NCF Nation: Matt Fodge

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Even in the middle of his summer vacation, Oklahoma State special teams coach Joe DeForest still gets charged about his plans for the upcoming season.

 
  Donald Miralle/Getty Images
  While he stars as a receiver, Dez Bryant also excels as a punt returner.

The Cowboys' Sept. 5 opener against Georgia might be 2½ months away, but DeForest's excitement is understandable even as he relaxed last week on a Florida beach with his family.

The Cowboys traditionally have been one of the nation's best in special teams. And it could be even better this season with the return of game-breaking players like Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox to help charge those units.

"It's how you approach it with the kids," DeForest said. "We emphasize that aspect and people want to be a part of it. It's respected as a big part of what we do and the fans understand that as well."

The best example of the importance that Mike Gundy places on that facet of the game can be seen with the fact that Bryant was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

"It all starts with the head coach and the fact that he gives me the ability to use our best players," DeForest said. "The fact we use Dez Bryant to run back punts says a lot about the importance we place on it."

Talent plays a part in OSU's success, but the Cowboys have developed a distinctive attitude on their special teams that permeates that aspect of their program.

OSU special-teams players wear special black T-shirts that aren't given out, but are earned on the field of play. They eat first, before any of their teammates. And they are held to a different standard than the rest of the squad.

"Our motto for our special teams around here is 'one play and out,' and that's what we've been able to build on over the years," DeForest said. "There aren't eight plays like you get on an offensive drive or several plays on defense. We've got one play to make something happen -- one chance. And that's what we try to do."

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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

And then there were three.

Teams, that is.

With Texas Tech starting spring practice this afternoon, only Texas A&M, Colorado and Kansas State still haven't started their spring work. And the Aggies kick off spring practice on Thursday.

With camps opening across the Midwest, it means more news.

And thankfully, more potential sources for lunchtime links from across the conference.

Here are today's offerings.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Holiday Bowl should be one of the most entertaining games during this bowl season with two high-powered offenses and two defenses that struggled against top opposition. Brace yourself for a shootout with all of the top talent on both sides of the field.

Who to watch: Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson reverted to the form that made him one of the nation's best runners last season in the Cowboys' regular-season finale, gashing Oklahoma for a season-best 90 rushing yards. OSU will need Robinson's passing skills against a leaky Oregon defense, but he'll also need to make some improvisational plays with his feet. That balance will be particularly important against an Oregon defense that ranks 80th nationally in total defense and 108th in pass defense.

What to watch: Oklahoma State's special teams made big plays all season, with Dez Bryant leading the Big 12 in punt returns (17.9 yards per return), Perish Cox pacing the conference in kick returns (30.1 yards per return) and Matt Fodge earning the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter. With Tuesday's game against Oregon figuring to be as close as it appears, a clear advantage in special teams could propel the Cowboys to the victory.

Why to watch: The Holiday Bowl has developed a national reputation for entertaining offensive battles and tonight's game should be no exception. Both teams are in the top eight nationally in rushing, total offense and scoring. So it wouldn't be a stretch to see both teams combine for 1,000 yards of total offense and maybe even 100 total points. OSU must cope with Oregon's explosive offense without defensive coordinator Tim Beckman, who left after the season for the Toledo head coaching job. Coach Mike Gundy has divvied up his responsibilities among the remaining defensive assistants and it will be interesting to see how they respond against a high-powered attack like the Ducks have. Their work could determine whether OSU claims its 10th triumph this season for the first time since 1988 and only the fourth time in the 108-season history of the program.

Wrap-up from awards show

December, 11, 2008
12/11/08
11:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 had a good night at the Home Depot/ESPNU College Football Awards Show, featuring seven players and coaches who claimed eight different awards.

Here's a list of the Big 12's winners, some whom were recognized on the stage and others who weren't.

  • Sam Bradford, Oklahoma quarterback, Davey O'Brien Award.
  • Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech wide receiver, Biletnikoff Award.
  • Colt McCoy, Texas quarterback, Walter Camp Player of the Year.
  • Matt Fodge, Oklahoma State punter, Ray Guy Award.
  • Chase Coffman, Missouri tight end, John Mackey Award.
  • Brian Orakpo, Texas defensive end, Nagurski Award and Rotary Lombardi Award.
  • Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma offensive coordinator, Frank Broyles Award.

The Big 12 was shut out in the final presentation of the evening when Florida quarterback Tim Tebow nosed past Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell and McCoy for the Maxwell Award.

All of these awards serve as a prelude to the Heisman Trophy and a mere appetizer for Saturday's presentation in New York City. I can't wait for the main course.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The kid from the Denver suburbs made a triumphant return to his old stomping grounds Saturday night.

Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson rushed for one touchdown and passed for another score to key the Cowboys' 30-17 victory over Colorado.

Robinson, a junior from nearby Littleton, Colo., punctuated his rushing touchdown by throwing his hands high in the air to signal to friends and family members who attended the game.

The victory keeps the Cowboys' hopes alive for a New Year's Day bowl.

