just a matter of time before my chance would come along.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Sam Bradford's return to Oklahoma's starting lineup tomorrow against Baylor is the best indication that the Sooners' real season starts tomorrow.
|Doug Benc/Getty Images|
|Sam Bradford will see his first game action since the season opener.|
The Sooners have lost their chance to play for the national championship, but are redirecting their priorities to winning an unprecedented fourth-straight Big 12 title.
Bradford's return could be the adrenaline shot the Sooners need to turn around their season.
Obviously, the most important game for the Sooners is next Saturday at the Cotton Bowl when they meet up with old nemesis Texas. The winner of that game has the clearest path to the South Division title.
It would have been hard to imagine that Bradford would have been able to go into that game "cold" without experiencing any previous game action.
That's why the game against Baylor plays out so well for Oklahoma.
I look for Bradford to maybe work in the Baylor game almost like an NFL starting quarterback would tune up for the regular season in a late exhibition game. It wouldn't surprise me to see him play three or four possessions just to get his feet wet and see how his shoulder might hold up while making some throws and some game contact.
Bradford returns with a team that bears little resemblance to the record-setting unit that broke scoring records last season. Preseason All-American tight end Jermaine Gresham will miss the season with a knee injury. Top receivers Manny Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias are gone to the NFL. Top 2009 receiver Ryan Broyles is out with a fractured scapula. A retooled offensive line with four new starters has struggled both in pass protection and staying away from penalties.
It will be interesting to see what Bradford's return will mean for the Sooners.
But it certainly can't hurt.
And a Sooners season that looked moribund after the disappointing loss to Miami last week still has a little sizzle left.
Starting tomorrow with Bradford's return to the starting lineup.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops thinks that Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford has come back noticeably improved for his junior season.
Bradford broke Oklahoma single-season records with 50 touchdown passes and 4,720 passing yards last season, but he appears to have more confidence and a better deep arm after the first week of Oklahoma's practices.
|AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki|
|Sam Bradford has added 10 pounds on his frame since last season.|
"He's strong, he's quicker and the ball comes out that much faster," Stoops said. "With another year of experience out on the field, he'll think much quicker, too."
Bradford appears noticeably bigger after adding 10 pounds of muscle since the end of last year.
"Sam is getting better each and every day," senior wide receiver Adron Tennell said. "Throwing the ball, rolling out of the pocket, he's done it all. You can tell he's better than before."Stoops said there's little separation between his backups who are playing behind Bradford at quarterback.
"Those guys are still splitting their reps," Stoops said. "We keep snapping the ball and giving them experience. They are working well together and doing a nice job."
- Sophomore defensive back Jamell Fleming has been hobbled by a back injury and sophomore defensive back Desmond Jackson "has an issue with academic misconduct" that he's working through, Stoops said.
- Oklahoma's special teams have looked strong in recent practices. Kicker Jimmy Stevens showed improved range at Thursday's open practice with field goals of 50 and 53 yards.
Stevens' length is a big development for the Sooners. His longest kick last season was 42 yards and he shanked five extra points.
Stoops playfully chided about 300 fans who attended the Sooners' open workout Thursday night that they weren't cheering loud enough for Stevens' big kicks.
"They only cheer when there's an offensive play," Stoops said. "When the defense intercepts the ball they are quiet over there or when the kicker gets a nice 53-yard field goal."
- One of the early revelations of fall practice has been wide receiver/punter Cameron Kenney, a transfer from Garden City Community College.
Kenney has jumped into the mix at wide receiver and also is challenging for the punting position against Tress Way. It's a weird combination of a speedy wide receiver who also is a strong punter.
"He's pretty good," Stoops said. "He's shows a lot of signs (as a receiver), but he needs to be more consistent, but he's doing a lot of good things.
"He's punted well, too. It's very rare because you don't see a lot of wide receivers who can punt the ball 40 yards like he can."
Oklahoma receivers coach Jay Norvell said that Kenney reminds him of former Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias because of his combination of size and strength.
"It's because of his quickness, his way of getting in and out of plays and the fact he's very strong to the ball," Norvell said. "Cameron can also run well after the catch. He's a hard worker and the guys who work the hardest get better faster."
- Despite the loss of key playmakers like Iglesias, Manny Johnson and Quentin Chaney from last season, Norvell thinks his current group has the chance to be better than last year's productive group.
