NCF Nation: Kenny Stills

Best WR tandems in Big 12 history

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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The Big 12 has featured some prolific wide receiver tandems over the years.

Baylor’s Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley, however, have a chance to top that list.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley, Tevin Reese
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAntwan Goodley and Tevin Reese rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in receiving yards per game.
This season, Reese is second in the Big 12 with 118 yards receiving a game. He trails only Goodley, who leads the league with an average of 128 yards receiving. They are a big reason why the Bears are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game that were set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989.

But Reese and Goodley aren’t the only big-time duos in the Big 12 this year.

Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett have been lighting it up since returning from injury. The last two weeks the two have totaled five touchdown catches.

Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lead the Sooners with five touchdowns apiece. Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant are fifth and sixth in the league in receiving. Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore are beginning to warm up with Clint Chelf at QB. And Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis have been stalwarts in this league for years.

But who are the best tandems ever to play Big 12? We lay it out below.

Tight ends were not included (sorry Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman). The tandems were evaluated on what they accomplished together, not on whether their careers simply overlapped (eliminating Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, for example); and, this is a list for duos, not singles, trios or quartets (apologies to Rashaun Woods, and the 2008 Oklahoma and 2010 Baylor receiving corps).

To the list:

1. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012): In their only year in the league, this tandem was one-two in the Big 12 in receiving, combining for 224 receptions and 2,914 receiving yards. Bailey himself had 25 receiving touchdowns; nobody else in the league had more than 13. Austin, meanwhile, also rushed for 344 yards in one game at running back. As Bailey tweeted out earlier Monday morning on this topic, “case closed.”

2. Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, Texas Tech (2007): Crabtree got all the headlines in 2007 on his way to winning his first of two Biletnikoff awards. But out of the slot, Amendola quietly put up 109 receptions for 1,245 yards, as Tech went 9-4.

3. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, Texas (2008): Shipley and Cosby starred on one of the three best Big 12 teams that didn’t win a conference title. The two each had 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs from QB Colt McCoy, as the Longhorns finished the year 12-1, their only loss coming on Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown in the final seconds in Lubbock. The two were also prolific on special teams, with Shipley’s kick return touchdown sparking Texas’ 45-35 comeback win over Oklahoma.

4. Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State (2011): As with Crabtree-Amendola, Blackmon got all the attention on his way to a second Biletnikoff award. But Cooper was a pivotal piece in OSU’s first Big 12 title team, as he racked up 71 receptions out of the slot. Blackmon, of course, had a monster year with 121 catches and 18 touchdowns.

5. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, Baylor (2011): Reese was actually the third wheel to this duo, which shined with RGIII at quarterback. Wright was an All-American with 108 catches, 1,663 yard and 14 touchdowns. Williams was big time, too, finishing fifth in the Big 12 in receiving before taking over the No. 1 role in 2012.

6. Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (2010): Broyles led college football with 131 receptions on his way to becoming the all-time FBS leader in career catches. Stills broke OU’s freshman single-season receiving record, as the Sooners stormed back to capture the Big 12 crown after a pair of midseason losses.

7. Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2008): It might be difficult to remember now, but the Jayhawks used to play some ball. Meier tied Crabtree for second in the league with 97 receptions. Briscoe trailed only Dez Bryant with 1,402 receiving yards. This was an underrated duo.

8. Quincy Morgan and Aaron Lockett, Kansas State (1999): On one of the first passing teams in the Big 12, Morgan and Lockett shined. Morgan had 42 receptions for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first-team all-conference selection. Lockett, Tyler Lockett's uncle, was a second-team all-league pick for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and finished the year ranked sixth in the polls.

9. Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani, Texas Tech (2005): Neither might be a household name around the Big 12 anymore, but these two were both first-team All-Big 12 selections in ’05 along with Iowa State WR Todd Blythe.

10. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (2004): Clayton carried the moniker of best receiver in OU history until Broyles came around. Because of Adrian Peterson, Clayton’s numbers dipped in ’04, but he was still an All-American with 66 catches. Wilson led the Sooners with 11 TD grabs, as OU advanced to a second consecutive national championship game.

Catching up on Big 12 and NFL combine

February, 25, 2013
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Two Big 12 receivers were the biggest head-turners on Sunday as the skill position players went through their workouts in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine.

Texas' Marquise Goodwin is hoping his 4.27 40 time -- the fastest of any player at the combine -- is enough to outweigh his lack of production throughout his career and convince an NFL team to see his potential. He was well ahead of a trio tied for second at 4.34, a group that included West Virginia's Tavon Austin. The two earned a whole lot of buzz early in the morning when they tied for 4.25 unofficial 40 times, just one-hundredth of a second slower than Chris Johnson's 4.24 time in 2008, the fastest of any player in combine history.

Goodwin caught just 26 passes for 340 yards and three scores last year, which certainly makes one wonder about how well he was used in Texas' offense. The Olympic long jumper was way out in front of the pack in the 40, though, and his time is the second fastest in combine history.

TCU receiver Josh Boyce and Oklahoma receiver Kenny Stills tied with the sixth-fastest time at 4.38. Those are two really strong times, and Stills definitely turned heads.

