NCF Nation: Ryan Palmer

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 Kenny Felt/Icon SMI
 Colt McCoy has thrown 32 touchdown passes this season.

The decision by Texas quarterback Colt McCoy to return for his senior season might be the biggest piece in the puzzle of pushing the Longhorns into the role as a favorite for the national championship next year.

McCoy's decision was reported Monday in the Austin American-Statesman. It provides the Longhorns with an experienced senior quarterback who has already started for three seasons.

The Longhorns will lose running back Chris Ogbonnaya and top receivers Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley. But redshirt freshman Malcolm Williams looked explosive in his limited playing time and tight end Blaine Irby should return from a knee injury that caused him to miss most of the season.

Senior guard Cedric Dockery will be the Longhorns' only departing offensive lineman. And while the defense will lose key players like Brian Orakpo, Roy Miller, Rashad Bobino and Ryan Palmer, Will Muschamp should have a more experienced unit in his second season working with the team.

It's not clear whether Sam Bradford will be returning to Oklahoma or declare for the NFL draft. If he leaves, the Longhorns should assume the role as favorites in the Big 12 South.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are my choices from a stellar group of candidates. To say it was a tough choice would be a huge understatement.

Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell -- Completed 40 of 50 passes for 456 yards and six touchdown passes to match his career high in a 56-20 blowout victory over Oklahoma State. After an early fumble on the first possession, Harrell directed seven straight drives that ended with touchdowns to spark the Red Raiders to their first 10-0 start since 1938.

Texas CB Ryan Palmer -- Provided a momentum-changing 22-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave Texas the lead for good. Also notched two tackles, produced a sack and broke up a pass in the Longhorns' 45-21 victory over Baylor.

Colorado QB Cody Hawkins - Rallied his team with four touchdown passes off the bench to direct the Buffaloes' 28-24 victory over Iowa State. Hawkins completed 20 of 29 passes for 226 yards -- all in the second half -- including a 5-yard toss to Cody Crawford for the game-winning score with 1:30 left.

Nebraska DT/FB Ndamukong Suh -- He might have produced the most unique statistical game in Big 12 history. Suh notched 12 tackles, including four for losses involving 2.5 sacks and a quarterback hurry to pace Nebraska's 45-35 victory over Kansas. And for good measure, also snagged a 2-yard TD reception -- his first career catch -- to help boost the Cornhuskers' fourth-quarter rally past the Jayhawks.

Missouri KR/WR Jeremy Maclin -- Rolled up 278 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead Missouri to a 41-24 victory over Kansas State. Maclin had eight receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns, four carries for 84 yards and another TD and added 76 yards in returns. Maclin caught TD passes from Chase Daniel of 42 and 16 yards in a span of 106 seconds late in the first half and later added a 56-yard TD run on a direct snap.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Colt McCoy has thrown three touchdown passes to boost Texas to a 28-14 halftime advantage over Baylor.

After enabling Baylor to battle back to a 14-14 tie, the Longhorns charged back with two second-quarter touchdowns on Ryan Palmer's 22-yard interception return and McCoy's 26-yard strike to Quan Cosby.

The first half was marred by several injuries for Texas, including Coach Mack Brown. After he was nicked by a player along the sidelines, Brown suffered a nasty looking gash on his left ear.

The cut was not bandaged and was even exhibited when Brown was interviewed after the first half. He should return -- hopefully with a band-aid -- when play resumes after the half.

The Longhorns already are playing without starting defensive end Brian Orakpo and starting cornerback Chykie Brown. And they lost starting defensive tackle Lamarr Houston for the game with a foot injury early in the first quarter.

McGee was struggling with heavy Baylor pressure from a variety of blitzes. He has been intercepted twice in the first half.

And in the other early game today, Iowa State has jumped ahead of Colorado, 3-0, late in the first quarter. Grant Mahoney drilled a 24-yard field goal for the Cyclones to give them the lead after their first possession.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas cornerback Ryan Palmer's 22-yard interception for a touchdown has returned momentum and given Texas a 21-14 lead midway through the second quarter.

Palmer's interception, which glanced off the hand of Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright was only the second of the season thrown by Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin.

After spotting Texas an early 14-0 lead, the Bears charged back to score on consecutive possessions to forge the tie. Griffin scored on a fourth-down run and then hooked up with Wright on a 55-yard touchdown pass.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy threw touchdown passes on his first two possessions to stake his team to an early 14-0 lead on a 35-yard strike to Quan Cosby and a 1-yard pass to backup tight end Greg Smith.

