NCF Nation: Randy Bullock
QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns (it could have been four if a game-winning TD pass to Colton Chelf hadn't been overturned) on 29-of-42 passing. His first pass was intercepted, but he had an otherwise solid night and ran for his first career touchdown in the 41-38 win against Stanford.
RB: Ben Malena, Texas A&M: Malena stepped in for the injured Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael and had a solid game in the Aggies' 33-22 win against Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. He finished with 77 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, showcasing his physical running style. He also caught six passes for 36 yards.
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma: Millard carried the ball four times for 21 yards but also helped pave the way for three Blake Bell touchdowns from the Belldozer formation.
WR: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Jeff Fuller had better numbers in the bowl, but it was aided by big catches late. Swope kept the Aggies offense humming for most of the game, with eight catches for 105 yards in the win against Northwestern.
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: Blackmon was the best offensive player in the Big 12 bowls, spearheading Oklahoma State's offense in the Fiesta Bowl win with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
WR: Colton Chelf, Oklahoma State: Chelf made two huge catches over the middle early and a third nearly won the game, but his touchdown was overturned. Still, OSU doesn't win its first BCS bowl without Chelf's 97 yards on five catches.
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri: By Egnew's standards, it was a quiet game, but he played well with a 25-yard grab and three catches for 39 yards in Mizzou's win.
OL: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State's offensive line is keyed by Garner, who helped the Cowboys handle Stanford's blitzes well and give Weeden plenty of time in the Fiesta Bowl win.
OL: Philip Blake, Baylor: Baylor ran for 482 yards and scored 67 points in its win against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Blake's the man who keyed it all.
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State: Adcock's the best overall talent on OSU's line, and he showed it in the win against Stanford.
OL: Dan Hoch, Missouri: Missouri rolled over one of the nation's best rush defenses, North Carolina, for 337 yards on the ground.
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M: The Aggies' offense was potent for most of its win against Northwestern, and Joeckel was solid in run and pass blocking for the balanced attack.
DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: Jeffcoat made five tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in the Longhorns' 21-10 win against Cal. The Texas defense dominated, and the defensive line's play was the catalyst. He did it all with a torn pectoral muscle, too. He'll miss the spring after having it surgically repaired this week.
DL: R.J. Washington, Oklahoma: With Ronnell Lewis ineligible, Washington showed up big in the win against Iowa. He had two sacks and made three tackles.
DL: Tony Jerod-Eddie, Texas A&M: Jerod-Eddie made eight tackles and had a sack in the win against Northwestern.
LB: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Moore was a monster in the season finale for the Aggies, making nine tackles and forcing a fumble on his lone sack.
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State: Klein flew around for the Cyclones, making 15 tackles in a physical game against Rutgers, though the Cyclones lost.
LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: Could this be a big piece of momentum heading into 2012? Hicks starred with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the win against Cal.
CB: Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma: Fleming was the Big 12's best defensive player of the bowls and the best player on the field in the Insight Bowl, making seven tackles, intercepting a pass and returning it 21 yards. He also broke up three passes.
CB: David Garrett, Kansas State: Garrett made 10 tackles and had two tackles for loss in the loss to Arkansas.
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: He hates the nickname Machete, but Vaccaro was hacking away at Cal. He made three tackles, including two for loss and a sack.
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State: Even if it was illegal (it was), Martin had the hit of the bowl season with a huge blast on Stanford's Ty Montgomery that took Montgomery's helmet off on the opening drive. He finished with nine tackles and a tackle for loss, with a fumble recovery.
P: Tress Way, Oklahoma: Way averaged 50 yards on his six punts, including a 67-yarder.
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M: Bullock made all four of his field goal attempts, including two from beyond 40 yards.
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M: Harris looked the part of the Big 12's best, returning a punt 35 yards and finishing with 54 yards on his four returns.
KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Gilbert had a 50-yard return and returned his four kicks for a total of 136 yards.
After a rough season that included the death of teammate Joey Villavisencio last week and the firing of coach Mike Sherman, the Aggies got a bowl win. It's been an emotional year at Texas A&M, but it will end in fine fashion with a good win over Northwestern.
The Aggies did it without top rusher Cyrus Gray, too. Gray missed his second consecutive game and the final game of his career with a stress fracture in his shoulder that he suffered early in a win over Kansas.
Here's some instant analysis.