Baylor's Lanear Sampson was 13th overall with a 40 time of 4.46. Here are some other top performers at the combine from the Big 12, according to NFL.com. You can see the full results here on the NFL's very cool searchable database.

40-yard dash
  • West Virginia QB Geno Smith: 4.59 seconds, fastest among quarterbacks.
  • Kansas State QB Collin Klein: 4.78 seconds, fifth among quarterbacks
  • Oklahoma QB Landry Jones: 5.11 seconds, 13th among quarterbacks
Broad jump
  • Texas WR Marquise Goodwin: 11 feet, second overall
  • TCU WR Josh Boyce: 10 feet, 11 inches, fourth overall
  • Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills: 10 feet, four inches, 13th overall
  • West Virginia QB Geno Smith: 10 feet, four inches, 13th overall
Three-cone drill
  • Boyce: 6.68 seconds, third-fastest
  • West Virginia WR Stedman Bailey: 6.81 seconds, 12th fastest
20-yard shuttle
  • Austin: 4.01 seconds, third overall
  • Bailey: 4.09 seconds, 10th overall
  • Boyce: 4.1 seconds, 12th overall
60-yard shuttle
  • Boyce: 11.26 seconds, third overall
  • Baylor WR Terrance Williams, 11.5 seconds, 12th overall

You can see top performers in every event by position at that database, too, so check it out.
Now that all of the early entries for this year's NFL draft are in, we decided to take a closer look at some of the players who decided to leave school early.

We're checking in on how teams were affected and who some of the winners and losers were from all of these early departures:

Biggest winners: David Ash and Texas' offense. Mike Davis committed to returning for his senior season. Then he didn't. Then he did again. For that brief period when he was headed to the NFL draft but hadn't signed with an agent -- it was less than a day -- it felt pretty close to panic time for Texas' offense. Ash is still trying to mature, and if his biggest deep threat took his talents to the NFL, the Longhorns would have had exactly one receiver with more than 10 catches in 2012. That's not conducive to Ash progressing as a passer. Texas still needs a bit more depth at the position, but Davis' decision to stick around is a huge boon for its offense, which very well may pay off in the Big 12 title race next year. Winning in this league typically requires teams to hang 30-40 points a game.

[+] EnlargeKenny Stills
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesWill Oklahoma's passing game suffer in 2013 without receiver Kenny Stills in the lineup?
Biggest losers: Oklahoma. The Sooners got gutted by the draft. Kenny Stills and Tony Jefferson might have been able to improve their stock with another year, but two-thirds of the Cali Trio is officially checking out of school early. New quarterback, likely Blake Bell, will have to adjust to a young group of receivers without Stills, the most consistent member of the group. Additionally, the defense has more pieces to fill. Tom Wort wasn't outstanding, but he at least had experience. He's headed to the NFL draft, too, and the Sooners lost a starting linebacker.

Headscratchers: Stansly Maponga, Tom Wort, Brandon Moore. Maponga is best suited to hear his name called pretty early in the draft, but the Frogs' best preseason standout was banged up this season and definitely could have improved his stock with a strong season in a major conference as a senior in 2013. He was overshadowed by teammate Devonte Fields, a fellow defensive lineman, and managed just 6.5 tackles for loss, the fourth-most for the Frogs. He had just four sacks after making nine a season ago. Wort, meanwhile, made the perplexing decision amidst rumors that he was unhappy with Oklahoma's new defensive scheme, which was a reason for a major production drop from him. Linebackers aren't meant to rack up tackles or make plays, but instead funnel ball carriers and plug up gaps. He runs the risk of being undrafted, and so does Moore, a Texas defensive tackle who transferred to Austin and started about half of Texas' games. Moore was basically just a member of a strong rotation up front for the Longhorns' defense, which struggled to stop the run for most of the season.

The replacements:

  • Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma: Shepard definitely brings about comparisons to Ryan Broyles. He has similar size and proved to be a solid option in the passing game as a true freshman. It's doubtful he'll be able to stretch the field like Stills, but his 45 grabs for 621 yards are sure to grow next season. He'll help smooth over the quarterback transition away from Landry Jones. Shepard and Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders will be the team's top two returning receivers.
  • Jeremy Smith/Desmond Roland, RBs, Oklahoma State: Joseph Randle is gone, but Oklahoma State is definitely prepared to fill his shoes. Neither Smith nor Roland has as much raw talent as Randle, but both are certainly capable to be very productive in Oklahoma State's pass-first offense. Smith's touches were down this year, but he ran for 646 yards in 2011. He and Roland are both more physical than Randle, but can they prove to be big-play backs? Smith's game tape against Texas in 2011 suggests the answer is yes.
  • LaDarius Brown, WR, TCU: Brown is a huge target for whoever TCU lines up at quarterback. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder caught 27 passes for 385 yards. Brandon Carter is the more immediate option as the team's best target without Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson, but Brown's potential is sky-high. Look for him to get tons of targets in the red zone next season.
  • Malcom Brown, DT, Texas: Brown might be one big reason why Moore is leaving for the NFL. Brown fought his way into the rotation as a true freshman, which is no easy task even for the nation's best recruits. Brown was the nation's No. 12 player in the 2012 class, and everybody wanted him. He made 19 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Pregame: AT&T Cotton Bowl

January, 4, 2013
1/04/13
10:00
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No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 SEC) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2, 8-1 Big 12)

Who to watch: Who else? Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will attempt to put the finishing touches on his freshman season. "Johnny Football” broke Cam Newton’s SEC record for offensive yardage and accounted for 43 touchdowns while becoming the first freshman to capture the Heisman Trophy. Manziel, however, will be facing one of the better defensive backfields he’s seen all season, led by free safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Aaron Colvin -- both All-Big 12 performers. Manziel will also have to overcome the distractions of a whirlwind month in which he not only won the Heisman, but hung out with actress Megan Fox and played golf with the Jonas Brothers.