McCoy has been knocked around a lot already. His offensive line is having trouble keeping him protected and McCoy's uniform is stained with grass from being knocked around by an active, blitzing Baylor defense. And his interception on the final play of the first quarter set up Baylor's second-quarter comback.

And Texas' injury-depleted defensive front took an early hit when starting defensive tackle Lamarr Houston was knocked out of the game with a foot injury. He is not expected to return.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell has the opportunity to do something that's almost unprecedented in the annals of modern Heisman Trophy campaigns.

 
 Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images
 Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell has thrown 28 touchdown passes this season.

Despite breaking a slew of national passing records and leading his team to an 8-0 record for the first time in 32 seasons, Harrell's contact with the media has been almost non-existent this week as he prepares for the biggest game of his career.

So much for worrying about satellite shoots, radio shows or teleconferences with the national media. If Harrell wins the Heisman this season he'll do it the old-fashioned way -- by earning it on the field with a big performance over No. 1 Texas and during the rest of the season.

The lack of media attention this week was mandated by Tech coach Mike Leach, who decided that Harrell didn't need the distractions of facing the media. All interview requests have been turned down.

"I didn't know it would be as interview-intensive as it was, but I knew it would be a great deal," Leach said. "Graham's job first is to be the best quarterback he can and do interviews secondly. I guess that's a long way of me saying he's a key guy for us and I don't want him to be sidetracked by that stuff."

Leach's mandate comes with some risk. The Red Raiders have never had a player place higher than fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting when Donny Anderson was selected in 1965.

But the Tech coach said he has no second thoughts about shuttering Harrell and Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree out of the media spotlight this week. Even with the realization that national honors for both perhaps could spur recruiting efforts at the remote West Texas school and perhaps make attracting the next standout that much easier.

"I'm glad I did it and I can more than live with it," Leach said. "As you know, I'm not above keeping them all out of the interview room. My number one job is to coach these guys the best I can. To give interviews is entirely secondary."

Instead, Harrell will have his opportunity to make his biggest statement on the field Saturday night.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE
 Earl Thomas and the Texas secondary will have a big challenge on Saturday.

Curtis Brown had a huge challenge for his first college start. And it will only get that much bigger if the Texas sophomore cornerback has a second one this week.

After being thrust into the starting lineup when usual starter Chykie Brown missed last week's game against Oklahoma State with an ankle injury, Curtis Brown got his first college starting opportunity. His test was against Dez Bryant, who was merely the hottest receiver in the Big 12 coming into the game.

"I was afraid he would transfer," Texas coach Mack Brown told reporters with a chuckle. "I bet I would have."

There were no first-game jitters. Brown played every snap and led the Longhorns to a gritty 28-24 victory that was punctuated by his game-saving deflection on the final play of the game. The stakes will only get bigger for him and his injury-depleted teammates from the secondary this week.

Like trying to contain Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and Texas Tech's high-powered offensive attack Saturday night in Lubbock.

"If my number is called, I just show up," Brown told reporters earlier this week. "That's just what I had to do."

The test for Brown mirrors that for the Texas defense, which will be challenged to stop a Tech offense that ranks first nationally in passing offense, second in total offense and third in scoring. The Red Raiders have scored at least 35 points in every game this season and feature a deep collection of playmakers besides Crabtree.

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Big Ten internal affairs

October, 22, 2008
10/22/08
11:37
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to look inside five Big Ten teams.

Penn State -- Despite Navorro Bowman's emergence, there has been some concern about linebacker play this year, and the picture only got cloudier last Saturday. After Michigan's run game started strong, the Nittany Lions called for reinforcements and put freshman Michael Mauti and sophomore Bani Gbadyu in the game. The two young players stepped up, combining for 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Both Mauti and Gbadyu could once again see increased playing time in place of Tyrell Sales and possibly Josh Hull against No. 9 Ohio State (ABC, 8 p.m. ET). Mauti's speed on the edge should help against Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Wisconsin -- A week after saying the 2009 season had no impact on his starting quarterback decision, Badgers head coach Bret Bielema certainly appears to be looking toward the future at that position. Junior quarterback Dustin Sherer will make his second consecutive start Saturday against Illinois, and sophomore Scott Tolzien will take more snaps this week in practice with the second-team offense. Fifth-year senior Allan Evridge, who started Wisconsin's first six games, has effectively been moved to third string. Sherer and Tolzien will compete for the starting job next season with Curt Phillips and James Stallons.