"I think we're more athletic and explosive than we were last year," Norvell said. "Whether that will correlate into productiveness, I'm not sure. But we have athletes and in that respect we probably have more deep threats than we did last year."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Friday afternoon. Here are some of the better questions and e-mails that I received this week.
Brian Kimble of Beltsville, Md., writes: After seeing the preseason All-Big 12 list and looking back at several articles from you and other sources, it seems every time Oklahoma and Texas are compared position by position, player by player, it favors OU. Yet, most prognosticators (yourself included) pick Texas as the better team. What is your justification?
Tim Griffin: Brian, I give Texas a slight edge for a couple of reasons. First, I think Oklahoma's loss of four starters along the offensive line is huge. With only one starter returning, the Sooners will have their work cut out to fix that by Oct. 17 at the Cotton Bowl. And I, along with several other people I've talked to, believe that Texas is entering the season with a kind of a collective chip on its shoulder from how the 2008 season played out. The Longhorns' coaching staff is helping to feed that by at one time awarding the team an asterisk-influenced share of the Big 12 title in their team meeting room before taking it down. And I also think that Colt McCoy is driven to win a championship.
I think the difference between the two teams is very, very slight. But I favor the Longhorns by a hair for those reasons.
I do reserve the right to change my mind before game day. But if they were playing today, I would make the Longhorns a slight favorite, say by about a field goal.
Drew Kappel of Orange County, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I was shocked to see that "The Catch", the Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook pass in the famous "Miracle in Michigan" was not on your Big 12 greatest moments. Did I miss something? I was waiting for that every week and I just assumed it would be number 1, and then I was shocked when it wasn't. That is one of the most famous moments in Big 12 history as far as many Buff fans are concerned.
Tim Griffin: Drew, I limited my choices to moments during the history of the Big 12. The "Michigan Miracle," which I agree was one of the greatest plays in college football history, took place on Sept. 24, 1994 -- a little more than two years before the first Big 12 game was played in 1996.
But it was a great play and definitely would have merited some kind of inclusion if I had allowed all plays in the history of each Big 12 school to be included.
But it was tough enough narrowing my choice to 25 with those in Big 12 history. I couldn't have imagined how difficult it would have been if I had to cull through every school's football history looking for memories.
Maybe I'll do that next summer.
Spencer from Oklahoma writes: Tim, I'm a fan of yours and enjoy reading your blog, including the latest entry regarding 100-yard receivers and rushers and 300-yard passers. I noticed something from that study, and I wondered what you thought of this.
I saw that Sam Bradford had 13 games of 300 yards. However, there were only two instances of receivers at Oklahoma having 100-yard games. One belonged to Ryan Broyles, the other to Jermaine Gresham. I found this astonishing.
The other QB to have 13 300-yard games was Kansas' Todd Reesing. However, notice the instances of 100-yard receivers for the Jayhawks. They have 15!! Dezmon Briscoe had seven, Kerry Meier had five and three others had one 100-yard game apiece.
Is this surprising that Oklahoma has only had two receivers with a single 100-yard game among its receivers, despite the passing numbers put up by Bradford? And does this speak to the versatility of Bradford using all his outlets? What are your thoughts?
Tim Griffin: My list includes only players who are returning for the 2009 season. What it might speak to even more than anything were the losses that the Sooners endured with the departure of Juaquin Iglesias and Manny Johnson. Iglesias had seven career 100-yard receiving games, including three last season. Johnson had three career 100-yard receiving games, including two last season.
But I've noticed that Bradford has matured, he seems to be less likely to focus on one receiver. I think that results in a wider inclusion of many receivers into his offense rather than one or two. And that results in the fewer number of 100-yard receivers around the Oklahoma program.
That being said, I look for Broyles to really emerge as a deep threat this season if he can stay healthy. And Adron "Pooh" Tennell looked ready to produce after a strong season. And I think both can develop into consistent big-yardage receivers if they grab enough passes.
Tim from New York City writes: I have a question that has Big 12 (actually Big 8) ties regarding a coach outside of the conference. Given Turner Gill's recent success at and brief turnaround of one of Division I's ultimate projects at Buffalo, is it a long shot to believe that he may make a return to his former conference? If so, what teams would make a good fit for him?
Tim Griffin: Turner Gill has done a masterful job in rebuilding Buffalo after leading the Bulls to the Mid-American Conference championship and the International Bowl last season.
That strong job obviously has to have caught the attention of his old coach, Tom Osborne, which would make some think that Nebraska would be a place he might end up as a head coach. For that to happen, Bo Pelini would have to go on to another job. I think Gill might need a tad more more seasoning at Buffalo. And I don't see any interest in Pelini pursuing any other jobs at this time.