What to watch: The Aggies boast Manziel, but the Sooners counter with one of the top wide receiving corps in the country. Kenny Stills, Justin Brown, Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard all have more than 500 yards receiving this season. Texas A&M is stout up front, but the Aggies have been vulnerable at times defending the pass, ranking 82nd nationally in pass defense despite competing in the run-oriented SEC. If OU quarterback Landry Jones gets rolling with his talented pass-catchers, this game could tumble into a shootout.

Why to watch: Outside the BCS National Championship, this is as good a matchup as any out there. This Cotton Bowl also features two of the top quarterbacks in the country, with the hotshot freshman in Manziel facing off against the elder statesman in Jones, who will be making his 50th career start on the same field in which his career began four years ago. There should be plenty of energy inside Cowboys Stadium, too, as the Cotton Bowl is expecting a record crowd of 90,000. This will be a BCS-caliber bowl in every way except in name.

Prediction: Texas A&M 34, Oklahoma 31. Coach Bob Stoops has a dominating 11-2 record against Texas A&M, including an average victory margin of three touchdowns. These, however, are not the same Aggies the Sooners faced in the Big 12. Manziel and coach Kevin Sumlin have brought a new attitude to Texas A&M, and the Aggies will be motivated to prove this on the field against their former conference foe.

AT&T Cotton Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
10:54
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Texas A&M Aggies (10-2) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2)

Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ET, Arlington, Texas (Fox)

Texas A&M take by GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr.: The Aggies are one of the surprise stories nationally in college football this season, exceeding preseason expectations by going 10-2 in their first Southeastern Conference campaign.

New coach Kevin Sumlin has injected energy into the program and helped reverse the narrative of 2011, when the preseason-top-10 Aggies couldn't hold on to a second-half lead. Now, Texas A&M closes games out as good as any team.

A lot of that credit can go to its Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. Nicknamed "Johnny Football," Manziel took the college football world by storm with his playmaking ability, producing an eye-popping statistical season by breaking Cam Newton's single-season SEC total yardage record. Manziel compiled 4,600 offensive yards this season, throwing for 3,419 and rushing for 1,181. He was responsible for 43 touchdowns.

But the Aggies have been far from a one-man show.

Questions about the defense -- and the defensive line in particular -- were answered emphatically. Junior Damontre Moore spent most of the season at or near the top spot in the country in tackles for loss (20) and sacks (12.5), where he's tied for fifth and third, respectively.

Perhaps the team's best unit has been its offensive line, which has two future NFL draft picks at the tackle spots (juniors Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews), and a senior center (Patrick Lewis) who has been a catalyst to the team's success.

The Aggies have displayed a high-powered, quick-strike offense under Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, and an aggressive defense under coordinator Mark Snyder.




Oklahoma take from SoonerNation's Jake Trotter: From Lee Roy Selmon to Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma has a long, strong defensive tradition. But like almost everyone else in the Big 12, these Sooners win with their high-flying pass offense. Senior quarterback Landry Jones finished off the regular season on fire, throwing for more than 500 yards twice in November while leading the Sooners to a pair of come-from-behind, fourth-quarter wins. Jones, who has a chance to go 4-0 as a bowl-game starter, benefits from one of the most explosive wide receiving corps in the country.

Four different receivers boast more than 500 yards receiving, including Kenny Stills, who leads the Sooners with 75 receptions and 11 touchdowns. All three of OU’s running backs are dangerous in the passing game, too, especially fullback Trey Millard, who had a 73-yard reception against Texas earlier this season.

Opposing offenses have gashed Bob Stoops’ defense on the ground, but the Sooners are not easy to thrown on. Free safety Tony Jefferson is a ferocious tackler, and cornerback Aaron Colvin is a ball hawk.

As co-Big 12 champs, the Sooners had a season worthy of a BCS bowl. But Northern Illinois' sudden ascendance knocked them out of the BCS and the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners did not have a win over a team currently ranked in the AP Top 25. But their two losses came at the hands of top-ranked Notre Dame and Kansas State, which was No. 1 before the Irish. OU was in both games until falling apart in the fourth quarter. The Sooners, however, have owned the fourth quarter down the stretch, coming back in the final seconds to knock off West Virginia and Oklahoma State, then holding off TCU in the last minute.

Big 12 game predictions: Week 14

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
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Time for one final week of picks. I'm headed to Fort Worth, Texas, this weekend for Oklahoma versus TCU. The staff at HornsNation will have you covered out in Manhattan, Kan., for Kansas State-Texas. You'll be covered from all angles this weekend, as usual.

Let's get to the picks.

Iowa State and Texas Tech have completed their regular seasons.