How the game was won: Texas A&M was the better team and proved it for the first three quarters, but like we've seen all year, the team swooned in the second half. This time it came in the fourth quarter. The Aggies survived via two huge third-down catches from Uzoma Nwachukwu and Jeff Fuller to keep the ball out of Northwestern's hands in the final minutes. This season, the Aggies blew leads of 18 (Arkansas), 17 (Oklahoma State), 14 (Missouri), 13 (Texas) and 10 (Kansas State). They avoided a sixth loss in extravagant fashion this season with a clutch late drive to close out the Wildcats.
Turning point: Trailing 7-3, Texas A&M scored on its final three drives of the first half, highlighted by a vertical, 26-yard touchdown catch by Jeff Fuller from Ryan Tannehill. The Aggies took control and the Wildcats weren't able to get within realistic reach the rest of the game. The Aggies scored the first 10 points of the second half for a 30-7 lead.
Player of the game: A&M receiver Ryan Swope. Swope continued his tear this season with eight catches for 105 yards and broke a few tackles on a 37-yard catch-and-run to set up an early touchdown that put the Aggies ahead for good. Fuller had a huge catch late to seal the game, but Swope kept the A&M offense humming in the first half while it built the big lead.
Unsung hero: Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter. He spelled what looked like a gimpy Dan Persa and ran for 65 yards and a touchdown in a nice performance.
What it means: One epic bowl losing streak ended while another lives on. Northwestern had lost five bowl games going back to 1949 and made it a sixth. Texas A&M ended its eight-game bowl losing streak dating back to 2001. The Northwestern streak was represented on the sidelines by a monkey wearing a No. 63 jersey, the number of years since the Wildcats won a bowl.
Well wishes: Coryell Judie. The Aggies' kick returner and cornerback finally returned to full health against Texas on Thanksgiving after missing a handful of games with a hamstring injury. However, he suffered a fractured wrist during his final collegiate game. It's a rough break for a huge talent, but he'll hear his name called next April in the NFL draft.
Record performance: With his first field goal midway through the first quarter, kicker Randy Bullock broke Texas A&M's single-season scoring record set back in 1927. The Lou Groza Award winner surpassed Joel Hunt's record of 128 points and finished the season with 139 points after making three field goals and three extra points on Saturday.
It's been a fun season across the Big 12, with a few big names who didn't play as well as we thought, and lots of unknowns who became household names by the end of the season.
I'll offer my comments below, but here's our All-Big 12 team for 2011.
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
DE: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
DT: Dominique Hamilton, Missouri
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
DE: Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State
LB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Emmanuel Acho, Texas
NB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Finally, a few notes and explanations:
- I loved the media's idea to craft an all-purpose spot to accomodate Collin Klein. The Big Ten did the same for Michigan's Denard Robinson last season. I followed suit, and did so on the defensive side of the ball with a nickel-back spot for Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson. Two players that missed first-team designation by the coaches, but clearly deserve to be recognized.
- Additionally, I prefer the teams to reflect the Big 12 style of play, so the nickel back fits. Each team doesn't have 11 players, but there were deserving linebackers. The same with Egnew and Millard. Does every team use a fullback or a tight end? No, but both are standout performers. They'd rotate in anyway, just as Jefferson would in a theoretical package.
- Tough call to leave Philip Blake from Baylor off my team, but Garner's been better. Blake is very, very close, though.
- Hated to leave off Brodrick Brown and E.J. Gaines, but I went with a more traditional two corners and two safeties, rather than four corners like the media's team.
- Steven Johnson and Arthur Brown would have been right behind my three linebackers. That race was probably closer than at any other position, except maybe cornerback. Difficult to leave either of those guys off my first team, but the three on the team were better. I gave Brown my Newcomer of the Year nod, though.
- I don't like going with three defensive ends and one defensive tackle, but there wasn't a defensive tackle who deserved the honor more than Okafor, my third defensive end. Okafor was a defensive tackle last year anyway, so that's close enough, right? He moved from tackle to end before spring practice earlier this year. In the Big 12, an additional pass rusher is necessary, too, right?
- I made a similar move with my offensive line. Went tackle-heavy, but the guards didn't have quite as many standouts.
Bullock led the nation with 25 field goals made on 29 attempts, and is the first Texas A&M player to ever win the Groza Award.
He's the second consecutive Big 12 player to win the Groza Award after Oklahoma State's Dan Bailey won the award last year.
Bullock beat out Florida's Caleb Sturgis and Florida State's Dustin Hopkins.
Chalk it up as a win for the Aggies over their future SEC opponents, the Gators.
Quite the half. The Aggies lead 16-7. Time for a bit of analysis.
