NCF Nation: Trevor Knight

It is an important spring for several players in the Big 12.

Some are fighting to keep their jobs, others are trying not to be forgotten and others have to fight off lauded Class of 2015 recruits. Here's a look at several Big 12 players who have plenty to gain during spring football.

Chris Johnson, QB, Baylor: With Seth Russell as the clear favorite to replace Bryce Petty as the starting quarterback, Johnson needs a strong spring to ensure the competition continues into the fall. He’ll also need to hold off highly regarded true freshman Jarrett Stidham.

Vernell Trent, DT, Iowa State: Trent had a decent redshirt freshman season, starting three games and finishing with 10 tackles in 2014. But ISU signed a pair of defensive tackles in the Class of 2015 with an eye on Demond Tucker and Bobby Leath becoming immediate impact performers. A good spring would help Trent secure a spot in the Cyclones’ defense.

[+] EnlargeMontell Cozart
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesMontell Cozart must impress the new Kansas coaching staff this spring.
Montell Cozart, QB, Kansas: The junior went from unquestioned starting quarterback to afterthought in a span of a few months. Former coach Charlie Weis anointed Cozart to be the Jayhawks' quarterback of the future, but he faltered and eventually was replaced by Michael Cummings in 2014. If Cozart has any hope making a major impact during his Jayhawks career, he needs to impress the new coaching staff this spring.

Judah Jones, WR, Kansas State: The Wildcats are hoping to replace the playmaking skills of Tyler Lockett. One player isn’t going to do it, but Jones has the upside to become a key player in KSU’s offense while also making an impact on special teams. KSU has several other options at receiver, so Jones needs to rise above the competition if he hopes to separate himself this spring.

Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma: The junior has started 15 games during the past two seasons but faces stern competition to keep his starting spot with Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield becoming eligible in the fall. As Lincoln Riley brings his version of the Air Raid to OU, many assume Mayfield is the best bet to trigger the attack. Knight can use the spring to remind everyone of his unique physical gifts.

Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State: It’s time for Ateman to step up and separate himself at the receiver spot. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he brings size, speed and ball skills that are tough to duplicate, but he doesn’t dominate the way he should. With plenty of competition at the position, he needs to show he is ready to match his All-Big 12 talent with All-Big 12 production.

Daje Johnson, WR, Texas: When he touches the ball, Johnson looks like the dynamic playmaker the Longhorns have longed for during the past few seasons, but he constantly takes himself out of the equation by making bad decisions off the field. This spring is the opportunity for him to show he has the focus needed to make his final season on the 40 acres a breakout year.

Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein, QBs, TCU: The battle to back up Trevone Boykin should be interesting, so the spring gives Sawyer and Muehlstein the chance to lay claim to the No. 2 spot. Both quarterbacks should get plenty of chances to impress and the winner of the backup quarterback derby could set himself up to take over in 2016.

Davis Webb, QB, Texas Tech: A strong finish to the 2014 season by Patrick Mahomes has resulted in Webb being overlooked in many ways, but a healthy Webb was productive during his first two seasons in Kliff Kingsbury's program. The job is open heading into spring and Webb can make sure the quarterback battle in Lubbock is one of the most interesting aspects of Big 12 football in the spring.

Daikiel Shorts, WR, West Virginia: The Mountaineers need to fill the void left by Kevin White and Mario Alford. Shorts has been a contributor to the WVU offense since his true freshman season but hasn’t really developed into a game-changing target. This spring will give him the chance to show he can be a primary target for Dana Holgorsen's team.
Spring ball kicks off in Big 12 country today with Baylor slated to hold its first practice. Later this week, TCU and Texas Tech will get started, too.

Plenty of questions surround the league. Many won’t be answered until the the fall. But a few could gain clarity over the next two months.

Here are some of the biggest Big 12 questions to follow this spring:

Can freshmen factor into Baylor, Kansas State quarterback derbies?

[+] EnlargeRussell
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAfter being the backup at Baylor, Seth Russell is now the favorite to lead the Bears.
With all-conference performers Bryce Petty and Jake Waters gone, the Bears and Wildcats will have new quarterbacks behind center. After backing up Petty the past two years, Seth Russell is the favorite to take over as the starter. In Manhattan, former walk-on Joe Hubener will be entering his fourth year on campus and holds the edge to succeed Waters. Both, however, will have to hold off a pair of talented freshmen in Jarrett Stidham and Alex Delton, who have enrolled early with sights on winning starting jobs. Stidham was the No. 3 quarterback signee in the country; Delton’s skill set fits the mold of quarterbacks who have thrived for Bill Snyder in the past. The learning curve for first-year quarterbacks is always steep. But both Snyder and Art Briles have indicated Delton and Stidham will have the chance to prove they deserve to start.