Last week: 3-1 (.750)
Overall: 52-19 (.732)

No. 23 Oklahoma State 44, Baylor 34: There's something to Oklahoma State's mastery of Baylor. The Bears are better, but Oklahoma State is playing great football late in the season and has found its stride with Clint Chelf taking care of the ball and producing. The Bears' defense faces a much tougher test in a more balanced Oklahoma State offense, and the Pokes make them pay. Solid day for Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith.

No. 11 Oklahoma 27, TCU 21: There's lots of upset potential here; I just couldn't bring myself to pick it. The Sooners are tired and susceptible to teams strong against the run. This one gets uglied up by the TCU defense, and the Frogs have success with the zone read with Trevone Boykin and Matthew Tucker. Too much aerial attack by Landry Jones and his growing set of receivers. He turns it over one or twice but finds Kenny Stills and Jalen Saunders enough to outweigh the mistakes against ball-hawking TCU secondary that has 20 interceptions, four more than any team in the Big 12 and tied for third-most nationally.

West Virginia 51, Kansas 21: Fast-paced offense. Lots of talented players in one-on-one matchups. That spells all kinds of trouble for Kansas, which has played decent team defense, but the Jayhawks don't have the talent on defense to slow down Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. The KU running game might make a difference and keep West Virginia's offense off the field, but I'm not betting on it. KU's imperfect season is complete.

No. 6 Kansas State 31, No. 18 Texas 20: With Case McCoy against a really disruptive Kansas State defense, I just don't see the Horns pulling off the upset. Meshak Williams is all over McCoy for 60 minutes, and Arthur Brown does a solid job spying and making sure he doesn't get loose scrambling on broken plays. Collin Klein bounced back with a good game, but one that's just average for him this season, accounting for all four touchdowns.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
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Let's take a look at a few superlatives from the week that was in the Big 12:

Best offensive performance in a win: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. Jones reminded us of the talent that could land him in the first round of next year's NFL draft, completing 38 of 51 passes for six touchdowns and a school-record 554 yards in the Sooners' 50-49 win over West Virginia. The last was a 4-yard game-winner on a slant to Kenny Stills.

Best offensive performance in a loss: Tavon Austin, RB/WR/KR, West Virginia. Truth be told, Austin's performance might be one of the greatest in Big 12 history. Alas, it wasn't enough for one of the worst defenses in Big 12 history. Austin moved to running back and ran for 344 yards on just 21 carries (that's 16.4 yards a carry, folks) and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 82 yards and returned eight kicks for 146 yards. Add it up and it's 572 all-purpose yards.

[+] EnlargeJoe Williams
AP Photo/LM OteroBaylor cornerback Joe Williams was a big reason Collin Klein had his worst game of the season.
Best defensive performance: Joe Williams, CB, Baylor. Williams picked off Collin Klein twice and led the Bears with 11 tackles in their 52-24 win over Kansas State. He didn't get a chance to return either of them, but I don't think the Bears minded all that much. Klein had been picked off just three times all season before Saturday, the 11th game of the year.

Best team performance: Baylor. The Bears dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and won the game right there. The defensive line beat up Klein all night and didn't let him get in the open field. The offensive line paved the way for a pair of 100-yard rushers and didn't let a great K-State front seven sack Nick Florence once. All of a sudden, Baylor's back in the mix for a bowl game.

Best special teams performance: Zack Craig, Oklahoma State. The safety blocked two Texas Tech punts and returned the second 30 yards for a touchdown. Not bad.

Worst team performance: Kansas State. Where did this team come from and what did it do with the real Kansas State? Have to think the No. 1 spot and road environment got to the Wildcats, which is still a little baffling. They doubled their average in penalty yards and Klein threw three bad interceptions after throwing just three in his previous 10 games. Add in an inability to stop the run, and that 52-24 loss is exactly what you'd expect.

Best play: Landry Jones and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma. It's not every week you see a game-winner, but Jones and Stills provided it in the final minute against West Virginia. Trailing by five, Stills jostled for position on the slant route and Jones made the delivery in a tight window. Stills fought his way to the ball and into the end zone for a huge win to put Oklahoma's Big 12 title hopes back in its own hands.

Best game: Oklahoma 50, West Virginia 49. We saw four lead changes in the final 7:12 and three in the final 4:10 out in Morgantown, capped by Jones' touchdown pass to win it. Tavon Austin provided the fireworks but the Sooners got the last laugh against a talented, desperate team. Impressive.

Best quote: Nick Florence, QB, Baylor On his team's chances against K-State, Florence said: "If you don't believe, get out of the locker room."

Second-best quote: Tavon Austin, on the complex playbook for him at running back that helped him rush for 344 yards on 21 carries in his first game at the position.. "I had two plays. One to the left and one to the right."

Best performance in relief: Sam Richardson, QB, Iowa State. Richardson waited all season for his chance while Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz rode what seemed like weekly roller-coasters. He finally got it and pushed Iowa State into its third bowl game in four years with 250 yards passing on 23-of-27 passing with four touchdowns. He also ran for a score and 43 yards. Four of his touchdowns came in the second quarter as Iowa State raced to a 38-17 halftime lead and erased all second-half doubt in a 51-23 win over Kansas.

