NCF Nation: Roy Williams

Offensive players dominated the list of top individual seasons at Big 12 schools in ESPN.com’s The Season, with Texas’ Vince Young and Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders advancing to Wednesday's semifinal round.

Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib is the lone Big 12-era defender who landed on the list as an honorable mention for the Jayhawks. Talib earned consensus All-American honors while helping the Jayhawks go 11-1, including a 24-21 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl in 2007.

Several Big 12 defenders have had stellar seasons since the conference was born in 1996. Here’s a look at other exceptional individual seasons for defenders during the Big 12 era.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Patrick Green/Icon SMIVon Miller was too much to handle in 2009, posting 17 sacks.
Lawrence Flugence, Texas Tech linebacker, 2002: The sheer numbers land Flugence a spot on this list. He had 193 total tackles, including 124 solo stops in 14 games during the 2002 season. The Mike Leach-led Red Raiders finished 9-5 with Flugence anchoring the defense and Kliff Kingsbury triggering the offense.

Derrick Johnson, Texas linebacker, 2004: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winner, Johnson made plays from sideline to sideline for the Longhorns during the 2004 season. He finished with 130 tackles (70 solo stops), including 19 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, nine forced fumbles and two sacks.

Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma linebacker, 2007: Lofton was exceptional during the 2007 season, earning All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He had 157 tackles including 10.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions in 14 games for the Sooners. He was the anchor of a defense that allowed 20.3 points per game and 4.98 yards per play as OU finished 11-2 with a Big 12 championship.

Von Miller, Texas A&M defensive end, 2009: The future NFL Pro Bowler was relentless and dominant during the 2007 season. He finished with 17 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles in 13 games. He accounted for 47.2 percent of the Aggies’ sack total (36) during a 6-7 season. His 17 sacks remain the highest single season total in the Big 12 era.

Terence Newman, Kansas State cornerback, 2002: Newman was a nightmare for opponents during the 2002 season, locking down receivers on defense and putting fear into the hearts of defenders on special teams and offense. He won the Thorpe Award and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Even as offenses avoided him, Newman finished with 44 tackles, 14 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Shaun Rogers, Texas defensive tackle, 1999: The junior was a disruptive force in the middle for the Longhorns, finishing with 27 tackles for loss, the highest total from any Big 12 defender since the conference was born in 1996. He joined teammate Casey Hampton to give UT the Big 12’s top defensive tackle duo that season.

Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska defensive tackle, 2009: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Suh’s 2009 season was second to none during the Big 12 era. Offenses focused on keeping Suh from dominating games yet he still dominated on his way to becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist, Lombardi Award and a lengthy list of individual accolades. He finished with 85 tackles including 24 for loss and 12 sacks.

Earl Thomas, Texas safety, 2009: Thomas proved he was NFL ready with a incredible redshirt sophomore campaign. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award while earning all-american honors with 77 tackles, five tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups and eight interceptions. He helped UT finish No. 1 nationally in interceptions (35) and forced turnovers (37).

Roy Williams, Oklahoma defensive back, 2001: The Jim Thorpe Award winner, Williams left a lasting legacy with his “Superman” play against Texas in the Red River Rivalry, forcing a Chris Simms’ fumble that sealed an OU win. He finished with 107 tackles including 14 tackles for loss, 22 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Grant Wistrom, Nebraska defensive end, 1997: He had a stellar 1996 season but his 1997 campaign should be considered even better. As the returning Big 12 defensive player of the year, Wistrom had 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hurries on his way to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight season. He also earned the Lombardi Trophy in 1997.
Everett GolsonMatt Cashore/US PresswireSophomore Everett Golson beat out Andrew Hendrix and Gunner Kiel to be the Week 1 starter.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Two months removed from the breakout spring game, which was the first tangible evidence that Everett Golson was ready to leap from scout-team superstar to Notre Dame starting quarterback within a year, a deal was brokered between mentor and student on the links of Dillon, S.C., some 90 minutes north of the school and town that has begun to trade in local allegiances for the blue and gold of arguably the country's most popular football program.

"Are you going to start?" Hugh T. Wallace asked on the early June day.

The question was no different than the ones Golson had been hearing for the better part of two years, ever since he took his 151 touchdown throws -- the sixth-most in national high school history -- and de-committed from his childhood sanctuary on Tobacco Road and moved some 700 miles away, to a place his parents have been to only twice.

"Yeah," Golson replied after another drive he'd pushed to the right. "I'm going to start."

"Well, if you start, I'll go to Dublin and see the game," the retired Myrtle Beach assistant principal said matter-of-factly.

Wallace had been there for all of Golson's starts in high school, first noticing the eighth-grade phenom at the middle school across the street before standing on the sideline for the 44 prep wins and five losses Golson was responsible for as the four-year starter.