Another job that will come open probably pretty soon will be Kansas State, where there's no indication that Bill Snyder is in the head coaching position for the long term. Maybe Snyder, who turns 70 on Oct. 7, will stay at his old school for two or three years. It would be interesting if Gill would be attracted to Kansas State and if the Wildcats would be attracted to him.
I think the job that would make sense to him would be at TCU in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Obviously, Gary Patterson would have to being going somewhere and I don't know how much interest Patterson has in pursuing other jobs at this time.
But I personally think that TCU might be the best non-BCS job in the country. And it might be better than some jobs in the Big 12. The reason I consider this job so highly include its proximity to the fertile Texas recruiting area, the developing facilities at the school, the school's winning tradition and its conference affiliation.
Patterson currently has an easier road to the BCS in his own conference than he would if the Horned Frogs were playing in the Big 12. And I think he knows it.
But I would also think the chance to return home for Gill would be attractive if the opportunity to accept the TCU job if it ever materialized for him.
Rick Yarbrough from Tripoli, Libya, writes: Football over here is with a round ball and guys in shorts. I'm gonna miss the fall afternoons watching the Longhorns running up and down the field. With a Sunday - Thursday work week and 7 hours time difference, I'm looking to you to keep us up to speed on the Longhorns. Keep up the great work. I'll be catching your blog.
Tim Griffin: Rick, thanks for your work. Please check the blog often during the upcoming season for some updates of home on a pretty regular basis. It should be an interesting season.
And boy, do I envy your days off. You should be able to catch almost every college football game from everywhere, depending on the satellites.
Larry Soper writes: Tim: Nice article on Taylor Potts on ESPN.com earlier this week. Could you please tell me what the Texas Tech receivers look like for Potts with Michael Crabtree gone?
Tim Griffin: Obviously, the loss of two-time Biletnikoff winner will be a big one for Texas Tech. But I think the Red Raiders actually will be more balanced this season without one player commanding most of the catches like Crabtree has done for the last two seasons. I look for Detron Lewis to step up in the featured role with a chance to catch 90-100 balls if he can stay healthy. But I've always liked Edward Britton, who I think could really blossom if he matures in his role in the offense. I think the same could be true for Tremain Swindall as well. And I know that Mike Leach has always raved about Lyle Leong and Adam James as they have played in his system.
I wouldn't look for one player to catch most of the passes for Tech this season. But it will be interesting to see who Potts gravitates to as his receiver. We'll see that as the season plays out for the Red Raiders.
Tom Bates from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim, I know media day is coming up for you. I wonder if you would list your favorite three players and three coaches in the Big 12 to talk with. And maybe give a reason why you find those guys to be the best interviews.
Tim Griffin: As far as players go, this would be my list. 1. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri - Always has something interesting to say. 2. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma - I can see why Sooner players have gravitated to him since his arrival. He's a leader and his words command respect. 3. Kerry Meier, Kansas - Polished and well spoken. He could have a career behind the microphone after his playing days are over.
As far as coaches, this is how I would rank them: 1. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach - You never know what know what he's going to say. And that's the beauty of him. 2. Baylor coach Art Briles - Still has enough small-town Texas high-school football coach in him to always have some interesting comments. 3. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins - I never had heard the word "conflama" before I met the Hawk. But it's grown in my vocabulary since being around him to describe the combination of conflict and drama.
I also loved his comment on taking his wife to an Abba concert during the 2007 season. "You stay married for 25 years by making sacrifices."
We could all learn from that attitude, I guess.
Have a good weekend. I'll catch up with you on Monday from the Big 12 media days in Irving, Texas. Thanks again for all of the good questions and please keep them coming.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Considering all of the key receivers that left Oklahoma's team after last season, it's understandable why some aren't sold on the Sooners' returning talent at the position.
Leading returning receiver Ryan Broyles doesn't mind that at all. In fact, Broyles actually likes that many are considering his receiving corps as one of the Sooners' biggest positional question marks.
|Stephen Brashear/Icon SMI|
|Ryan Broyles will be one of quarterback Sam Bradford's go-to guys in 2009.|
"We've all been doubted around here before," Broyles said. "We just want to rise to the occasion and show what we can do when we get the chance."
The Sooners must replace playmakers Manuel Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney from last season. That trio combined to produce 145 receptions, 2,368 yards and 21 touchdowns to spark an explosive passing game that catapulted Sam Bradford to the Heisman Trophy.