The Colorado-Oklahoma State game turned out to be the most competitive Big 12 game of the day, but it was that way only because of some good fortune for the Buffaloes.

Colorado got a gift touchdown in the third quarter on a fortunate fourth-down rebound of a Cody Hawkins' pass that glanced off Cody Crawford's hands into the waiting grab of Scotty McKnight for a 29-yard touchdown. If Colorado didn't get that play, the Cowboys likely would have cruised to an easy victory.

Colorado had persevered for fourth-quarter comeback victories over Oklahoma and West Virginia during the last two seasons. And the Buffaloes appeared to have seized that momentum after Demetrius Sumler's 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

But the Buffaloes never could climb back into the game as they struggled with poor field position and Hawkins' inability to make big plays when the Buffaloes needed them.

It means the 5-6 Colorado has to win at Nebraska on the day after Thanksgiving in order to qualify for a bowl game.

And considering the way that the Cornhuskers have been playing recently, that sounds like a huge test for the offensively-challenged Buffaloes.

Here are some other things I noticed while watching the game.

  • Injuries to Kendall Hunter (jammed left knee) and Brandon Pettigrew (apparent concussion) made Oklahoma State look pedestrian on offense at the end of the game. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has to hope both can heal up during their off week as they prepare for the Bedlam game with Oklahoma in two weeks.
  • One thing that struck me was how few tackles that the Colorado defensive line made throughout the game. George Hypolite's name was barely called.
  • I was surprised that we didn't see Colorado freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen play for the Buffaloes - particularly as Hawkins struggled in the second half. A change of pace provided by a running quarterback might have helped diversify the Buffaloes' offense.
  • Gundy needs to make sure that punter Matt Fodge gets a game ball for his performance in the fourth quarter. The biggest reason why Colorado's offense never got going late in the game was because they started drives at their own 7 and 10 when they still had a chance to climb back into the game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas Tech 45, Oklahoma State 42 -- How about another South Plains shootout in Lubbock? It will be interesting to see how the Red Raiders respond to their dramatic victory over Texas last week -- particularly against an Oklahoma State team that still has its BCS bowl and Big 12 South titles clearly in front of it. The Cowboys will present the most balanced offensive attack that the Red Raiders will face, but I'm looking for continued improvement from the Tech defense. Keep particular note of how Texas Tech safeties Daniel Charbonnet and Darcel McBath confound top Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant with their coverage schemes from the back end. Special teams favor the Cowboys thanks to two key weapons in Bryant and punter Matt Fodge. But in the end, Graham Harrell and the Red Raiders' passing offense will prove to be too stout for the Cowboys. Oklahoma State ranks last in sacks in the Big 12 and will be challenged to stop Tech's array of offensive weapons.

Oklahoma 44, Texas A&M 24 -- The Sooners should have no trouble scoring against a weak Texas A&M defense. But it wouldn't surprise me if Jerrod Johnson and his group of young playmakers have enough moxie to make the game close well into the second half. Expect Sam Bradford and the Sooners' offense to muster enough production to pull away at the end, keeping the Sooners South Division title hopes alive as they seek to stretch their winning streak over the Aggies to six games.

Texas 52, Baylor 20 -- Woe for the Bears, who have the unfortunate luck to get the Longhorns after the loss at Texas Tech last week. Even though the Longhorns likely won't be healthy, it won't matter in this game. Their pass rush will get a better push and should harass Baylor freshman quarterback Robert Griffin all over the field. Texas came within one second of beating four straight top-12 teams. Look for them to take out their aggression on their up-the-road neighbors from Waco in this one. The Bears have lost 16 straight games to ranked foes by an average of 29.4 points. I expect the Longhorns to come close to that average on Saturday.

Kansas 34, Nebraska 31 -- The Jayhawks haven't won in Lincoln since 1968 and have lost 19 straight games at Memorial Stadium. This one will be close, but the running of Jake Sharp and the heady play of quarterback Todd Reesing should enable them to win a shootout. Expect one of those typical Big 12 offensive outbursts that likely will have Nebraska coach Bo Pelini yelling and screaming along the sidelines, desperately pleading for a defensive stop that likely won't come very often.

Missouri 56, Kansas State 14 -- Both teams will be coming into this game with much emotion. The Tigers' seniors will be playing their last home game. Kansas State players will be participating in their first game since head coach Ron Prince was ousted earlier this week. Look for Chase Daniel and company to jump on the Wildcats early, ripping into a Kansas State that has been blistered for 110 points in its last two games. It could get even worse on Saturday as the Tigers should roll easily.

Colorado 28, Iowa State 17 -- The Buffaloes will be playing without leading rusher Rodney "Speedy" Stewart but it shouldn't matter. Playing against the sputtering Cyclones' defense should be a tonic for the struggling Colorado offense. Who knows? Maybe Colorado's moribund passing game will be productive against a listless ISU pass defense that ranks 111th in pass defense and 116th in pass efficiency defense in the country this week.

My picks for last week: 5-1 (83.3 percent)

My picks for the season: 67-11 (85.9 percent)

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