"I was just kind of like that old granddaddy guy that's always around when you need something," Wallace cracked, adding: "I let him know that I was there. That he was going to do what he was supposed to do. He was going to be on time. And when he needed something, that I would be there for him."

Hired as Myrtle Beach's junior varsity football and varsity basketball coach before the 2007 season, DeAndre Scott remembered varsity football coach Scott Earley taking him to the school's weight room to meet the newcomer with the braided hair who would take the school to great heights.

"I can still remember him as a little scrawny kid with those braids and I was underwhelmed, just from the eyeball stance," Scott recalled. "But once I saw him sling that football a little bit, and he got in the gym and played a couple pickup games, I was like, 'Oh, OK,' maybe he is going to be pretty good."

The cornrows soon were replaced with a buzz cut, the lean frame filled out some, and Golson was off and running, winning a pair of state titles for Earley and successor Mickey Wilson, and one for Scott on the hardwood, the playing surface where Golson felt most at home.

All this time, the shadow of Chapel Hill loomed.

Longtime North Carolina fan Lynn Auman, who taught orchestra to Everett and older brother Edwin for more than a combined 10 years, dangled weekend trips to Tar Heels football and basketball games as a carrot to Everett, whose teenage star power sometimes isolated him from his peers and would be the source of an academic drop-off before entering high school.

"When Everett was in middle school, I thought he would never make it to high school," his mother, Cynthia, said with a laugh.

Golson pledged to Butch Davis and UNC after his junior season, and the legendary Roy Williams welcomed the future football recruit to try out for the basketball team.

But expected NCAA sanctions stemming from impermissible benefits and ineligible players proved too much of a bear. Golson decommited from UNC for Notre Dame after much lunch-break soul-searching in front of the school piano. Auman stopped by every now and then to check on the student she'd known since he was in the sixth grade.

"He said, 'I'm going to wait two and a half more weeks, til Dec. 1, and if I still feel as excited as I am right now and I still think it's the right thing to do, then I'm probably going to go,'" Auman recalled Golson saying of his mid-November visit to South Bend.

"I said, 'Well, I think that's a good thing. Give it some time, let the dust settle, think about it.' And he said, 'Yeah, I'm going to be thinking and praying, and I know I'll figure out what I'm supposed to do.' I said, 'Yeah, you will.'"

A little more than a month later, Golson decided to turn his 18th birthday into a going-away party, welcoming family, friends and teachers to Mount Olive AME Church for a night of singing and storytelling, with Everett putting on a rare public display of his vocal chords with Edwin, who records gospel albums.

After Sunday school teacher Mary Pryor told stories to the gathering of all the times Everett made it to her class after a big weekend game, Auman pulled the guest of honor aside, two weeks shy of his college move.

[+] EnlargeEverett Golson
Matt Cashore/US PresswireEverett Golson threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns in Notre Dame's spring game.
"You know Everett, I think God likes football," she recalled telling him. "I think he really likes it when you're playing, so you go on up there to Notre Dame and forget about North Carolina, and make God smile a whole bunch."

It was hardly that simple at first. Golson called Auman from campus to complain about the cold Midwest weather and lack of a nearby Golden Corral, their favorite dining stop on those high school trips to UNC.

Then, of course, there were the immediate academic concerns -- struggles the soft-spoken Golson did not shy away from when speaking to reporters. The lack of attention to detail bled into the football building, where Golson eventually lost the battle for change-of-pace quarterback to Andrew Hendrix and ended up redshirting.

Scout team player of the year was hardly the kind of hardware he envisioned taking home when arriving on campus, but he can see now the growth it afforded him.

"It was very difficult," Golson said. "Obviously coming in I thought I was ready to compete for the starting spot, but going through fall camp I kind of saw my reps go down a little bit. I was a little discouraged at first but it kind of humbled me. And now that I look back on it, I'm glad I went down to the scout team because it really humbled me and made me realize I have to start at ground zero and work my way back up."

Extended film study, a more vocal command and the occasional stress relief from playing the piano before practice put Golson in position to ascend the Irish's depth chart this offseason. With his strong spring game, and then the arrest and one-game suspension of incumbent Tommy Rees, Golson was front and center when camp opened earlier this month.

Golson stuck with the first team through much of the preseason, fending off Hendrix and newcomer Gunner Kiel before coach Brian Kelly officially announced Thursday evening that he was Notre Dame's starter.

"It was tough. It was a tough decision," Kelly said at the announcement, "but Everett clearly won the starting job and he'll get to start against Navy."

Five days earlier, while returning from a day on his boat, Wallace, the former assistant principal, received a text message from Golson that simply read: "Mr. Wallace: Ireland." When Wallace asked if that meant he'd be starting, Golson said yes. That text led to a phone call, which led to Golson putting Wallace's name down for a ticket to Aviva Stadium, which led to the retired teacher plopping down in front of a computer to find airfare and hotel accommodations for the impending intercontinental trip.