Illinois -- Freshman offensive tackle Corey Lewis could see increased playing time against Wisconsin after performing well in his debut against Indiana. Lewis can play either tackle spot and spelled left tackle Xavier Fulton for several series last week. Sophomore Ryan Palmer will remain sidelined for some time with a foot stress fracture, and Lewis likely will be needed against the Badgers. Lewis also can play on the defensive line. "I wanted to get Corey in there," head coach Ron Zook said. "We kind of joked about that when we told him we were going to play him because he's 18 now and old enough. He's excited about it and I noticed a little different intensity out of him."

Purdue -- Head coach Joe Tiller admitted this week that Purdue's offense has become too basic and needs to diversify after four straight losses. In previous years, the Boilermakers entered every game with two "deceptives" in the offensive plan. This season, the outside-the-box, high-risk, high-reward plays have not been included. That will change Saturday against Minnesota (ESPN Classic, noon ET). "From this point forward I want to see, when the game plan is presented later in the week, two deceptives," Tiller said. "Now, I'm not guaranteeing you they're going to get called, but we're going to have 'em as a possibility anyway, which we haven't had." Purdue ranks ninth in the league in scoring offense (22.3 ppg).

Michigan -- Despite a third consecutive loss, the Wolverines might have found their featured running back last Saturday at Penn State. Junior Brandon Minor had 117 rush yards and two touchdowns against the Big Ten's No. 2 rush defense (103.9 ypg). Minor's emergence allows head coach Rich Rodriguez to take pressure off of true freshman Sam McGuffie and, to a lesser extent, true freshman Michael Shaw. McGuffie has carried the load for much of the season but needs more time to grow into a top role. Minor's ability to run inside and grind out yards will benefit Michigan down the stretch. The junior claimed the top spot on this week's depth chart.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
 Texas coach Mack Brown celebrates with Texas defensive tackle Roy Miller (99) and others after beating No. 1 Oklahoma, 45-35, Saturday.

DALLAS - Will Muschamp might not save the statistical sheet of Texas' victory over Oklahoma for posterity.

Even after being gashed for 435 total yards and five touchdown passes in a 45-35 victory over the Sooners, the Texas defensive coordinator couldn't really complain.

"It's a win," Muschamp said with a big smile as he celebrated his team's strong second-half performance. "I've never had a bad one. Not once in my life. Obviously, we're going to look at things and see if they were technically correct. And then, we'll build on the positives."

When Muschamp looks at the films, he'll see a lot of things to celebrate in the Longhorns' strong performance down the stretch. After struggling to pressure Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford for most of the game, the Texas pass rush rose up during the fourth quarter.

The increased heat came mainly because strong play from Texas' defensive line. Texas coach Mack Brown also credited the play of his secondary, consisting of redshirt freshman safety Earl Thomas, freshman Blake Gideon and sophomore Chykie Brown.

"Our defense has done a great job this year of changing things and they covered well today," Brown said. "I did think our guys kept fighting. Will did a good job of showing pressure and backing out and making Sam hold the ball some."

Bradford directed a fourth-quarter comeback last season, leading the Sooners to a victory as a freshman/ He appeared to have the Sooners in place for another as he trailed 30-28 heading into the fourth quarter.

But he couldn't duplicate his magic on Saturday -- mainly because he was scrambling for his life.

Texas defensive end Brian Orkapo seemed to be taking up residence in the Sooner backfield as he repeatedly beat offensive tackle Phil Loadholt.

"We got some pressure going and we did a tremendous job on defense," said Orakpo. "We got some hits on him and made Bradford throw the ball out of bounds. It was a like a street fight out there."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The briefing begins with an item I meant to post yesterday. My apologies.

An independent report showed that Iowa made mistakes in its investigation of an alleged sexual assault involving two former football players, but the school didn't attempt to cover up the incident. The report said head football coach Kirk Ferentz, athletic director Gary Barta and others adhered to school policies. Here are the findings and recommendations.

"The university's response to the alleged sexual assault was inadequate. While the substance of the response was not acceptable, there was no cover-up or attempted cover-up and no pressure to deal with it informally," lead investigator James Bryant said in his presentation.

It looks like Ferentz has dodged a bullet here, as the report showed he never instructed two football players to move back into the dorm room where the alleged incident occurred.

Getting back to the gridiron, here's what's going on around the league:

For one big game, when a team needs to be at a peak mental, emotional and physical state for a dogfight with an elite opponent, give me Urban Meyer or Pete Carroll. Week in and week out, when you want to make sure Minnesota doesn't jump up and bite you, give me Tressel.

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