What will the new Oklahoma offense look like?

After a recent trend in the wrong direction, Bob Stoops brought in play-calling prodigy Lincoln Riley to inject life in the Sooners program. Riley is a product of the Mike Leach air raid. So how will he balance that background while also utilizing Oklahoma’s dynamic backfield trio of Samaje Perine, Alex Ross and Joe Mixon? And who will Riley turn to at quarterback among Trevor Knight, Baker Mayfield and Cody Thomas to lead the offense? Those reasons alone makes this the most fascinating spring of the Stoops era.

Who will play linebacker for TCU?

The Horned Frogs return 10 offensive starters, experience along the defensive line and a couple of key cogs in the secondary. But with All-American Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson gone, the slate has been wiped clean at linebacker. Sammy Douglas and Paul Whitmill will get the first cracks to show they can fill the void. But early enrollees Alec Dunham and Mike Freeze could push them.

Can Mason Rudolph, Patrick Mahomes take next step?

Rudolph and Mahomes were fabulous after taking over starting quarterback jobs as true freshmen late last season. Rudolph ignited Oklahoma State to wins over Oklahoma and Washington, elevating expectations in Stillwater for 2015. Mahomes threw 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions in Texas Tech’s final three games, and passed for 598 yards in the season finale against Baylor. The fortunes of both the Cowboys and Red Raiders will hinge on whether their young quarterbacks can build on such promising performances.

Is Jerrod Heard ready?

Though he had moments, the prospects of Tyrone Swoopes becoming Texas' long-lost, long-term answer at quarterback diminished toward the end of last season as the Longhorns flat-lined offensively. That has opened the door for Heard to make a run at the job this spring. Heard has the pedigree. He won two state championships in high school and was an ESPN 300 recruit. But by all accounts, he wasn't ready to step in last season. Will that change this spring?

Who will catch passes at Kansas State and West Virginia?

The Wildcats and the Mountaineers between them graduated 359 receptions and 4,966 receiving yards after Tyler Lockett, Curry Sexton, Kevin White and Mario Alford left. That is an unenviable -- and unbelievable -- amount of production to replace. This spring, both schools will begin to sift through who they can lean on at receiver in 2015.

Can Skyler Howard hold off William Crest?

After taking over for injured quarterback Clint Trickett late last season, Howard brought another dimension to the West Virginia offense with his wheels. At the same time, he struggled with his accuracy. As a result, Howard didn’t quite lock up the job for 2015. Now, he’ll have to fend off Crest, who actually beat out Howard for the No. 2 job coming out of August before a shoulder injury forced a redshirt. Crest, a four-star signee last year, is a talented prospect. Howard will have to be more precise with his arm to remain behind center.

Can David Gibbs turn around the Tech defense?

Last season the Red Raiders fielded one of the most futile defenses in Big 12 history. Tech will now hope its new coordinator can cure those ills on that side of the ball. Getting the Red Raiders to play more opportunistic will be one key. Under Gibbs, Houston forced 73 turnovers the past two seasons. Over the same span, the Red Raiders forced just 34.

Can a new staff give Kansas hope?

In five years under Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, the Jayhawks failed to total more than three victories in a season. Kansas brought in David Beaty to set the Jayhawks back on a course to respectability. How will he begin to set that plan into motion? This spring will give us a glimpse.

How will Iowa State replace its dismissed players?

Since the end of the season, Iowa State lost running back DeVondrick Nealy, safety T.J. Mutcherson and wide receivers P.J. Harris and Tad Ecby. All four were supposed to play big roles for the Cyclones in 2015. With Quenton Bundrage's return from a knee injury, Iowa State should be fine at receiver. But finding a starting running back to replace Nealy and safety to step in for Mutcherson will be paramount this spring.

Overreacting in the Big 12

January, 15, 2015
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We're all guilty of the same crime from time to time: reading too much into one result, overreaching with some opinion, buying too much stock when it might actually be time to sell. It comes with the territory of covering this unpredictable game. Here's a look back at a few things we thought we knew during the 2014 Big 12 season. A lot of them were wrong.