Three flights spanning 10 total hours will place Wallace in Dublin, where Golson is now assured that his first college start will have at least one familiar face among the crowd of 30,000 traveling Americans.

Back where it all started, a town of roughly that size will be watching.

"Everybody at Myrtle Beach is calling into work that day -- nobody's going to work that Saturday," Everett's father, Wayne, said through a chuckle. "We've got a lot of people anticipating the season."

Looking at UNC's classes probe

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North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams said through a spokesperson that he is not concerned that basketball players made up 3 percent of the students enrolled in suspect classes within a department the school investigated for academic fraud, our Robbi Pickeral reports.

Should UNC's football program be worried? Tar Heels football players represented 36 percent of the enrollment in the 54 courses within the Department of African and Afro-American Studies between summer 2007 and summer 2011.

From Dan Kane of the Raleigh News & Observer, which first reported the story on Tuesday:
University officials say they found no evidence that the suspect classes were part of a plan between [Julius] Nyang’oro [the department’s chairman, who was listed as the professor of 45 of the suspect classes] and the athletic department to create classes that student-athletes could pass so they could maintain their eligibility. They said student-athletes were treated no differently in the classes than students who were not athletes.

But the high percentages of student-athletes in the classes suggest to some that academic advisers, tutors and others in the athletic department may have guided them to the classes.

"These kids are putting in enormous amounts of time, and in at least some of the sports that are very physically demanding, they are missing a number of classes because of conflicts, and then if they are a marginal student to begin with, you’ve got to send them to Professor Nyang’oro’s class," said former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr. "I think the academic counselors realized that and the tutors recognized it, and frankly the folks up the food chain for the most part recognized it. But nobody wants to rock the boat, because it’s big money."

A key, Pickeral notes, could be that both athletes and non-athletes appear to have been affected, something the NCAA would likely consider. The fact that there is no evidence of athletes receiving preferential treatment has to make football coach Larry Fedora and company sleep better at night, though this is still more uneasy news for a school nearly two months removed from NCAA sanctions that came following a football saga that must have seemed like it would never end.
NORMAN, Okla. -- The whispers were there, especially late in the season.

"He’s a long way from that. We wouldn’t do that," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "He’s got a long way to get to that level."

He does. He, and about anyone who saw him play last season, agree on that.

But it's hard not to notice. Since Roy Williams, it's hard to recall a player filling Oklahoma's nickel back position better than Tony Jefferson did in 2010, even as a true freshman.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma's Tony Jefferson
Jennifer Stewart/US PRESSWIREFreshman safety Tony Jefferson made plenty of big plays for Oklahoma last season, including this Fiesta Bowl interception returned 22 yards for a touchdown.
Jefferson's heard the hype, but this early in his career, there's not much else to do but shrug and get back to work.

"I feel good hearing that stuff, but I feel I have a long way to go. We all know that, but if I continue to do what I’m doing and working hard, the sky’s the limit for me. Maybe I won’t reach the level of a Roy Williams, but as long as I’m putting in the maximum effort I can, I’ll be happy."

Jefferson has spent time working with Williams this spring, which has not helped to shoo the comparisons. Williams, like loads of other NFL players locked out of their pro facilities, has been back on Oklahoma's campus this offseason.

He's offered Jefferson tips on positioning his feet for a blitz and gaining leverage for hitting, among other things.

"You’ve seen Roy hit, and I’d love to do what he does," Jefferson said.

Added defensive coordinator Brent Venables: "That’d be a great mentor."

Hyperbolic comparisons aside, there's no denying Jefferson's excellence in 2010. He finished his debut season with 65 tackles, seven tackles for loss, a pair of sacks and a pair of picks. He enrolled early at Oklahoma with an already deep knowledge of the game. Add a spring, a fall camp and a season, and Oklahoma had a young player that looked the part of a veteran, and one easily qualified to be named co-Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.

"He understands football. He just has a feel for the game. You can overcome some of your inexperience when you find the football, and just understand the game," Venables said. "Some guys come in with a world of talent, but they don’t have a lot of background and foundation in regards to football 101. Two backs and two tight ends is just like five-wide to some guys. They don’t understand. They didn’t learn. Tony came here with a strong foundation."

In high school, Jefferson played multiple positions on both sides of the ball. This spring, in addition to the nickel back position, he's playing some more traditional strong safety.

Still just a rising sophomore, he's already seen a lot.

"Once we got through the first two or three games, you saw consistent play, good play and maturity beyond his years. As you see that early on, you’d expect him that, the more he played, the better he’d get, and that’s what happened," Stoops said. "He’s just got confidence and the ability to make plays. He’s got a great sense of the ball and where plays need to be made and he just has a great feel for the game."

Fortunately for the Sooners, Jefferson also has a feel for his place in the game and what's to come.