Oddest stat: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys didn't complete a pass in the second half and outscored Texas Tech 24-7 in the final two quarters of their 59-21 beatdown.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 12

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
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Here's what I learned on a crazy Saturday across the conference:

Kansas State is not a team of robots and will not win the national title. Or the Heisman. I don't know what I watched on Saturday night, but surely it wasn't Kansas State. The Wildcats turned the ball over three times after doing so just six times in 10 games. It was penalized seven times for 60 yards, more than twice its average. It got gashed on the ground in a way unlike any game all season. Add it all up, and you get a painful butt-kicking in a big spot for the Wildcats. K-State had been so consistent and so methodical all year long. Until it wasn't. "We beat the socks off these guys," Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon said. Yes, yes they did.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma's Landry Jones
Charles LeClaire/US PRESSWIRELandry Jones is the best of the QBs on the South squad.
West Virginia can't catch a break (or a ballcarrier). The Mountaineers have now been a part of a five-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak in the same season, but two of the losses have come down to the wire, including this week's late touchdown pass from Oklahoma's Landry Jones to Kenny Stills. Seriously, how bad is your defense if you have a ballcarrier (Tavon Austin) rush for 344 yards and you still lose? The Mountaineers' streak of having players earn Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors in four consecutive games looks likely to become five on Monday.

There might be a new star born in Ames for the bowl-bound Cyclones. Fans were clamoring for Sam Richardson for weeks, and the freshman finally got his chance after uninspiring starts from Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett. He torched Kansas for four second-quarter touchdowns and threw for 250 yards on 23-of-27 passing. Yes, it was only against 1-10 Kansas. Yes, it's early. But you have to be encouraged, and most importantly, Iowa State is back in the postseason. They'll take it.

Oklahoma is back in the Big 12 title hunt. The Sooners needed help to make an eighth Big 12 title become a reality, and on Saturday, Baylor provided it. There will be drama on the season's final weekend, and the title will hang in the balance. Oklahoma hosts Oklahoma State in Bedlam next week and travels to TCU to end the season, while K-State hosts Texas on Dec. 1. They're tied atop the standings right now, but there's a whole lot to play for and if you lose a game, you risk being booted out of the BCS.

Oklahoma State better scare you. Quietly, the Cowboys have surged and Mike Gundy has done about as good of a job as anyone outside of Bill Snyder this season. For the fourth time in five games, Oklahoma State beat the heck out of a Big 12 team. This time, it was a 38-point win over No. 23 Texas Tech. Four of Oklahoma State's five Big 12 wins have been by at least 21 points. And the only team that came close? Kansas, who at 1-10, lost at home on a rainy day by just six. The Pokes have done it all with three different quarterbacks, but for now, it's Clint Chelf's team. Healthy J.W. Walsh and the CarWalsh formation have given another edge to the Cowboys' offense.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
9:00
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Time to hand out a little hardware for a job well done. Your stickers are in the mail, gentlemen.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: West Virginia has played the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week in its past four games. That's not quite a coincidence. Jones is in line to become the fifth. He set a school record with 554 yards on 38-of-51 passing and threw six touchdowns in Oklahoma's 50-49 win over West Virginia in Morgantown. His final score of the night was a 5-yarder to Kenny Stills, who caught four on the evening and won the game with just 24 seconds to play.

Sam Richardson, QB, Iowa State: The freshman had been waiting all season long for his chance, and he took advantage when Paul Rhoads gave it to him. He broke out in a huge way in Iowa State's 51-23 win over Kansas, completing 23-of-27 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. He also ran for 43 yards and a touchdown to get the Cyclones bowl eligible for the third time in four years. Four of his touchdowns were in a crazy second quarter that helped Iowa State race to a 38-17 halftime lead.

Zack Craig, S, Oklahoma State: When you're hot, you're hot. Craig blocked two Texas Tech punts and returned the second one 30 yards for a touchdown during Oklahoma State's 59-21 win over Texas Tech. For any special teamer, that's a fantastic season. Craig called it Saturday. He added a tackle for loss on defense. That's quite the performance.

Isaiah Anderson, WR, Oklahoma State: Anderson didn't touch the ball in the second half, and only touched it five times in the first. Sometimes, that's all that's necessary. He scored touchdowns on three of his four catches and finished with 174 yards. He scored on plays of 60, 66 and 33 yards and added a 26-yard run on his only carry of the game, an end around.

Baylor's offensive line: Can't really give it to one back or one player on Baylor's team in Saturday's 52-24 evisceration of Kansas State. The big uglies up front took care of business and treated K-State's front seven like nobody had all season long. The Bears ran for 342 yards and five touchdowns and averaged 7 yards a carry on the Big 12's No. 2 rushing defense. Nick Florence wasn't sacked, and scoring 52 points on this K-State defense isn't easy. Every Baylor skill position player was in awe at their performance after the game.

Tavon Austin, RB/WR/KR, West Virginia: Normally, helmet stickers are reserved solely for players on winning teams, but I couldn't resist here. Austin put on one of the greatest shows in Big 12 history in the 50-49 loss to Oklahoma. In his first game at running back, he rushed 21 times for 344 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 82 yards and returned eight kicks for 146 yards. That's 572 all-purpose yards in one game. Are you kidding me?