Aug. 30: Oklahoma State almost beat Florida State!

Season openers can be consistently pretty good at making people look foolish. With all the prep time coaches have, the results can be about as meaningful and enduring as bowl games. In this instance, Oklahoma State played No. 1 Florida State a lot closer than most expected. The Seminoles won 37-31 at AT&T Stadium but almost squandered a 17-0 lead. That game was a coming-out party for Emmanuel Ogbah and Tyreek Hill, who went on to have great seasons, but the Pokes finished 7-5. We sensed that OSU's showing and West Virginia's close game against Alabama signaled that the Big 12 can play with anyone. That might be right, but the Cowboys' season didn't get much easier from there.

Oct. 18: Texas has its QB of the future!

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezIt was a seesaw-type season for Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes.
On the jump to conclusions mat, we hopped to this spot a couple of times during the season. Tyrone Swoopes definitely had his moments in 2014. Against Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, he threw for 300-plus yards in each game, and it appeared the Longhorns could lean on him for the future. In this particular week, against the Cyclones, he came up clutch by driving 68 yards in two plays to set up the game-winning field goal in a 48-45 win. The next week, Texas lost to K-State 23-0. His impressive showing against Oklahoma State was followed up by the debacle against TCU. In a year of highs and lows for Swoopes, it was probably unrealistic to make such bold and definitive statements.

Nov. 1: Sugar Bowl Trevor is back!

Speaking of quarterbacks with highs and lows, Oklahoma's Trevor Knight was also a tough dude to peg during the 2014 season. Once again, we witnessed a quarterback shred Iowa State and believed this meant progress. Knight was at his dual-threat best on Nov. 1: 230 yards passing, 146 rushing and six total TDs in a 59-14 beatdown in Ames. That "Sugar Bowl Trevor" label of how good he can be on the right day remains both unfair and elusive, though, as the Sooners' showing against Baylor the next week proved.

Dec. 2: TCU is making the College Football Playoff!

They really got us good with this one. We didn't make such a bold prediction at the time, but all the indicators were there, right? When the playoff committee boosted the Horned Frogs up to No. 3, ahead of Florida State, going into the final weekend of the season, it seemed reasonable to conclude that a blowout win against Iowa State would be enough to secure TCU's playoff bid. This ended up being a false hope, and it was heartbreaking for Horned Frogs fans. Baylor fans were angry at the time, too, but didn't need to be. A few days later, the playoff committee finally bumped the Bears ahead of TCU, which lost to Baylor in October.

Have you had enough yet? No? Here's a preview of a few talking points you're sure to hear about in the offseason that might in fact be regrettable overreactions. Only time will tell, really, but we have to discuss 'em anyway.

Mason Rudolph is a star!

The way Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph closed out the season with three inspiring starts, including the shocking upset of Oklahoma in Norman, is inspiring a lot of confidence about where the Pokes are heading in 2015. But he was a true freshman, and surely there will be speed bumps along the way as he grows in his sophomore year. Let's have a little patience, shall we?

Paul Rhoads is on the hot seat!

You knew this talking point was coming eventually. To this point, the job of beloved Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has never really seemed to be in jeopardy, despite the on-field results (2-10). But the Cyclones just endured a winless conference season and have lost 23 of their past 29 games. Recruiting isn't going great, either. The pressure will build if Rhoads can't produce more promising results in 2015.

Maybe TCU and Baylor can both make the playoff!

Putting both teams in the top three of our Way-Too-Early preseason rankings might lead to this viewpoint, but it's probably a shaky one. Only one of these teams can go undefeated, and there are no guarantees for one-loss teams. Whoever wins their Black Friday showdown in Fort Worth should be in great shape. But who knows what that game will mean for the loser?

2015 Too-Early Big 12 Power Rankings

January, 13, 2015
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» More 2015 Too-Early Rankings: Top 25 | ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

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No Deshaun Watson? No problem for Clemson. The Tigers, playing without their star quarterback, had no trouble demolishing Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl, scoring early on a long touchdown and utterly frustrating the Sooners' offense behind a smothering defensive effort to secure a 40-6 win, Clemson's third straight bowl victory.

How the game was won: Clemson's defense entered the game as the No. 1 unit in the nation, and Oklahoma quickly found out why. Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett & Co. were dominant, utterly baffling Trevor Knight throughout and largely stifling freshman tailback Samaje Perine until the game was out of hand. But credit the Tigers' undervalued secondary, which helped create five turnovers in the game. Oklahoma racked up some yards as Clemson waited for the clock to run out, but the Tigers' 40-0 lead through the first three quarters was built on the back of a stellar defensive effort.