"I played OK [last year], but I have a lot of improvement to do, which is why this offseason is so important for me. There’s a lot of work for me to do to get to where I want to be," he said. "Every week I just knew, I always had at least one mistake that I knew I could improve on, and that’s part of getting better, having self-constructive criticism. That’ll help me a lot this summer."
What do you see as your job's objective?

Jeff Madden: To get athletes bigger, faster, stronger and in tremendous condition to win games.

Can you expound a little bit on the philosophy behind that?

JM: My theory is explosive power is the linkage of speed and strength. Trying to get our athletes in tremendous shape, keeping them healthy and working them as hard as we possibly can to get them tough and durable and physical and go out and win games.

What do you tell the freshmen the first time you meet them?

JM: The first time I meet freshmen is during recruiting, and I talk to them and tell them about our program and the things that we do and what is expected from them if they want to come to the University of Texas.

What's expected from them if they come to Texas?

JM: We expect them to give their best effort each and every day and try to be the best athlete they can be.

When's the busiest time of the year for you?

JM: Summertime.

What's a typical week for you during the summer?

JM: Well, we started at 6 a.m. this morning with our first group and then we've got three groups scheduled for the rest of the day that we're available for. Then we go all afternoon and we've had camps. We've had about 2,000 kids come through Texas that past two weeks for camps and we coach them all night. So it's a pretty active time.

So what's a week during the season like?

JM: It's the same deal. We'll start at the 6 a.m. hour with our first group, and we're usually done by 6 p.m.

So what about this profession made you want to be a strength coach?

JM: I've been strength and conditioning coach for 28 years. So, I started a long time ago. The kids keep you young. I saw a job where I could still wear my shorts and T-shirts and work out and enjoy life and still call it a career. And then when I found out you can help young men and women to develop themselves and become the best they can be -- I learned that from my strength coach -- I was able to luckily get into this profession.

What players have set the bar highest for you as a coach?

JM: Well, David, I've got over 200 NFL players, so there's some tremendous athletes in there. Guys that have won the Heisman, guys that were runners-up for the Heisman, guys that have won the Butkus Awards from the Ricky Williams to Eric Bieniemy at Colorado to Cory Redding, Alfred Williams. I got guys that are going in the Hall of Fame. Those guys have set tremendous, high bars for others to acheive from Casey Hampton to Shaun Rogers. There's just so many -- Roy Williams -- I've coached in this profession.

My all-Big 12 all-decade team

January, 22, 2010
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With all of the looking back we've done this week, I couldn't leave without picking my own All-Big 12 all-decade team.

It was a tough choice at several positions, but here's my all-decade team.

Please feel free to provide any changes you would make, and explain why you would make them.

Believe me, it's a hard choice. I spent more than an hour trying to choose between Darren Sproles and Cedric Benson and Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman.

OFFENSE

QB: Vince Young, Texas

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma

RB: Cedric Benson, Texas

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech

WR: Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri

T: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

T: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma

G: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma

G: Derrick Dockery, Texas

C: Andre Gurode, Colorado

DEFENSE

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma

DE: Dan Cody, Oklahoma

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma

CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma

S: Michael Huff, Texas

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado

P: Daniel Sepulveda, Baylor

Ret: Wes Welker, Texas Tech

Texas' all-decade team

January, 21, 2010
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Mack Brown revived the glory at Texas in the last decade, claiming at least 10 victories in each of the last nine seasons, including a 25-2 record in the last two seasons. The Longhorns have finished in the top 10 in five of the last six seasons.

Darrell K. Royal/Texas Memorial Stadium now has more than 100,00 seats. The Longhorns have a designated successor for Brown in place with rising star Will Muschamp. And that pesky problem with Bob Stoops has been alleviated recently with four victories in the last five seasons over the Sooners.

Times are good for Brown.

Here's a look at the Longhorns’ all-decade team during that time.

OFFENSE

QB: Vince Young

RB: Jamaal Charles

RB: Cedric Benson

WR: Jordan Shipley

WR: Roy Williams

TE: David Thomas

OL: Justin Blalock

OL: Jonathan Scott

OL: Derrick Dockery

OL: Leonard Davis

C: Lyle Sendlein

DEFENSE

DL: Brian Orakpo

DL: Cory Redding

DL: Shaun Rogers

DL: Casey Hampton

LB: Sergio Kindle

LB: Derrick Johnson

LB: Roddrick Muckelroy

DB: Earl Thomas

DB: Michael Huff

DB: Nathan Vasher

DB: Aaron Ross

P: Richmond McGee

K: Hunter Lawrence

KR: Quan Cosby

Offensive player of the decade: QB Vince Young. The most electrifying player of the decade capped his career by scoring the game-winning touchdown to lead his team to the national championship in his final drive. Brown finished with a 30-2 record, 6.040 passing yards and 3,127 rushing yards.

Defensive player of the decade: LB Derrick Johnson. He wasn’t around when the Longhorns won the national championship, but was perhaps the best player at his position at the school since Tommy Nobis. He capped his career with the Nagurski and Butkus Awards after earning All-America honors in each of his last two seasons.