Their departure is expected to hamstring the Sooners' vertical passing game in Bradford's third season as a starter. But it's also bolstered the confidence of several players who are figuring that it's now their time to shine.
No player has been more vociferous this spring as 6-foot-4 senior wide receiver Adron Tennell, a senior who is poised to emerge as one of the Sooners' likely deep threats.
"I feel like I'm back in high school. I'm unstoppable and nobody can touch me," said Tennell, who has produced only 16 catches in the first three seasons at Oklahoma after struggling with a knee injury and talented teammates in front of him.
Tennell, known as "Pooh" by his relatives since childhood, arrived at Oklahoma as the most-heralded receiving recruit in recent history. One scouting service had him ranked as the third-highest recruit in the 2006 recruiting class, behind only Florida's Percy Harvin and USC's Vidal Hazelton.
But Tennell's development was stunted after he injured his knee on special teams late in his sophomore season against Texas Tech. The injury caused him to miss all of winter conditioning and spring practice before last season.
As the other players developed, Tennell's playing time diminished. He produced only nine catches for 68 yards last season.
"Being behind all of those guys who were here before me, I was hoping I'd get to play," Tennell said. "But when I didn't, I got anxious about having to sit and watch. Now, I'm trying to shine when I get my chance."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
MIAMI -- The red eyes in the Oklahoma locker room were to be expected.
Another loss in a BCS bowl game -- the Sooners' fifth in the past six seasons -- was a bitter pill for a team that felt it was going to shock the world by upsetting Florida.
|AP Photo/Lynne Sladky|
|Missed opportunities in the red zone hurt the Sooners on Thursday night.|
That didn't work out in the Sooners' 24-14 loss to Florida because of one major reason: Oklahoma simply made too many critical mistakes inside the Florida 20-yard line to expect to be able to win.
"We moved the ball well, but just kept shooting ourselves in the foot over and over," Oklahoma wide receiver Manny Johnson said. "It hurts, because we moved the ball but we just couldn't make the plays when we needed them. We felt like it's our own fault."
And it was. The Sooners were turned away on two drives inside the Florida 6-yard line in the first half when they easily could have seized the game's momentum.
Oklahoma was stopped twice inside the Florida 1 midway through the second quarter. Tailback Chris Brown was stuffed on consecutive plays by sophomore Florida defensive tackle Torrey Davis, who had provided only five tackles all season coming into the game.
Brown, who rushed for a team-high 110 yards, might have been tired. He carried the ball on all five plays in the drive until he was turned away on fourth down.
"They bit down on us," Brown said. "They stopped us and they came up with some key plays when they really needed them. It was disappointing because I felt like I could get there [the end zone]."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
MIAMI -- We're less than 45 minutes away from kickoff and I'm excited about the start. Both teams have left the field after their pregame warm-ups. The bands for both teams will be taking the field. As Keith Jackson used to say, the color and pageantry of college football is apparent here tonight.
|Donald Miralle/Getty Images|
|The Florida Gators get ready to take the field before Thursday's game.|
Here are a few trends to watch to provide an idea of how the game will turn out:
1. Will Oklahoma be able to keep Florida's speedy pass rush away from Sam Bradford? The Sooners struggled against the only true speed pass-rush teams they faced in TCU and Texas. Those teams accounted for seven of the 11 sacks notched against Oklahoma this season.
2. How will Florida be able to use its situational defensive substitutions against Oklahoma's no-huddle offense? The fast pace makes it difficult for opponents to alter personnel very much against the Sooners. I'm sure the more players that Charlie Strong can get into the lineup, the better he will feel.
3. How will Oklahoma's kick-coverage unit stand up against Brandon James? Oklahoma has one of the worst units against kickoffs in the country, allowing four TD returns this season. It's been aggravated because the Sooners haven't played for 33 days, leaving the unit rusty. This will bear careful scrutiny, especially on Florida's first kickoff return.
4. What attitude will Oklahoma's defense bring to the game? After being called out by Florida middle linebacker Brandon Spikes as "a joke," how will the Sooners react? They couldn't have asked for any more pregame inspiration.