Game ball goes to: Cole Stoudt. It's hard not to feel good for a guy who had as tough a season as perhaps any quarterback in the country. Stoudt won the starting job at the end of the spring, but after a 1-2 start to the year, he was supplanted by Watson. When Watson went down with an injury, Stoudt was forced back into action and struggled badly while dealing with both a shoulder injury and confidence issues. His past two performances against Power 5 foes were dreadful, but he stepped up against Oklahoma, tossing a 65-yard touchdown on his first throw and never letting off the gas. Stoudt finished the game 26-of-36 for 319 yards with four total touchdowns and no turnovers. The future remains Watson's, which offers ample optimism for Clemson fans, but Stoudt's bowl win was an appropriate sendoff for a quarterback that had given his career to the Tigers.

What it means: It's another nice feather in the cap of the ACC, which has picked up a number of marquee wins this season. It's also a big win for Dabo Swinney, who has often taken a backseat to his high profile offensive coordinator in recent years. Chad Morris left earlier in the month for SMU, but Clemson's offense didn't miss a beat. It's also the 10th win of the season for Clemson, which marks the fourth straight year the Tigers have reached double digits. Only Alabama and Oregon have longer active streaks among Power 5 programs. It's also Clemson's third straight bowl win, all against teams that opened the season in the top 5.

Best play: The tone for the game was set early, when Stoudt hit Artavis Scott for a 65-yard touchdown on Clemson's first offensive play of the game. The Tigers never looked back, and Stoudt turned in the best game of his career in his final game.

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Viewer's Guide: Russell Athletic Bowl

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Clemson is on the brink of a fourth straight 10-win season, but it will go to battle with a backup quarterback and big questions on offense. Oklahoma fell far short of expectations this year, but with its stars on offense getting healthier, the Sooners are still extremely dangerous.

Will Clemson send out its dominant senior class of defenders on a high note, or will Oklahoma turn in another breakthrough performance in a bowl game? Here are the storylines to watch in the Russell Athletic Bowl:

Stoudt back at the helm: Cole Stoudt steps in once again as the Tigers quarterback after Deshaun Watson elected to have surgery on his injured knee. Given that Stoudt’s last two games against Power 5 competition included four picks and zero touchdowns, that opens some significant questions about whether Clemson can put up points. Adding more intrigue is the coaching situation for the Tigers. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris departed for the head-coaching job at SMU, which means Tony Elliott will get his first crack at calling plays.

Healthy Oklahoma: When the Sooners fell to Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale, they were without starting QB Trevor Knight and lost star tailback Samaje Perine in the third quarter to a sprained ankle. Both players have had time to heal and should be on the field against Clemson, which certainly makes Oklahoma’s offense far more dangerous.

Perine vs. Clemson rush D: Despite sitting out the final quarter of the Oklahoma State game, Perine racked up 791 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in his final three games of the season, making Oklahoma’s ground game one of the most explosive in the nation. On the flip side, Clemson’s D surrendered just 2.8 yards per carry this season -- the best in the nation -- and allowed just 10 touchdowns all year. While it does seem like a strength-on-strength matchup, it’s worth mentioning that when the Tigers played Georgia’s prolific running game in the opener, they allowed 328 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

Getting to Knight: Clemson’s pass rush has been among the best in the nation the past two years. The Tigers had 44 sacks this season, which ranked fifth nationally, and Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett & Co. tormented opposing quarterbacks all season. To have that same success against Oklahoma won’t be easy, though. The Sooners surrendered just eight sacks all year, the second fewest in the country.

Gallman on the ground: He didn’t exactly finish the year with as much of a bang as Perine did at Oklahoma, but Wayne Gallman helped transform the Clemson offense down the stretch by finally giving the Tigers a consistent threat on the ground. Gallman had 516 yards rushing in Clemson’s last five games, and the Tigers’ ground game, which had averaged just 3.8 yards per rush in the first seven games of the season, upped that average to 4.8 over the final five. A strong game by Gallman and the rushing attack could take a lot of pressure off Stoudt.
The last time we saw Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight in action during the holiday bowl season, he was making Alabama’s defense look like the Philadelphia 76ers.

This time around, Oklahoma is hoping Knight will provide a much-needed boost and balance to the Sooners' attack.