Coach of the decade: Mack Brown. Remember when people used to joke about his inability to win big games or how he coddled his players. That all changed as the decade progressed. Brown got tougher and made some astute moves at defensive coordinator to help his program take the next step with the addition of coaches like Gene Chizik and Will Muschamp.

Moment of the decade: Vince Young’s run leads comeback victory to the 2005 national championship. Young’s game-winning 8-yard TD run with 19 seconds left boosted the Longhorns to a 41-38 victory over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl, providing the margin of victory in one of the greatest college football games in history. Michael Huff’s fourth-down stop of LenDale White on the preceding drive set up Young’s heroics to snap the Trojans’ 34-game winning streak.

Big 12 moments of the decade

January, 19, 2010
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An array of memorable moments from the past decade in the Big 12 still resonate. Here are some of the most unforgettable to me.

  • 1. Vince Young's game-winning touchdown in the 2006 Rose Bowl: Anyone who was there or saw it will never forget Young's 8-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left that led Texas to a 41-38 triumph over USC and the 2005 national championship.
  • 2. Michael Crabtree's last-second grab stuns Texas: Crabtree's game-winning 28-yard catch with one second left did more than merely wrap up the biggest victory in Texas Tech history, a 39-33 win over Texas. It heralded a national coming-out party for Crabtree and the rest of the Tech program, setting the stage for the wild three-way South Division tie in 2008.
  • 3. Superman's leap: Roy Williams' dramatic blitz forced Chris Simms to throw an interception to Teddy Lehman, who returned it for the game-winning touchdown in Oklahoma's 14-3 triumph over Texas in 2001.
  • 4. Torrance Marshall's theft saves the season: Texas A&M was driving, but Marshall's 41-yard fourth-quarter interception return provided a game-winning touchdown and a 35-31 triumph over the Aggies at Kyle Field. The big play preserved Oklahoma's victory in the Sooners' toughest challenge en route to the 2000 national championship.
  • 5. Eric Crouch's catch cements Heisman bid, beats Oklahoma: Crouch's 63-yard TD reception on a throwback pass from freshman receiver Mike Stuntz was Crouch's signature moment on his path to the 2001 Heisman Trophy and sparked a 20-10 triumph over Oklahoma.
  • 6. Darren Sproles sparks Kansas State's stunning 2003 Big 12 title game upset: Darren Sproles rushed for 235 yards -- the most gained against an Oklahoma defense ever to that point -- and Ell Roberson added four touchdown passes to help Kansas State claim its first Big 12 title in a 35-7 upset over No. 1 Oklahoma.
  • 7. Hunter Lawrence's kick pushes Texas into national title game: Despite a sputtering performance by Colt McCoy that included nine sacks and three interceptions, Texas held on for a 13-12 victory over Nebraska in the 2009 title game on a 46-yard field goal by Hunter Lawrence on the final play of the game. Lawrence's game-winning kick came only after McCoy nearly squandered the opportunity by throwing the ball out of bounds on the previous play as the clock originally appeared to have expired. Officials put time back on the clock, setting the stage for Lawrence's heroics.
  • 8. Chris Brown gashes the Cornhuskers: Colorado running back Chris Brown ripped Nebraska for 198 yards and six touchdowns, boosting the Buffaloes to a wild 62-36 victory over Nebraska that snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Cornhuskers. Brown's big game sent the Buffaloes to the 2001 Big 12 title game, which they won the following week against Texas.
  • 9. Postgame clash of the titans: Oklahoma State's 49-45 victory over Texas Tech in 2007 produced one of the most memorable games in Big 12 history. The teams compiled 94 points, 62 first downs and 1,328 yards. But all of the action on the field was upstaged in a wild postgame battle of soundbites when Mike Leach questioned the toughness of his defense and Mike Gundy berated an Oklahoma City columnist who he felt had unfairly portrayed quarterback Bobby Reid.
  • 10. Kyle Field's nod to patriotism: Texas A&M's 21-7 victory over Oklahoma State wasn't what was so memorable. It was that the Aggies fans decked out Kyle Field in red, white and blue in the first game after the 9/11 attacks on the country in 2001. Thousands of fans transformed the old stadium into a patriotic rainbow in a memory that endures to this day.

Vince Young is top Big 12 star of decade

January, 19, 2010
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The Big 12 has had more top three finishers in the Heisman Trophy voting in the last decade than any conference.

And although the Big 12 had three Heisman winners during that time, the three most memorable players of the decade didn’t claim college football’s top individual award.

Here's a look at the top 10 players of the last decade in the Big 12.

Vince Young
Chris Carlson/AP PhotoVince Young finished with a 30-2 record, 6,040 passing yards and 3,127 rushing yards.
1. Vince Young, Texas: Transcendent talent who capped his career by scoring the game-winning touchdown to lead his team to the national championship. Finished his career with a 30-2 record, 6,040 passing yards and 3,127 rushing yards.

2. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma: Likely would have had a chance for a Heisman if he had stayed for a senior season or not had his junior season marred by injuries. Still finished with 4,045 yards to finish within 73 yards within Billy Sims’ school career record.

3. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: Destined to go down in history as the greatest Blackshirt of all time. Capped his career by winning the Lombardi, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards, finished fourth in the Heisman and became the first defensive player to win the Associated Press’ player of the year.

4. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: First quarterback to direct his team to back-to-back Big 12 titles, capped by winning the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt sophomore in 2008. Injured early in his junior season, he still finished his college career with 88 touchdown passes against 16 interceptions.

5. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech: Claimed back-to-back Biletnikoff awards as the most dominant and productive receiver of his era. Won the award in his second season despite being hobbled by a sprained ankle that limited his productivity.

6. Roy Williams, Oklahoma: Dominant and productive safety who was so good that Bob Stoops created a position, “the Roy,” to showcase his talents. Claimed the Nagurski and Thorpe Awards and was a unanimous All-American in his final college season.

7. Derrick Johnson, Texas: Two-time All-American earned the Butkus and Nagurski Awards in his senior season, capping a career as one of the most illustrious defensive players in Texas history.

8. Eric Crouch, Nebraska: Multi-talented runner/passer cemented his Heisman Trophy in 2001 with his pass-catching abilities against Oklahoma. That big effort helped catapult the Cornhuskers into the national championship game as a senior. Finished his career as the leading rusher quarterback and leader in total offense in Nebraska history.

9. Jason White, Oklahoma: Surrounded by a bevy of top talent, led the Sooners to the national championship game in back to back seasons and claimed the Heisman Trophy Award as a junior in 2003. Claimed back-to-back Davey O’Brien Awards, finishing his career with 8,012 passing yards and 81 touchdowns.

10. Colt McCoy, Texas: The winningest quarterback in college football history, finishing his career with an NCAA record 45 wins. He finished with virtually every passing record in school history winning the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Manning Award in a hard-luck senior season capped by an injury that didn’t allow him to complete the national championship game.

Shipley savoring his chance to play at Rose Bowl

January, 3, 2010
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NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Texas sixth-year senior wide receiver Jordan Shipley was a part of the Texas program on two previous bowl trips to Pasadena.

Shipley was redshirted during the 2004 season, which was capped by a 38-37 victory over Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl. And Shipley was a medical redshirt the following season, when the Longhorns claimed the national championship with a 41-38 triumph over Southern California.

"This is definitely exciting. ... I couldn't have written it up better for me," Shipley said. "Coming out here twice and not being able to participate, I got to enjoy the games. But the chance to come back here for the national championship in my final game is pretty special to me."

Shipley needs four catches to break Roy Williams' school career receptions mark of 241. He will finish his career second behind Williams in career yards and career touchdown receptions.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


The stately Cotton Bowl, neatly split in half for Texas and Oklahoma, would appear be an ideal lure for recruiting the top players in the country to play for both national powers.

 
 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
 The Cotton Bowl sets a special atmosphere for the annual Red River Rivalry game.
But both Bob Stoops and Mack Brown say that the unique factors of playing the game at Fair Park in Dallas cause some logistical problems for recruiting.

Because the game isn't considered to be on a school campus, one of the biggest recruiting enticements is taken away from Saturday's game.

Texas is the home team. They will be able to give out tickets to recruits, but can have no contact with them. And recruits' high school coaches can't be provided tickets, either.

"We can give kids the allotted amount of tickets from the NCAA, but we can't see them," Brown said. "So it's not as big a positive in recruiting as it would be if it was at home.

"The kids go to the will-call, go to the window, sit in the stands and leave. But you can't speak to them before the game or after the game. You can't speak to them in Dallas -- only on your campus. The only difference is when you are the home team or OU is the home team is who gives out the tickets."

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Stoops agrees that it's a special atmosphere, but probably overrated as a recruiting enticement.

"It's an exciting selling point for both of us having it there in Dallas," Stoops said. "But in the end, will it really change a guy's mind? I doubt it."

But players who have attended those games often come away impressed with the excitement found on both sides of the stadium.

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford started attending the game when he was a boy, attending with his father, Kent, a former Oklahoma offensive lineman.

To this day, Bradford can rattle off his favorite moments in the rivalry, topped by the biggest recent defensive play in the modern history of the game.

"I still remember watching [Oklahoma safety] Roy Williams' leap at the end of the game that won that game," Bradford said. "I remember everybody going absolutely nuts and to see that and then to get to play in it absolutely exciting. You really can't explain the feeling."

Sergio Kindle never attended the game when he was a recruit. But he grew up not far away.