5. How will Oklahoma operate without DeMarco Murray? After Murray injured his hamstring against Missouri in the Big 12 championship game, Chris Brown and Mossis Madu both picked up the slack. But they will be playing against a faster unit that will challenge them on every play. The absence of Murray will be particularly noticeable on kickoff returns, where Murray was Oklahoma's primary returner. Brown and Juaquin Iglesias will inherit that role in tonight's game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
MIAMI -- Early in his career, Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias wasn't sure he belonged with the Sooners.
|Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE|
|Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias is looking to end his career on a high-note with a BCS Championship Game win over Florida.|
Recruited almost as an afterthought after a high-school career where he was known primarily for his basketball and track accomplishments, Iglesias struggled early to get the concepts of the Sooners' passing game down after his arrival.
"I didn't think I would play at all when I first got there," Iglesias said. "Going from catching a lot of balls in high school to not playing is hard. I was trying to prepare myself for that transformation after I was here for a few weeks."
But instead of moping, Iglesias redoubled his efforts on the practice, catching his coaches' attention by doing the little things.
From those humble origins, Iglesias has developed into one of the most prolific receivers in Oklahoma history. And he's never forgotten how far he has come from those early days when he felt fortunate to even be playing with the Sooners.
Iglesias will conclude his career Thursday night playing in the biggest football game of the season as the Sooners meet Florida in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game.
"The difference between back then and now is like night and day," Iglesias said Monday as he soaked up the atmosphere at Dolphin Stadium during a team media function. "I was sure I was never going to play for the few months I was here. Now, playing in a stadium like this in a game like this is something you dream about.
"A lot of kids play this game and never get a chance like I'm getting. I'm playing for them and for my family."
The Big 12's deep collection of receiving talent has caused Iglesias to sometimes become lost in the shuffle. Especially this season, when the conference was the home to all three Biletnikoff Award finalists -- Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, Missouri's Jeremy Maclin and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant.
But Iglesias was nearly as proficient this season, producing 69 receptions for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was the second-most catches in Oklahoma history as Iglesias became only the third Sooner to top 1,000 yards. He holds two of the top three seasons in Sooner history for receptions, trailing only Mark Clayton's record of 221 catches from 2001-04.
When Manny Johnson went down early in the Kansas game with an elbow injury, Iglesias stepped up to produce a school single-game record 12 receptions for 191 yards.
His development has mirrored the growth of quarterback Sam Bradford. The two players often worked during the summer and after practice the last two seasons to work on their timing running hundreds of his pass patterns.
That work has allowed them to bond in a connection that Bradford said is closer than he shares with any other teammate.
"I do have confidence in Juaquin and I definitely know where he's going to be on every play," Bradford said. "If something is funky and I'm not sure what's going on with the defense, most of the time I just look for him."
Oklahoma's collection of receiving threats has kept opposing defenses honest all season. The Sooners feature a deep cast with six receivers with at least 27 catches this season. Five of those players have averaged at least 15 yards per catch.
"I very rarely ever see double coverage," Iglesias said. "Having all those players helps us out a lot. It's good to have a lot of people so they have to worry about a lot of things."
But Iglesias' development has particularly thrilled the Sooners' coaches over the years. They outrecruited UTEP for him as no other Big 12 players were interested after a limited football career at Killeen (Texas) High School. He was more widely known after averaging 17 points per game in basketball and being an accomplished runner in the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays.
The Sooners got interested in him late in recruiting and have seen him transformed once he came to college because of his work ethic.
"I kid with the Price Brothers at UTEP (former UTEP assistant coach Eric Price and current UTEP assistant Aaron Price) about Juaquin," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "They say 'There's that guy you stole from us.' Not that Juaquin wasn't a good player, but he was falling through the cracks. We got lucky and found a guy who has really helped us."
Iglesias will also inherit another role in Thursday's game as he becomes the Sooners' primary kickoff returner after the injury to DeMarco Murray. Iglesias set a school record with 826 kickoff return yards last season, but saw Murray inherit the featured return role this season.
"I'm really excited about getting my chance at that again," Iglesias said. "It's always fun when you have the ball in your hands."
Even if he wasn't sure he'd ever get that opportunity earlier in his college career.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Oklahoma came into the Big 12 title game needing to make a statement to prove their legitimacy as the South Division title-game participants.
After one half, the Sooners' resounding 38-7 lead shows that they not only belong in Kansas City, but likely in Miami for the BCS title game as well.
The Sooners have scored on all but one first-half possession as they have manhandled the Tigers from the start. They've already piled up 359 yards on 54 first-half plays, averaging 6.6 yards per snap.
It's that high-powered offense that has enabled them to score 678 points for the season, setting a modern-day NCAA record.