The sophomore quarterback was cleared to return to practice last Saturday and has been practicing with the team as the Sooners prepare to face Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29. Knight missed Oklahoma's final three games after suffering a neck injury against Baylor on Nov. 8.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight, Oklahoma
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTrevor Knight became a breakout star in last season's Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
“He’s doing everything right now as he always did,” coach Bob Stoops said. “The key part is after practice he’s feeling good, it isn’t taking a toll on him.”

Redshirt freshman Cody Thomas started during Knight’s absence but struggled to keep defenses honest with his passing. Thomas passed for 292 combined yards in those three games as the Sooners leaned on the excellence of freshman running back Samaje Perine, who rushed for at least 150 yards in each of those games. Oklahoma went 2-1 with Thomas starting, with victories over Texas Tech and Kansas before its Bedlam loss to Oklahoma State as the Sooners rushed for 1,198 yards during that three-game span.

Knight’s return should bring confidence to the passing game, even though the sophomore has had plenty of ups and downs of his own during his first season as the unquestioned starter in Norman. The San Antonio native has been brilliant at times, highlighted by his 376 total yards and six touchdowns in a 59-14 win over Iowa State on Nov. 1. When Knight returned to practice this week, he hasn’t looked like a guy who has been out of action for more than a month.

“Trevor actually looks like himself; he looks great,” tackle Daryl Williams said. “It looked like he never left.”

Knight averaged 244.1 passing yards per game in nine starts this season and led the Big 12 with an Adjusted QBR of 80. He finished 162-of-279 for 2,197 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions in nine games. While Knight clearly has improved in his second season, his overall performance has been overshadowed by three critical interceptions that helped lead to losses to TCU, Kansas State and Baylor.

With Knight at quarterback, the Sooners passed for less than 200 yards twice in nine games and were unable to eclipse that mark in all three games with Thomas as quarterback. Knight’s sophomore campaign has showed he is still a young quarterback prone to game-changing mistakes, yet he remains the Sooners’ best hope for balance on offense against Clemson.

“Trevor has looked good,” linebacker Eric Striker said. “When we’ve gone against him [in practice], he’s looked the same. He’s ready, he’s back and he’s looking good, real good.”
From hero to liar to forgotten man: that's Josh Shaw's life from August until now.

The USC cornerback and team captain only has himself to blame for his predicament. He was the one who made up a feel-good story to explain his injured ankles. He was the one who initially hid it from his parents. He was the one who lied to Steve Sarkisian's face when the USC coach asked if he was telling the truth.

Shaw paid the price, suffering physical pain but much more mental anguish as he watched USC play its first 10 games, including Thursday night's home win against Cal. Three months later, it's fair to ask: Does he deserve a second chance? More on that in a bit.

The forgotten man is finally speaking about what happened, telling the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke that he "hit the bottom" after details of The Lie came to light. Shaw explained that after an altercation with his longtime girlfriend, Angela Chilton, which he insists never became physical, he panicked when he saw police pull up to his building, thinking that she had called them.
"If she did say anything, I'm a black man with dreadlocks, and with everything going on in the country at the time, all that stuff in St. Louis [Ferguson, Mo.] … in my mind, I'm going to leap from the balcony so authorities did not see me."

That's how Shaw hurt himself (though not as bad as he initially thought). But he needed to come up with a better explanation for the injuries than the truth. So he made up the story about rescuing his 7-year-old nephew from drowning.

Shaw tells Plaschke that he thought the lie would hold up and, more important, could live only inside Heritage Hall. When USC's sports information department decided, understandably, to put out a news item explaining the reason for Shaw's injury, it once again gave Shaw the chance to recant. He didn't.

You know the rest: story went viral, Shaw lied to Sarkisian, questions remained from school officials and, eventually, Shaw came clean.
"It gets harder and harder to keep up with lie after lie after lie … the timeline wasn't right ... everything was off ... but I was still lying," Shaw said. "I thought I was in way too deep."

Shaw has stayed away from team activities ever since, even though Sarkisian said in September that he would be welcomed back to the team (Shaw appeared on Thursday's game program, which was printed before the season). He is medically cleared but remains sidelined as school and police investigate the situation. After a police report is filed, USC will conduct its own investigation.

USC has three games left, including the regular-season finale against Notre Dame at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Time is running out, but should Shaw be allowed to suit up one more time for the Trojans?