MORGANTOWN, W.V. -- The Sooners escaped their maiden voyage to Morgantown with a 50-49 victory over the Mountaineers in one of the craziest shootouts in Big 12 history.

It was over when: West Virginia QB Geno Smith's Hail Mary pass fell to the turf two yards in front of the end zone. The two teams combined to score 31 points in the fourth quarter, including Landry Jones' 5-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills on fourth down with 26 seconds remaining.


Game ball goes to: West Virginia's Tavon Austin, who was unbelievable in a losing effort. Austin rushed for 344 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 carries. He also had 82 yards receiving.

Stat of the game: This was the first time since 1993 the Sooners surrendered at least 250 rushing yards in back-to-back games. OU gave up 252 to Baylor last weekend and 458 to the Mountaineers. West Virginia’s 778 total yards were also, by far, the most against a Sooners defense in OU history.

Record performance: Austin shattered the Big 12 record for all-purpose yards in a game with 572. Texas’ Hodges Mitchell held the previous record of 375 yards since 2000. On top of having a monster game rushing and receiving, Austin had 146 yards in kickoff returns.

Unsung hero: Stills, who hauled in four touchdown passes to keep pace with Austin and Stedman Bailey. Stills had 10 receptions, but none bigger than his final one, which gave OU the lead for good.

What it means: The Sooners leave Morgantown with their BCS bowl hopes still intact. But a huge test awaits next weekend in Oklahoma State, which beat OU 44-10 last season. West Virginia is still searching for its sixth win to become bowl eligible. The Mountaineers have now lost five in a row.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 11

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
10:15
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Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in the Big 12 this week.

1. Sit him down if he sees birdies circling his head. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder sounds optimistic about quarterback Collin Klein's status this week, but will the Heisman front-runner be on the field? And if he is, will he look like his usual self? Will the K-State offense dial back the designed runs for him to try to protect whatever ails him? All pressing questions -- and we likely won't know the answers until Saturday night.

2. He's back ... then he wasn't. Is he back again? Wes Lunt looked good at times on Saturday, but the freshman quarterback made some costly mistakes in Oklahoma State's loss to Kansas State and missed much of the game with an undisclosed injury of his own. Lunt looks good playing the position, but the decision-making is a legitimate issue at this point. Will he be back on the field against West Virginia this week?

3. Fool's gold? Or growth for the Eers? Speaking of, West Virginia's defense showed up for most of the game against TCU last week, holding the Frogs to the second-fewest total yards WVU had given up in conference play. The 94-yard score to tie the game marred that improvement, but can WVU keep it rolling this week against Oklahoma State? The coaches liked the improvement they saw coming off the bye week. Is it legitimate?

4. Amon for a change in Fort Worth. (I'm sorry.) TCU hasn't won at home since Sept. 22 and is 0-2 in Big 12 play at home this year, with a lopsided loss to Iowa State and a heartbreaking loss to Texas Tech in triple overtime. TCU has played its best ball away from home, but can it change those fortunes this week?

5. Where there's a Williams, there's a way. Oklahoma's secondary is all kinds of legit, but the Sooners haven't faced a receiver anything like the caliber of Baylor's Terrance Williams. Can he break loose and have a big game after catching the historic game winner against the Sooners last year? If Baylor's going to spring the upset, that has to happen. The Biletnikoff front-runner leads the nation in receiving and averages nearly 170 yards a game.

6. An encore for George. Iowa State's Jeremiah George racked up 17 tackles last week filling in for injured linebacker Jake Knott. He'll get a huge task this week against a powerful Texas running game that's back to full strength, finally. Can he keep that going this week? He'll have a solid running mate in experienced A.J. Klein, but neither can do it alone.

[+] EnlargeJames Sims
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesIf James Sims can crack 100 yards for a sixth straight game, maybe Kansas' Big 12 skid cracks, too.
7. Another set of legs can go a long way. Johnathan Gray has played outstanding with Malcolm Brown sidelined the past few weeks. The true freshman has his first two career 100-yard games while Joe Bergeron has vultured his way to 16 rushing touchdowns, fourth-most nationally. With Brown back now from injury, can Texas' backfield keep using fresh legs to boost its effectiveness?

8. Who's it going to be? Seems like every week it's a new featured receiver for Oklahoma's offense. Kenny Stills gets it done, then it's Sterling Shepard, then it's Jalen Saunders. Then back to Stills with a sprinkling of Justin Brown. Who emerges this week against a porous Baylor defense? Lots of receptions to be had.

9. Six is the magical number. James Sims has five 100-yard games in a row, the first Kansas back to do that since 1974. He's been an amazing bright spot in another dark season in Lawrence. Can he do it again against Texas Tech and give the Jayhawks a fighting chance to end their 18-game losing streak in Big 12 play? If KU had Sims earlier in the season, it likely would have three wins.

10. No time to feel sorry for yourself. Texas Tech got off to a hot 6-1 start, but its season is at a bit of a crossroads. Can it take care of business and play well against Kansas, winning convincingly? Or will it slip up and let KU make it a game? Tech got beat pretty soundly a week ago, but is it going to throw a pity party or take out its anger against the Jayhawks in Lubbock? We'll learn a little bit about this team this week after last week's disheartening loss. The Big 12 title is almost certainly off the board, but can the Red Raiders stay committed?
Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson is one-third of the so-called "Cali Trio," a collection of signees from the 2010 class who made big impacts as freshmen and have blossomed into leaders in 2012. Teammates Kenny Stills (receiver) and Brennan Clay (runing back) have helped pave the way for a miniature recruiting pipeline between Oklahoma and California, the latest of which featured starting running back Damien Williams, a fellow San Diego native.