Oklahoma's defense has been fearsome, notching two sacks and forcing two turnovers. Cornerback Brian Jackson has notched a fumble recovery and an interception that set up scoring drives.
How dominant has it been? Leading Oklahoma rusher DeMarco Murray sprained his ankle on the opening kickoff and hasn't played. And he's hardly been missed as the Sooners have piled up 119 rushing yards.
The onslaught could best be seen late in the first half. After Chase Daniel was tackled with seven seconds left, the Tigers decided to meekly let the rest of the clock tick away despite having the ball on the Sooners side of the 50.
Oklahoma scored 28 points in the second quarter and blew the game open. The Tigers look beaten and like they want to go sit where it's warm instead of coming out for the second half.
Here are some items of interest I've noticed in watching the first half.
- The South Division has dominated the Big 12 in the last several years and it's continuing tonight with Oklahoma's fast start. Including the last four years and tonight's first half, the South Division teams have outscored the North, 202-37.
- The Sooners have taken advantage of their huge size edge on the left side, running behind clearing blocks by massive left tackle Phil Loadholt and Outland finalist Duke Robinson for success throughout the first half.
- The Sooners became the first team in Big 12 history with a pair of 1,000-yard backs. Murray came into the game with 1,002 yards. And Brown has joined him with 83 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, giving him 1,071 for the season.
- Missouri's secondary struggled throughout the season. And the loss of starting cornerback Castine Bridges appears to have worsened the condition. The Tigers have been susceptible to slants as they've been outclassed by Oklahoma's more physical and quicker collection of receivers. Ryan Broyles has six catches, Juaquin Iglesias has four and Quentin Chaney has two. And massive tight end Jermaine Gresham has run free through the secondary with six receptions for 59 yards.
- The game has been chippy in the early going. Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander and Missouri tackle Elvis Fisher both were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after tangling in the first quarter.
Veteran Missouri wide receiver Tommy Saunders was flagged for taunting after the Tigers' touchdown, setting up good field position that the Sooners turned into a 53-yard touchdown drive. And Iglesias was flagged for taunting after his own touchdown later in the second quarter.
It prompted referee Randy Christal to call the teams together with about 12 minutes to go in the half, telling them to cool the extra energy.
- Sam Bradford's Heisman candidacy has never looked stronger. Despite playing with an injured left thumb immobilized by a splint, Bradford has completed 22 of 31 yards for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
With the preponderance of offense in the Big 12 again this week, it's another tough choice to pick who takes home the stickers.
Here are my choices:
Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell: Passed for 450 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two more TDs to lead the Red Raiders' 43-25 victory over Texas A&M, giving the Texas Tech its best start in 32 seasons.
Oklahoma's passing duo of Sam Bradford and Juaquin Iglesias: Hard to separate these two after Bradford passed for a school-record 468 yards and three TDs and Iglesias snagged a school-record 12 receptions for 191 yards in the Sooners' 45-31 triumph over Kansas.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy: Completed 29-of-32 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns, ran for two more scores and at one point completed a school-record 17 passes in a row to direct the Longhorns to a 56-31 victory over Missouri to maintain their No. 1 ranking.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- It wasn't exactly how Barry Switzer would have called the offense.
There were no wishbone elements in Oklahoma's offensive attack. But other elements of the Sooners' offensive onslaught were eerily reminiscent of how "The King" would have done it -- mainly in its sheer domination.
|AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki|
|Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford passed for a school-record 468 yards.|
But unlike some of Switzer's run-heavy efforts back in the day, this one was a bow to modern-day offensive philosophy. Sam Bradford threw for a school-record 468 passing yards and the much-maligned Sooner offensive line paved the way for 206 rushing yards as the Sooners cruised to a convincing victory.
"We always want more," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of his team's 97-snap offensive binge. "I would have liked to have had three more snaps and just kept moving and gotten to 100. I would have liked to have had a couple of plays back. But I guess that's being a little greedy."
Bradford broke the previous school record of 429 yards set by his quarterback coach Josh Heupel. But he was happier about his team bouncing back from its late struggles last week against Texas than any individual accomplishment.
"Obviously, getting the numbers are nice, but the most important thing is come out here and get a win," Bradford said. "Our offensive line did a great job, we got the running game going and I had all the time in the world back there to pass."
Oklahoma's huge offensive game came after the loss of leading receiver Manny Johnson, who suffered an injury to his left elbow on the game's fifth play and did not return.