Yes. But only if what he said about The Lie -- namely that he never became violent with Chilton -- is proven true. The two "adamantly deny" that the argument became physical still live together in the apartment where the incident occurred.

Shaw sounds like a good guy who did a bad, stupid thing by repeatedly lying, and has suffered for it. But he had a strong track record before the incident. He appears remorseful in Plaschke's piece.

There are far worse characters in college football than Josh Shaw, ones who continue to play every Saturday. Second chances are rewarded to athletes who commit more egregious offenses.

So if things check out with the investigations, Shaw should return to the field before the season is done.

Florida State the new Quarterback U?

Whatever you think of Jameis Winston, the Florida State quarterback will leave a production void when he leaves Tallahassee, likely after this season. But the Seminoles are well prepared for life after Jameis. They received a verbal commitment Thursday from quarterback recruit Malik Henry, the top prospect in the 2016 class. Florida State already has commitments from two ESPN 300 quarterbacks in the 2015 class, Deondre Francois and De'Andre Johnson. Like Winston, Henry also intends to play baseball at Florida State and said he's fine with the inevitable comparisons to Winston.

Florida State has a storied tradition at several position groups, but the Seminoles are building quite the pipeline under center through recruiting.

Around the nation

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 10

November, 2, 2014
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Trevor Knight was a nightmare to defend, Kevin White (TCU version) gave Kevin White (West Virginia version) everything he wanted, and a pair of Longhorns gave Texas' offense plenty of balance. Here's a look at the top performers in the Big 12 on Saturday.

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight: Clearly Knight is tired of people pointing to him as the reason for OU’s occasional struggles offensively. The sophomore accounted for six touchdowns in a 59-14 win over Iowa State, with three touchdown passes and three touchdown runs. He was 22 of 35 for 230 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, while adding 16 carries for 146 yards and three scores. He was the definition of a dual-threat quarterback against the Cyclones.

TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom: He buried a 37-yard field goal as time expired to help TCU survive West Virginia’s upset bid, 31-30. Enough said.

TCU cornerback Kevin White: He shut down Kevin White (West Virginia version) and added seven tackles, including two tackles for loss and one pass breakup. The TCU cornerback blanketed the West Virginia receiver throughout the game, limiting his impact on the outcome.

TCU safety Derrick Kindred: People constantly talk about his running mates in the secondary, from Sam Carter to Chris Hackett to Kevin White, but Kindred tends to show up whenever the Horned Frogs hit the field. He had 11 tackles (10 solo), including one tackle for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Baylor running back Devin Chafin: The sophomore had 14 carries for 112 yards, eight yards per carry and two touchdowns in the Bears 60-14 win over Kansas. His longest carry of 18 yards is a sign he was consistently carving out yardage as opposed to riding one big run past the 100-yard rushing mark.

Oklahoma’s offensive line: The Sooners finished with 59 carries for 510 rushing yards, 8.64 yards per carry and five touchdowns. Three different Sooners (Knight, Alex Ross, Samaje Perine) had over 100 rushing yards. Starters Tyrus Thompson, Adam Shead, Ty Darlington, Dionte Savage and Daryl Williams were the foundation of the running game with guard Nila Kasitati, tight end Blake Bell and fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Dimitri Flowers also helping to pave the way for a huge game on the ground for OU’s offense.

Texas running back Malcolm Brown: It was a workmanlike day for Brown, who had 22 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the Longhorns’ 34-13 win over Texas Tech. He had four different runs of 10 yards or more.

Texas receiver John Harris: The senior didn’t get into the end zone, but he made a major impact. He had five receptions for 165 yards, averaging 33 yards per catch, as he helped keep the Red Raider defense honest and opened lanes for Brown.

Kansas State defensive back Morgan Burns: His 86-yard kick return for a touchdown got the crowd at Bill Snyder Family Stadium right back in the game after Oklahoma State’s game-opening scoring drive to silence the crowd. It capped it off with six tackles from his cornerback spot in KSU’s 48-14 win.

Kansas State receiver Curry Sexton: The Big 12’s best No. 2 receiving option had nine receptions for 159 yards and one touchdown against the Cowboys. Three of his nine receptions went for 15 yards or more, including 64- and 28-yard receptions early in the fourth quarter.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 10

November, 2, 2014
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Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 10:

1. TCU doesn't fold in fourth: Trailing by nine, road game, rough weather, an inconsistent Trevone Boykin, countless missed opportunities -- it was all lining up for another TCU fourth-quarter flop. But these Horned Frogs, three weeks after their debacle at Baylor, showed resolve and toughness under pressure. In a 31-30 comeback win that will boost their College Football Playoff résumé, the Frogs weren't as explosive as usual (for all those aforementioned factors) but did find a way to play clutch in all three phases late. Good timing, too, because Gary Patterson's gang might need some four-quarter heroics to survive against No. 9 Kansas State next week.