Turning point: Dustin Harris let a punt hit him and the Longhorns recovered. A trick play later, the Longhorns cut the Aggies' lead to 13-7 when Jaxon Shipley hit Blaine Irby for a 41-yard touchdown pass. Before that, Texas' offense hardly had a pulse. Funny how one play can produce so much confidence. The Longhorns looked much better moving forward from that point, which came at the 9:19 mark in the second quarter.
Stat of the half: The two teams combined to convert 2 of 17 first downs. Ouch.
Best player in the half: Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M. Bullock's been money for the Aggies, banging home kicks of 49, 52 and 29 yards to become the school's single-season record-holder for made field goals with 24. He's also got 124 points, four short of the single-season school record set back in 1927.
Best call: Bryan Harsin's double pass. It was pretty obvious that nothing the Longhorns did was working. They needed a bit of misdirection or something that could rip off a chunk of yardage. It came at the perfect time, caught the Aggies off-guard and pushed Texas back into contention in a game that, early on, looked like it had no business being in.
What Texas needs to do: Keep mixing in some misdirection plays and tricky stuff as needed. The Longhorns don't look capable of moving the ball using their traditional offense. Case McCoy hasn't been able to stretch the field. Receivers haven't been getting open often. The holes haven't been there for Malcolm Brown. The Longhorns need big plays from the defense, special teams or offense. Without them, adding a couple more touchdowns in the second half to come back and win this is going to be extremely difficult.
What Texas A&M needs to do: Look at the scoreboard. Texas has seven points. It came off the Aggies' biggest mistake. Quit making big mistakes. Take what the Longhorns' defense gives them. Prevent the big play. Make Texas string together completions to move the ball. There's not much evidence to suggest the Longhorns can do it. Check all those things off the list and Texas A&M gets the last shot at Texas on the way to the SEC.
He'd made 16 of 17 field goal attempts this year, and his only miss came in a 37-7 beatdown against Idaho. That was a 44-yarder with Texas A&M leading 37-0.
But the wind in Norman is whipping, and might have claimed a victim in Saturday's game. Bullock pushed a 38-yard attempt wide right.
Oklahoma's lead is holding at 10-3 midway through the second quarter.
OU's Landry Jones (9-of-16, 103 yards) and A&M's Ryan Tannehill (7-of-18, 71 yards, INT) haven't been sharp, and though neither would blame the wind for those shortcomings, it's hard to believe it hasn't been a factor.
We'll see if it changes either approach late in the game.
Texas A&M has a much more powerful, reliable running game, so it might play into their hands. Both quarterbacks have strong arms, but their accuracy has suffered today.
Signees: 22 (three from junior college, five enrolled early)
Top prospects: Kicker Taylor Bertolet will likely spend a year behind starter Randy Bullock, and two signing-day steals are at the top of the list of possible future stars in Tim DeRuyter's defense. 6-foot-5, 230-pound Brandon Alexander is the nation's No. 32 defensive end, but the Aggies fully intend on using him as a linebacker. He picked the Aggies over the rival Longhorns the morning of signing day. Cornerback Floyd Raven also picked Texas A&M over Ole Miss on signing day as well, despite a letter of intent mixup.
Needs met: Bertolet answers a big need for the Aggies in 2012, as the nation's No. 2 kicker. Don't be surprised if Alexander gets some early playing time to help replace Von Miller and Michael Hodges, two of the team's top defenders and linebackers who exhausted their eligibility after the 2010 season. Shaun Ward, a Florida native, is also a top linebacking prospect who could help early.
Analysis: Texas A&M had to make a late push for what looked like a mediocre class early on. In early July, the Aggies had just seven commits (10th in the Big 12) and its best prospect was the nation's No. 53 athlete, Jonathon Henderson. But Mike Sherman made a late push and signed 10 recruits with the same or better recruiting grade from ESPNU and help give the Aggies a class that ranks in the middle of the Big 12. It's not a class that wows, but it's one that should be able to continue some of the momentum that Texas A&M established in the 2010 season.
ESPN recruiting grade: B-minus
Sure enough, Nebraska answered after being backed up on their own five-yard line to start its next drive.
Add it up, and we're tied at six here midway through the fourth quarter after a pair of field goals.
Both teams did it on the ground, with Rex Burkhead digging Nebraska out of a hole with a 33-yard run on the first play of the drive. Niles Paul also made a big catch-and-run for 24 yards on a 3rd-and-8.
Neither team had been able to find a rhythm, but the penalty-plagued Huskers will take it, tying the game in a timely fashion.