Juaquin Iglesias took advantage of his absence by producing a school-record 12 catches for 191 yards. It was the second-biggest receiving performance in school history, topped only by Johnson's 206-yard effort earlier this season against TCU.
"Today, I felt like I was in the zone," said Iglesias, who said he would beat himself up for two drops. "I didn't feel like I had to do something I wasn't. I just tried to make the plays that were there."
The Sooners' offensive line had become a punchline over the last week after producing less than 50 rushing yards in two of its last three games. But Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray combined to rush for 175 yards as the Sooners' massive offensive line was intent on proving a point early in the game.
"There was a lot of weight bearing down on our shoulders about not getting the running game going," Oklahoma guard Duke Robinson said. "We came out on edge. We just wanted to show something."
Nobody emerged more than Murray, who had been struggling with a slump that many attributed to the lasting effects of a dislocated kneecap sustained late last season.
"I just decided not to listen what the media has been saying," said Murray, who had averaged only 2.7 yards per carry in his last three games. "I know people have been talking about my knee. It was just in my mind and I wanted to forget about it."
Murray and Brown both appeared to be running with passion, answering the challenge of Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. During struggles against TCU and Texas, Wilson had hinted that the Oklahoma backs hadn't been running as hard as he would have liked.
Murray had not had a carry longer than 14 yards since the opening game of the season. But he spurted through a huge hole for a 17-yard gain late in the first quarter to show he was approaching his previous form and later added another spinning 16-yarder shortly before halftime.
"We knew we hadn't been running hard enough," Murray said. "We took it as a challenge and wanted to be more physical. And we answered a little of the challenge today."
He credited some of his performance to running with a new, lighter pair of shoes that made him feel like he was faster.
"I always had confidence, but I had just missed some holes," Murray said. "I just tried to run hard and the offensive line made some good blocks for me. It was there for me."
This fact, if true, should be a scary proposition for the rest of the Big 12. Even after the 10th best offensive performance in terms of total offense in school history, Murray said the Sooners can do more.
And he was right. The Sooners missed two makeable field goals from kicker Jimmy Stevens, including a shanked 30-yarder that ended Oklahoma's streak of 28 scores on 28 red-zone possessions on the opening possession.
"It's not about being greedy," Murray said. "We expect more of ourselves, knowing we had some opportunities and didn't do as well as we could have done. We've still have got a lot of room for improvement."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- So much for any post-Texas hangover for Oklahoma's offense.
The Sooners' defense has lived up to the new order in this season's Big 12. Namely, it doesn't matter how many yards a defense may allow as long as it can deliver a timely big play.
The Sooners produced two -- a pair of interceptions by Lendy Holmes -- that ultimately was the difference in Oklahoma's 24-17 halftime lead over Kansas.
The Sooners' balanced attack erupted for 419 yards, but look like they will need a lot more to put away the pesky Jayhawks.
But as effective as Oklahoma played, Kansas coach Mark Mangino probably left feeling fortunate. The Jayhawks have withstood a huge offensive haymaker and are still down by only seven points at the break.
Sam Bradford's strong passing is a given for Oklahoma as he's already completed 26 of 36 passes for 313 yards. But the Sooners' running game appears to be back after piling up 106 rushing yards after producing less than 50 in two of OU's last three game.
Particularly noteworthy was the hard inside running of DeMarco Murray, who piled up 61 yards after struggling most of the season.
The Sooners torched Kansas on short, quick passes as they took advantage of their receivers' speed against Kansas' slower secondary. And they were able to beat them inside by blasting them off the line of scrimmage between the tackles. Outside plays, however, were a different story.
It helped Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias to set school records for a half with 10 catches for 178 receiving yards. Bradford's big half spurred the Sooners to five possessions of at least 64 yards during the half. Dezmon Briscoe set a Kansas record for one half with 193 yards on nine receptions.
Reesing was nearly as effective, passing for 220 yards. The two teams combined for 701 yards of total offense, 548 passing yards and 37 first downs.
One other notable highlight came after Oklahoma inserted more starters on the kickoff team and kickoff team coverage. The strategy backfired late in the first half when linebacker Travis Lewis was shaken in a collision with Kansas running back Jocques Crawford. Both players needed assistance to leave the field and Lewis' availability in the second half is questionable.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
New Nebraska coach Bo Pelini's attitude is all about swagger. But it's hard to build that kind of confidence playing some of the weak sisters that will dot his future nonconference schedules.
It seems that Pelini isn't exactly excited about the schedule he inherited from former athletic director Steve Pederson and former coach Bill Callahan.