[+] EnlargeB.J. Catalon
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsTCU escaped with a win in Morgantown but faces a red-hot Kansas State team next week.
2. Sugar Bowl Trevor is back: We've seen a young, developing version of Trevor Knight a few times this season. In a 59-14 win over Iowa State, we once again got to see the one who shredded Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Knight racked up 376 yards of total offense and six touchdowns (three rushing), despite getting just one play out of Sterling Shepard. When Knight is bringing that confidence and dual-threat efficiency, this offense can do it all -- he was one of three 100-yard rushers -- and blow a game wide open. The Oklahoma offense we saw Saturday can definitely hang with and challenge Baylor next week, but Sugar Bowl Trevor has to show up again.

3. Mountaineers play not to lose and lose: West Virginia turned the ball over five times yet still had every opportunity to upset TCU. Its efforts to nurse a lead and run out the clock were totally fruitless in the fourth: Three drives, nine plays, a net gain of minus-7 yards, three punts. When West Virginia got the ball back up 30-28 with 3:46 left, a monumental win was only a couple first downs away. No dice. Why so conservative with the playcalling? Clint Trickett threw just one pass (an incompletion) in the quarter, and Dana Holgorsen admitted afterward that's because Trickett was rattled. Regaining confidence is a must this week after such a disastrous finish.

4. K-State firing on all cylinders: The Wildcats couldn't be any more ready to take on TCU and the rest of the Big 12's best. They reminded us of that again Saturday with their 48-14 destruction of Oklahoma State. KSU scored 45 straight points after falling behind 7-0. Jake Waters and his receiving duo of Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton were masterful, as usual. The defense gave up 48 yards in the second half, even while using backups. This was start-to-finish domination for a second straight week, and three of KSU's five Big 12 wins have come by double-digit margins. You do not want to play these guys right now.

5. Texas' bowl dream isn't dead: The Longhorns overcame an ugly start and rolled in Lubbock 34-13, with 24 unanswered points, to improve to 4-5. All of those points came after Quandre Diggs knocked Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes out of the game with a vicious hit. Some reasons for encouragement? The Longhorns' run game finally got moving with 240 yards, and the starting D allowed just seven points. They have to go 2-of-3 against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU to hit six wins. The odds of pulling that off aren’t great, but Texas at least took care of business on Saturday.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops thought his team played better against Kansas State than it had the previous two weeks in a loss at TCU and a narrow win against Texas.

The Sooners missed fewer assignments defensively. Quarterback Trevor Knight completed 26 of 32 passes for a sparkling QBR of 90.5 (scale 0-to-100). Oklahoma also averaged 6.8 yards per play for its best statistical offensive output since Week 2 against Tulsa.

Stoops, however, said the performance that resulted in a 31-30 loss to the Wildcats was still not good enough.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiBob Stoops said crucial mistakes by the Sooners negated their improved overall play Saturday.
"Nothing’s well enough when you lose by a point," Stoops said during his weekly news conference Monday. "We needed to be a play or two better on offense. A series or two better on defense. Or (a play better) on special teams. It all isn’t good enough when you lose."

Though Oklahoma generated 13 more first downs than the Wildcats and outgained them 533-to-385, the Sooners were ultimately doomed by several costly mistakes.

From his own goal line, Knight elected to throw on a run-pass option call. The ill-advised pass was picked off by Danzel McDaniel, who returned it three yards for a touchdown.

"Certain plays are tagged," Stoops said "If (Knight) gets a soft corner he has the option to throw the out. When the guy squeezed back down, you can’t throw it."

The Sooners had another ill-advised throwing decision, though it didn't come from Knight. Off a reverse/wide receiver pass, Durron Neal forced a throw into a coverage trying to hit Sterling Shepard for a touchdown. Instead, K-State’s Morgan Burns intercepted in the end zone for a touchback and thwarted the scoring opportunity.

"We didn’t have as many mental breakdowns, we executed our passing game in a really good way, we were much better on third-down conversions," Stoops said. "We were much better as far as missed assignments.