Taylor Martinez is back in the game for Nebraska, but he's been able to do very little with his legs after returning from a re-injured ankle.
Here's how both drives shaped up:
- Texas A&M: 15 plays, 84 yards, 5:21. Finished with a 28-yard field goal by Randy Bullock.
- Nebraska: 12 plays, 78 yards, 6:02. Finished with a 29-yard field goal by Alex Henery.
What is this, the Big Ten?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some intriguing tidbits around the Big 12 heading into Saturday's games.
1. Texas A&M K Richie Bean misfired on two easy field goals of 32 yards and 25 yards in a loss to Arkansas State, but had even bigger worries. His family had just rebuilt their home in the New Orleans area in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Gustav was on a direct path during the game. Bean's recent slump has reopened the kicking competition before this week's game with New Mexico with freshman Randy Bullock, who A&M coach Mike Sherman said he would have used late in the first game after Bean's earlier misses.
2. Kansas fans are concerned after the Jayhawks rushed for 128 yards and averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry in a blowout victory over Florida International. One of the biggest reasons was the absence of T Jeremiah Hatch, who didn't play for undisclosed reasons. Coach Mark Mangino said that Hatch is practicing with the team and could be available for Saturday's game against Louisiana Tech. His return would immediately boost Kansas' ground game.
3. Baylor QB Robert Griffin has another reason to get excited about his first college start against Northwestern State. His older sister, Dejon, a junior who competes in the hammer, discus and shot put for the Demons' track team, says she'll support her little brother over her own school at Saturday's game in Waco.
4. Texas coach Mack Brown will consult with DE Henry Melton and LB Sergio Kindle before he decides how many games DT Lamarr Houston will be suspended for after his weekend arrest. He was charged with driving while intoxicated. Melton and Kindle both were suspended three games last season after they were arrested for similar charges last summer.
Houston's absence Saturday night from the Longhorns' pass rush against UTEP adds a little more pressure for Texas redshirt freshmen S Blake Gideon and S Earl Thomas, who will be starting their first road games at the raucous Sun Bowl.
5. Kansas State coach Ron Prince has repeatedly said that QB Josh Freeman was his most improved player since the spring. Freeman played like it in the Wildcats' season-opening 45-6 victory over North Texas, accounting for five touchdowns. But the most noticeable change for Freeman in his third season as a starter appears to be his patience at hitting second and third receivers. He also looked more comfortable as a running threat, which wasn't always the case in his previous two seasons as a starter.
6. Colorado coaches worried about finding a defensive playmaker to replace Jordon Dizon. If the Buffaloes' first game is any indication, they don't have any worries. Rangy LB Brad Jones was all over the field with seven tackles and a sack in their victory over Colorado State. But most impressive was his play on Colorado State TE Kory Sperry, who was neutralized with only two catches after blistering the Buffaloes for eight catches and three TD grabs last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Video may have killed the radio star, according to the old English new wave band the Buggles. But expanding mediums are providing additional opportunities for reporters to share their insights with consumers in the rapidly expanding marketplace.
The Big 12 is no different, stocked with a boatload of good weekly vlogs. And work has started early, even before the season starts, at many newspapers.
The spirited competition between the Lincoln Journal-Star and the Omaha World-Herald in the coverage of all things concerning Nebraska football has spilled over into a video war of sorts.
Omaha World-Herald beat writers Mitch Sherman and Rich Kaipust talk about the need for increasing sacks and turnovers in their most recent video chat. And Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple and beat writer Brian Christopherson discuss freshmen who will play for the Cornhuskers this season. It will continue for both papers throughout the season.
But the most effective use of video by a newspaper that I've seen so far is what the Oklahoman has done for its stellar series on Bob Stoops. A group of Oklahoman reporters provide analysis of Stoops' leadership, done with tight videography in a style much like ESPN Classic has used in its Sports Century documentaries. Despite the lack of live action footage, the use of some memorable still pictures of Stoops and Sooners was still very effective.
More newspapers are going to this synergy using different formats. I'll try to include some of the more notable ones in my upcoming posts.
But the written word still remains supreme in my mind. And here are some scrumptuous morsels for a Friday morning links collection.
- Baylor coach Art Briles said that freshman QB Robert Griffin will see action in the Bears' opener against Wake Forest and that TB Jay Finley will average 16 to 21 carries per game this season.
- Denver Post reporter Tom Kensler profiles Colorado long snapper Austin Bisnow, a budding songwriter who has twice won Colorado's on-campus "Idol" competition for his singing abilities.