Nebraska assistant athletic director for football Jeff Jamrog told the Omaha World-Herald that he's actively seeking upcoming games -- and only against Division I opponents.
The Cornhuskers will be playing Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State next season, and Western Kentucky, Idaho and Football Championship Subdivision power South Dakota State in 2010.
"It looks like they wanted to schedule a bunch of wins," Jamrog said. "We can't do anything about it. We can't do anything about the guarantees that were set, unless you want to cancel the contracts. But we aren't interested in doing that."
Pelini is in favor of taking on all comers in the future.
"That's what the fans want to see," Pelini said. "That's the shame of the BCS. Fans aren't seeing the games they used to see in September. We want to play those games. I don't want to shy away from anyone."
Assuredly, this is very refreshing attitude for a new football coaching staff to have. But something tells me that Pelini will prefer his schedule of Western Michigan, New Mexico State and San Jose State this season before facing Virginia Tech than if he had switched to a tougher one.
Hope that Pelini is up to the challenge of tackling a few morning links, too.
- Versatile WR Quan Cosby has had to argue to convince Texas coach Mack Brown to use him as a punt returner in the past. But his role looks assured heading into this season.
- Converted QB Jeremy Sanders has thrived at his new position at RB, Waco Tribune-Herald reporter John Werner writes.
- Colorado LB Jon Major, one of the top two in-state recruits for Colorado last season, has been lost for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
- One of the real treats of covering the Big 12 each week is Kansas City Star beat writer Mike DeArmond's priceless Vlog from Missouri's camp. But how come I always think of "Sex, Lies and Videotape" when I watch his sometimes brutal weekly assessments of the Tigers?
- Kansas State DE Ian Campbell is back at his original position after an abortive stab at linebacker last season. I wonder what took KSU coaches so long to move him back, comparing his performance last season to the previous one.
- Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell showed quick dexterity with the new clock rules, running a no-huddle offense during all of his snaps in the Red Raiders' first scrimmage. Harrell needed only 14 plays to produce three 60-yard scoring drives, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
- Converted RB Cody Glenn is getting a few extra tips in his conversion to linebacker from a long-lost relative, legendary former Nebraska LB Broderick "The Sandman" Thomas.
- Joe Kines, a 64-year-old coaching veteran with 40 years of experience, is facing an ultimate challenge of trying to resuscitate Texas A&M's "Wrecking Crew" defense, Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News reports.
- It seems Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is a big fan of the Olympics. "All of them, I like watching all of it," Stoops told the Oklahoman. "What's so neat about it is you get that one moment to be at your best. That's what I love about boxing as well. You get that one shot. And if you happen to have over-trained, or you don't hit it just right..." Sounds a bit like playing in a bowl game, doesn't it?
- Oklahoma State WR Jeremy Broadway appears to be making the most of his last chance with the Cowboys after his suspension last November.
- Tulsa World reporter John Hoover wonders if Oklahoma WR Juaquin Iglesias is the most underappreciated player in the Sooners' football history. Hoover's statistics make a good case.
- Veteran Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton told Lincoln Journal-Star that his current group might be the deepest in talent he's ever coached.
- Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News profiles Oklahoma's defense. Buried deep in the story is the quote of the day from Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who isn't exactly enthusiastic about the development of his young linebacking corps. I'm not ready to puke yet," Venables said.
- Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler said Kansas' rapid ascension last year is providing hope to Oklahoma State players. "After what Kansas did last year, everybody realizes just how close the Big 12 [race] is and no games are given to you anymore," Oklahoma LB/S Andre Sexton said. "We're pretty much in the same situation now as they [the Jayhawks] were in last season."
- Construction-worker-turned OLB Mike Balogun has been thrust into the mix as Oklahoma scrambles for a replacement for injured Austin Box.
- If new Troy WR Josh Jarboe is declared immediately eligible at Troy, he still might play in the state of Oklahoma this season. The Trojans will face Oklahoma State Sept. 27 in Stillwater.
- Tom Timmerman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the battle to replace Tony Temple in the Missouri backfield. Sophomore Derrick Washington from the strangely-named hometown of Peculiar, Mo., appears to have nailed down the starting job -- mainly because of his receiving skills. "
- 5-foot-6 freshman RB Rodney Stewart is t
urning heads at Colorado's practice -- despite his diminutive size and the presence of heralded RB Darrell Scott in the Buffaloes' camp. And along with fellow freshman Ray Polk, all apparently will receive playing time this season.