Jefferson leads the Sooners with 48 tackles and has two tackles for loss, an interception and a pass breakup after moving to his traditional safety spot this season. He took some time this week to talk with ESPN.com about the Sooners' mammoth top 10 showdown with Notre Dame this week, the first time the teams have met since 1999.

[+] EnlargeTony Jefferson
Rick Scuteri/AP ImagesSafety Tony Jefferson says the Sooners have refocused since losing to Kansas State.
Author's note: Portions of this interview were edited for length considerations.

What first comes to mind when you think about Notre Dame?

Tony Jefferson: Tradition. Just another school kind of like ours with a bunch of history. They've got athletic players and great coaching as well.

I have to ask. Have you seen Rudy?

TJ: (Laughs) Yes, I have.

What were your thoughts?

TJ: It just shows how much prestige and history is behind that organization in South Bend.

From what you can see, what have the Irish done to reach this point without a loss?

TJ: They find ways to win. They've got playmakers on both sides of the ball up front. On defense, they can get a push and they can get penetration on a very good offense. You've got to be aware of that. Obviously, they've got Manti Te'o, who plays with so much passion and has so much drive, just one of the most athletic linebackers you'll see across college football, and their secondary is pretty good.

Offensively, you have the tight end who's making amazing plays with his size and ability, and they're just good across the board on the offensive line.

You'll be focusing on the offense in game-planning of course, but you mentioned Te'o. What sticks out to you about what he brings to the table?

TJ: I have to say he's smart. He's a smart football player. I've watched Manti Te'o since I was in high school and I'd been watching him play. Just to see him now, how he's grown in the game and how much better he's become, it shows he's committed to what he does. I don't know him personally, but you get the feeling he's one of those hard-working type of guys who feels honored to play college football and plays every down with some heart. You've got to respect a guy who respects the game that way.

Notre Dame is obviously a big name, but when you think about the excitement of this week, how does it compare to, say, the week of the Texas game?

TJ: The OU-Texas rivalry is big and that rivalry's been going on for a long time, but I'm from California. The Oklahoma-Texas thing, that's what's been going on here. I grew up a USC fan and never really been a fan of Notre Dame too much. Once I saw we were playing Notre Dame, it definitely excited me, and I wanted to get after them a little bit, get 'em back for that game, the Reggie Bush Push.

How has this team looked so dominant the past three games, when the first three games, it looked like you were off to a bit of a slow start?

TJ: It's come down to the point where you take a loss against Kansas State and there's no more room for error. You've got to go out there and play well. Our preparation leading into games has been tremendously better. Our focus has been tremendously better. We understand what's on the table for us. We understand that it's going to be up to us to go and get that. Our mindset has changed. Not that it wasn't in the right place before, but I think there's been an added punch to it.

By my count, this is the Big 12's best defense. That wasn't the case last year. Why have you seen so much improvement?

TJ: I think last year we had a few guys in the wrong spot. Now, we're able to put some guys where they'll succeed best. From what coach Mike (Stoops) saw from the outside look is we've got the athletes, and he wanted to let those athletes be athletes and be more aggressive. Coach Venables is a very smart football genius. He was about schemes and doing different things. Our strength is being able to go out there and play our game as a unit, and as players. I think that's helped us out.
Oklahoma hammered Kansas 52-7 at Owen Field on Saturday night to set up a top-10 battle with Notre Dame next weekend. The Sooners improved to 5-1 overall, 3-1 in the Big 12. The undefeated Fighting Irish will enter the game at 7-0 with wins over Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford.

How the game was won: With the arm of Landry Jones. The Jayhawks came out with a game plan to stop Damien Williams and OU’s running game. That left plenty of opportunities for Jones, who took advantage from the start. He found six different receivers in the win, continuing the trend of spreading the ball around after tending to try to force it during the Sooners' first three games. It’s important for Jones to continue the trend for the remainder of the season.

Turning point: When Jones found Kenny Stills with a beautiful 44-yard touchdown pass on a post route. The late first-quarter score was an early sign that Jones was on point Saturday. He was 9-of-11 for 140 yards and one touchdown in the first quarter. When OU starts quickly, especially at home, the Sooners are tough to beat.

Stat of the game: The Sooners scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions, starting with Blake Bell’s 1-yard touchdown run with 12:29 left in the second quarter and ending with Trey Millard’s 25-yard touchdown catch. The Sooners were dominant on Saturday, playing the way you’d expect a BCS title hopeful to play against an overmatched opponent at home.

Player of the game: Jones. He finished 20-of-29 for 300 yards and three touchdowns. The Jayhawks challenged him to beat them with his arm, and he did.

Unsung hero of the game: Tony Jefferson. The junior safety was all over the field and had eight first-quarter tackles. He consistently made plays around the line of scrimmage. Jefferson continues to be one of the Big 12’s best defenders. He will be crucial when Notre Dame comes to town.