"I remember hearing the bands, the sounds of the stadium and the traffic," Kindle said. "After that, I always wanted to just get inside the stadium and see what was happening."

Jordan Shipley attended the game when he was a high school recruit for the Longhorns. The big crowd and the excitement level of the game still stick with him among the most memorable parts of his recruiting process.

"It's definitely a fun game to be at," Shipley said. "There's no other atmosphere that I've seen that's like it with the State Fair going on and it being on a neutral site, half burnt orange and half crimson. It's really a special atmosphere."

After attending the game, the Red River Rivalry was among the reasons why Shipley decided to attend Texas.

"When you come to Texas, you want to be a part of really big games and be on good teams," Shipley said. "It's definitely the reason you come here is to be in games like this one."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford's personal relationship goes beyond football.

But Saturday's game will decide their storied rivalry that stands at a game apiece after the last two seasons. Bradford won the Heisman Trophy last season with McCoy finishing second.

 
 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
 Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy became friends while attending awards banquets last season.
McCoy will make history Saturday as one of the few Texas quarterbacks to start four games in the Texas-Oklahoma series.

“The first one seems like it was a long time ago,” McCoy said, thinking back to his first start in the series in 2006. “But the last one I played in seems like it was forever ago, too. We’ve both changed since then.”

The annual rivalry is something that both quarterbacks relish.

Bradford remembers watching games with his father, Kent, a former Oklahoma offensive lineman. Roy Williams’ leap in 2001 that saved the Sooners’ 14-3 victory remains one of Bradford's most vivid memories of the series. He’s had even more fun playing in the games.

McCoy said that participating in the series is one of his most treasured college memories.

“These four games over the last four years are some of the most fun games I’ve played in,” McCoy said. “They are the games you remember because of the tradition, the rivalry and just how big a conference game it is.”

The duo developed a friendship while attending awards banquets last season. They had some fun during an ESPN shoot at the Cotton Bowl earlier this summer.

And after Bradford sustained a third-degree sprained shoulder earlier this year, McCoy immediately contacted him.

“Colt is a great guy,” Bradford said. “Him sending me a text message after I got hurt telling me he was praying for me and to keep my head up shows a lot about him. For him to keep encouraging me, it says a lot about him.”

Both have talked about maintaining their relationship after their college careers end.

"In the end, we’re both football players,” Bradford said. “Obviously, we are both trying to beat each other, but at the same time we can help each other in a lot of different ways. We play a lot of the same teams this year. Our offenses are fairly similar. Helping each other out, we can do that.”

Here’s a look at Bradford and McCoy’s statistics in previous Red River Rivalry games.

Colt McCoy vs. Oklahoma
Year Comp Att Yds TD Int QB rtg W-L
2006 11 18 108 2 0 148.18 W
2007 19 26 324 2 1 195.45 L
2008 28 35 277 1 0 155.91 W
Totals 58 79 709 5 1 167.16 2-1


Sam Bradford vs. Texas
Year Comp Att Yds TD Int QB rtg W-L
2007 21 32 244 3 0 160.61 W
2008 28 39 387 5 2 187.20 L
Totals 49 71 631 8 2 175.22 1-1


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Kirby Lee/US Presswire
 Quan Cosby pulled in the winning 26-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds to play.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- They made it back to the team hotel Sunday minutes before curfew and headed straight for the water.

As Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receivers Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley and Brandon Collins hopped back and forth between the hot and cold tubs, they began talking about the next day's game.

"The night before a game, that's all that's on your mind really," Shipley said. "We feel like it could always come down to a play like that."

Added Cosby: "People say, 'I dreamed about it,' and all that stuff. Everybody dreams about it. We talked about it [Sunday] night as we were sitting in ice, which wasn't very fun."

Cosby had plenty of fun Monday night as he lit up Ohio State's defense for 171 receiving yards on 14 receptions, none more important than the last, a 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining. The score lifted Texas to a dramatic 24-21 win against Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and capped a stellar senior season for Cosby, who notched career highs in both receptions and yards in his final collegiate game.

The 5-11, 200-pound senior had three receptions on Texas' game-winning drive, and he found a way to slip behind Ohio State defenders who employed an aggressive scheme but did an excellent job of keeping plays in front of them all night. The Buckeyes had prevented big plays with textbook tackling, but Cosby got free of safety Anderson Russell and leaped into the end zone.

 
 Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
 Cosby torched Ohio State's defense for 171 yards and 14 receptions.

"Quan is as good a football player as I've ever been around," Shipley said. "He always seems to make plays. He just kind of slipped through. He caught a slant and just slipped off the tackle and then it was nothing but green grass from there."

As he trotted off the field following Texas' trophy presentation, Cosby was asked what he saw on the game's decisive play.

"A touchdown," he replied, smiling.

McCoy was named the Offensive Player of the Game, but the award easily could have gone to Cosby, who nearly broke free several times and set a Texas bowl record for receptions. Cosby became the first Texas receiver to eclipse 100 yards in a bowl game since Roy Williams in the 2003 Cotton Bowl against LSU.