- Some Kansas players are saying their secondary could be better this season with Chris Harris starting in place of departed All-American CB Aqib Talib.
- Nebraska WR Nate Swift has rebounded from a childhood bout with paralysis brought about after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome 12 years ago in a story by the Omaha World-Herald's Rich Kaipust. Swift has a complete recovery and needs 41 catches to become the school's leading career receiver.
- Lawrence Journal-World beat writer Dugan Arnett writes about the joy of finding former Kansas RB Donte Bean in the cereal aisle at the Wal-Mart late one night.
- Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple profiles MLB Phillip "Jelly Roll" Dillard, who has lost more than 30 pounds since last season in preparation for Bo Pelini's aggressive new defense.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes about how Bob Stoops has made it a priority to involve his coaching staff's families in all aspects of the program.
- Texas Tech coach Mile Leach told fans at the annual Red Raider Club kickoff luncheon on Thursday in Lubbock that he may finally have the team to fulfill lofty preseason expectations. "I think what I've been impressed with about this group is they work together, they listen to coaching and as a result, since they're very committed to doing the best they can, you can coach them hard," Leach said. "You can ask more of them than some of the other groups I've dealt with. As a result, we're looking forward to seeing where it takes us."
- Later in the evening, Leach, defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill, QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree were among those who signed autographs for more than four hours at the team's annual Fan Night.
- Freshman TB Bradley Stephens accounted for 190 yards at Texas A&M's final scrimmage of training camp. But the most notable development could be the pass-catching abilities of backup QB Jerrod Johnson, who snagged five receptions for 47 yards playing tight end, including a 15-yard TD reception.
- Austin American-Statesman beat writer Suzanne Halliburton broke down the crowded kicking and punting competition at Texas, where incumbent K Ryan Bailey and P Trevor Gerland are facing serious challenges to keep their jobs.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mike Jones blogs about the rules that Texas coach Mack Brown will have to consider if he plays quarterbacks Colt McCoy and John Chiles at the same time.
- Heralded recruit Darrell Scott was listed as Colorado's third-string running back and third-string punter in Coach Dan Hawkins' first depth chart released on Thursday.
- Iowa State will receive a guaranteed total of $1.8 million from their two-game series at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City against Kansas State that was announced Thursday. Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said the school averages $1 million per game in home revenues. And Pollard told the Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff that both schools might seek a sponsor for the game and develop a traveling trophy for the winner of the game.
- No defensive starters saw action in Missouri's final scrimmage of training camp. But LB Sean Weatherspoon said he's excited heading into the Tigers' Aug. 30 opener against Illinois. "I think we're definitely ready," Weatherspoon told the Kansas City Star. "Guys are really excited about this season. The energy level is up. And enthusiasm is free." With backup QB Chase Patton injured, third-stringer Blaine Gabbert saw most of the action at the scrimmage, overcoming early adversity to finish strongly.
- Missouri fans are irate about a $100 seasona
l charge for reserved parking in donor lots at Faurot Field - on top of required season-ticket purchase and a donation to the school's scholarship fund. School officials told the Columbia Tribune that the school was the last in the Big 12 to charge for this.
- A sloppy defensive practice on Thursday resulted in extra running for Oklahoma players and no defensive coaches made available to the media after practice. "We're trying to be national champions, not just win the Big 12 and lose a bowl game," DT Gerald McCoy told the Oklahoman. "We're tired of that reputation."
- Senior Richie Bean and walk-on freshman Randy Bullock are vying for Texas A&M's kicking slot after last year's starter, Matt Szymanski, transferred to SMU.
- Texas QB Colt McCoy likened his first two years starting with the Longhorns to his first two years with a driver's license.
- Old-school Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline is impossible to please, according to the Tulsa World's Bill Haisten. "All I see are errors that you can correct," Wickline said. "I'll let someone else tell these guys that they're doing a good job."
- Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman says that Oklahoma State is stuck in a rut of mediocrity.
- John Shinn of the Norman Transcript writes that Oklahoma's current collection of defensive linemen might be the best in Bob Stoops' coaching era.
- Missouri freshmen players Rolandis Woodland and Drew Temple are all but assured of redshirting if they are ever cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, several Missouri papers reported. Temple is the younger brother of former Missouri leading rusher Tony Temple.
- Veteran Lawrence Journal-World columnist Bill Mayer goes far into his personal "Way Back Machine" to compare Kansas' current football fever to previous seasons.