Record performance: For the first time in OU history, the Sooners returned a kickoff for a touchdown and a punt for a touchdown in the same game. Justin Brown returned a punt 90 yards for a score, and Roy Finch returned the second half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The two 90-plus yards plays were also a first in OU history.

What it means: In conjunction with Notre Dame’s 17-14 win over BYU, the Sooners win sets up a huge top-10 battle in Norman next weekend. OU can gain momentum and firmly secure itself in the BCS landscape with a win, while the Fighting Irish could make their case as the nation’s top team with a road win at Owen Field.

Oklahoma offense finding its stride

October, 11, 2012
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Oklahoma needed a late touchdown run in Week 1 just to manage 24 points against a UTEP team that has since given up fewer points just once.

Two weeks later, the Sooners managed just 19 points at home against Kansas State, and were held without a touchdown in the first half for the first time since 2005.

Oklahoma's offense had seen better days. Then Saturday arrived, and Texas Tech awaited in Lubbock. The Sooners' defense helped win the field position battle and Landry Jones & Co. needed just 380 total yards to score 41 points, and all 41 were on the board by the end of the third quarter.

"Just overall, I think we did get in a better rhythm," coach Bob Stoops said. "We were more consistent, those kinds of things, but hey, what I keep telling everybody, we’re a little behind in that that was only our fourth game. We’ve had two off weeks in these first five weeks, so it’s been, we’re still a work in progress."

[+] EnlargeKenny Stills
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesWill Oklahoma's passing game suffer in 2013 without receiver Kenny Stills in the lineup?
The Sooners played Texas Tech after having bye weeks in two of three weeks before playing Tech. That game against the Red Raiders was the first of nine games in nine weeks to close the season.

"I just felt like we were really back on the right page," receiver Kenny Stills said. "We had to get the train turned around and get going in the right direction, and I felt like Saturday just helped us show what we’re capable of, and it was by no means perfect, so we’re excited to get out there again and show what we can do."

The Sooners picked a good time to start looking like their old selves -- a team that finished fifth in total offense a year ago, and 10th with Jones at the helm in 2010's Big 12 championship season. The Sooners face Texas this week in Dallas in the Red River Rivalry.

"I just feel like all of us were on the same page. We had been struggling the past few weeks because maybe somebody didn’t pick up a protection or Landry didn’t get through all of his reads or we weren’t running the right routes," Stills said. "Finally, I felt like we were all clicking, we were all running on the same cylinders and it helped us look good and produce, offensively and defensively."

Stoops has a fair point entering last week, even though his offense underachieved through the season's first month. Oklahoma was the only team in the Big 12 that had played only three games through five weeks, and was one of only a handful of teams across the country to be off the field on two of the first five weekends of the season.

"In the end, I think just being on the field and continuing to play helps. I would like to think we’ll grow from it, continue to improve as you go through the year, and you need time on the field to do that," Stoops said. "Hopefully we can build on it."

After his slow start, Jones was passed up by most of the other Big 12 quarterbacks in passer rating. A frustrating loss at Kansas State left some (nonsensically) wondering if it was time to give Blake Bell a chance. Bell scored a pair of touchdowns in the Belldozer formation against Texas Tech after giving up a costly fumble in the loss to K-State, but there's no question about the direction of Oklahoma's offense by the men who run it.

"[Jones] knows the team has confidence in him. He knows the coaching staff has confidence in him," Stills said. "We’re not too worried about it, but we’ve got his back and we’ve had his back as much as we can and let him know that we love him and we’ve got a lot of faith in him."

Instant analysis: OU 69, Florida A&M 13

September, 8, 2012
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NORMAN, Okla. – After a shaky opener in El Paso, Texas, the Sooners bounced back Saturday to trounce Florida A&M 69-13.

It was over when: QB Landry Jones hooked up with true freshman wideout Trey Metoyer in the corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. The score put the Sooners up 35-10 with 36 seconds left before halftime.

Game ball goes to: Justin Brown, who was a playmaker as both a receiver and a punt returner during the first half. Two of his punt returns -- 43 and 62 yards -- led to OU touchdowns. A leaping 46-yard grab on third-and-10 set up another OU score.

Stat of the game: Junior-college transfer Damien Williams scored touchdowns on four of his first eight carries. He punched the ball into the end zone on his first two runs. Then on his first carry of the second half, Williams dashed 89 yards down the sideline for another score. In two games, Williams already has five touchdowns.

Unsung hero of the game: Wide receiver Kenny Stills had another big night, hauling in 10 catches for 120 receiving yards and a touchdown. Stills also finished with more than 100 receiving yards in OU’s first game and has quickly asserted himself as Jones’ No. 1 receiver.

What OU learned: That Williams is the team’s best running back, at least for the moment. Starter Dominique Whaley, who’s coming back from a broken ankle, sputtered before getting benched for fumbling for the second time in as many games. Williams, meanwhile, rushed for 156 yards on 10 carries and the four touchdowns.

What it means: Saturday’s performance wasn’t perfect. But the Sooners should feel reasonably confident going into their next game, a Big 12 showdown in two weeks with Kansas State. The Wildcats rolled past Miami 52-13 Saturday, but have not won in Norman since 1997.

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