"He is the MVP in my mind," McCoy said. "On that last play when [Ohio State] brought everybody, he kind of said over and over, 'If I catch the same look give me a slant behind the linebacker. If he comes, you just make that miss, we will score.'

"We had confidence in each other. We have done that all year long."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma's dynasty under Bob Stoops wasn't built on fancy offensive attacks that rolled up yards and produced point-a-minute scoring totals.

At its very peak when the Sooners claimed the 2000 national title, Oklahoma had a solid offensive attack. But the Sooners' major claim to fame was a bruising defense that was seldom dented by opposing teams.

Players such as Rocky Calmus, Roy Williams, Torrance Marshall and Derrick Strait dotted the Sooners' roster back then. In those days, Oklahoma's means of stopping opponents was about as subtle as a roundhouse punch.

Those days appear to be long gone as the Sooners are struggling through the worst statistical defensive season of Stoops' 10-season coaching tenure. The Sooners have already allowed 298 points, more than in any season since 1997. And their 249.7 yards per game allowed through the air would be the worst mark in the school's records, which date to 1937.

Those figures have intensified scrutiny on a defense that has allowed at least 28 points in six of its last seven games heading into Saturday's championship game against Missouri.

The Tigers' chances will likely depend on getting into a shootout with the Sooners' explosive offense. Quarterback Chase Daniel keys an explosive attack that ranks fourth nationally in scoring and passing and sixth in total offense, which might give Missouri a chance to upset the Sooners.

And considering that third-string linebacker Mike Balogun will be making his first career start after playing only 20 snaps earlier this season, the Sooners' defense could have a weak link in the middle.

Such talk has caught the attention of the Sooners as they prepare for Saturday's game.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12's short history has been dotted by key performers with a knack for making the big plays. Here are 10 of the most notable. I'd be curious to know if anybody has any other thoughts as well.

* Texas QB Major Applewhite (1998-2001) His mettle was shown in his freshman season when he led a comeback at Nebraska, snapping the Cornhuskers' 47-game home winning streak. And he wrapped up his career by leading Texas back from a 19-point deficit late in the third quarter in a comeback triumph over Washington in the Holiday Bowl in his final game.

* Kansas State QB Jonathan Beasley (1996-2000) Not nearly as flashy as his predecessor, Michael Bishop, but Beasley just had a knack for producing in key situations. He became the only quarterback in school history to lead the Wildcats to back-to-back bowl victories, but he's more remembered for leading the Wildcats for a game-winning touchdown in a driving snowstorm against Nebraska to clinch the 2000 North title.

* Colorado K Mason Crosby (2003-06) The most consistent clutch kicker in Big 12 history made 12 of 13 field goals in the fourth quarter, including a perfect 10 of 10 in the final 8 1/2 minutes of a game.

* Nebraska QB Eric Crouch (1998-2001) Big 12's career rushing leader among quarterbacks wrapped up the 2001 Heisman Trophy with dramatic 63-yard throwback pass from Mike Stuntz against Oklahoma, taking the Cornhuskers to the national championship game. But his 95-yard TD run against Missouri -- longest in league history by a quarterback -- showed some moxie.

* Iowa State NT Brent Curvey (2003-2006) Massive 295-pounder was one of the best run-stuffers of his era. But he also earned the nickname of "Big Play Curvey" with three career touchdown returns, including a dramatic 66-yard interception return as a senior that wrapped up a victory over Colorado in 2005.

* Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell (2006-present) Has a knack for bowl comebacks, leading the Red Raiders back from double-digit fourth-quarter deficits in the last two seasons. Included was a 24-point fourth-quarter comeback against Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl.

* Texas A&M RB Sirr Parker (1995-98) Although hampered by injuries most of his senior season, he delivered a performance for the ages in the 1998 championship, scoring on a game-winning 32-yard TD pass from Branndon Stewart in overtime after earlier scoring a TD and a two-point conversion to tie the score in regulation.

* Missouri QB Brad Smith (2002-05) Started early by leading comebacks from his freshman season. He finished with his biggest clutch performance, directing the Tigers back from an early 21-0 lead in a 38-31 victory over South Carolina in the 2005 Independence Bowl.

* Oklahoma S Roy Williams (1999-2001) His leaping blitz helped cause an interception of Chris Simms that was returned for a touchdown by Teddy Lehman, sealing a dramatic victory over Texas in 2001. But he had a repeated flair for key plays throughout his career, helping earn him the nickname "Superman" while playing for the Sooners.

* Texas QB Vince Young (2003-05) Arguably the best clutch player in recent college football history, he had a knack for making big plays at key moments. He tormented Oklahoma State with comebacks, made Mark Mangino erupt after a fourth-quarter scramble and saved his best for last with a performance for the ages beating USC for the national title.

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