"But it doesn’t matter. I’d take the other in a minute. You can’t make the critical mistakes that change the game."

The Sooners also made critical mistakes elsewhere. Safety Ahmad Thomas whiffed trying to tackle quarterback Jake Waters on the opening play of the third quarter, resulting in a 53-yard run that set up a field goal. Earlier, Oklahoma turned fullback Glenn Gronkowski loose on a delayed pass play that led to a 62-yard touchdown, though Stoops implied he wasn’t pleased with the way the play was officiated.

"The guy (Gronkowski) running down the middle of the field, that’s a difficult play when (Waters) waits and waits and the center (B.J. Finney) is blocking the linebacker," said Stoops, who wanted officials to flag K-State for an illegal man downfield. Before that, Stoops was also upset that his fullback, Aaron Ripkowski, was ejected in the first quarter for targeting, and that on the same play, the Wildcats weren’t penalized for hitting Knight after he had hit ground diving.

"Those are tough plays to defend," Stoops said of the delayed pass, "in the way they’re allowed to play them."

Yet the biggest play that decided the outcome came on special teams. Senior Michael Hunnicutt, the school’s all-time leading scorer, missed two field goals, including a 19-yarder late in the fourth quarter. Hunnicutt also had an extra point blocked in the fourth.

"He just rushed the second (field goal). He hit a bad shot," Stoops said. "Michael has been as consistent and as good a player as we’ve had here. He’s been a big part of a lot of wins. He had a bad day and a couple of bad shots. It came at a bad time.

"We all respect him and think the world of him. And we’ll need (him) to win more games coming forward."
NORMAN, Okla. -- When it comes to Trevor Knight, virtually everyone remembers the Alabama game.

And rightfully so. In that Sugar Bowl stunner, Knight unleashed one of the greatest individual quarterbacking performances in Oklahoma history.

But Knight’s true breakout game last season came a few weeks before the Sugar Bowl. Against the same team he faces again Saturday.

The No. 11 Sooners welcome No. 14 Kansas State to Norman hoping to get their wayward offense back on track. More to the point, they hope to jump-start their mercurial sophomore quarterback, who has yet to touch replicating that magical masterpiece in New Orleans last January.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThe Sooners are hoping Trevor Knight can regain the form he showed down the stretch last season, when he made plays with both his arm and his feet.
Knight, who completed 32 of 44 passes against the Crimson Tide, ranks next-to-last in the Big 12 this season in completion percentage with a measly 55.1.

As a result, the Oklahoma offense has hit the skids the last two weeks. In fact, over 15 straight possessions (not including one kneel down) against TCU and Texas, the Sooners mustered just a field goal.

In the Red River Showdown, Oklahoma finished the first half with just one first down and 29 yards of offense. If not for an Alex Ross kickoff return touchdown and a Zack Sanchez pick-six in Dallas, the Sooners would be riding back-to-back regular-season losses for the first time since Bob Stoops’ first year in 1999.

Going into the season, Sooner Nation believed the quarterback that toppled mighty Alabama could also be the one that led them back into national championship contention in the debut of the College Football Playoff.

But after a shaky start to Big 12 play, that belief has been diminished. The pressure has amplified. And Knight has begun to feel both.

“As long as things aren’t going perfectly, there’s going to be criticism, there’s going to be those doubts,” said Knight, who has just six touchdown passes to five interceptions. “You just have to stay internal with that. You have to stay confident with who you are as a player, who you are as a team, who you are as an offense and continue to press forward because dwelling on things like that isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

Yet there’s still reason to believe that Knight could snap out of his funk in a flash. Just look back to the K-State game last year.

The Oklahoma offense prior to that was an offensive mess. Knight’s talent allowed him to beat out Blake Bell in the preseason. But that talent didn’t manifest immediately, and a minor knee injury gave the Sooners the excuse to give Bell a shot. The offense, however, remained ineffective in blowout losses to Texas and Baylor, putting Oklahoma on the brink of a catastrophic season. But after a Bell concussion, Knight capitalized on his second chance. He carved up the K-State defense while orchestrating the zone-read to perfection with halfback Brennan Clay. Knight put passes on the money, whether from the pocket or on the run. And he led the Sooners to a 41-31 shootout win.

“Was just a game when we all did our job,” Knight recalled. “Wasn’t anything special.”

But it was the start of something just that. Oklahoma upset Bedlam rival Oklahoma State on the road two weeks later to set up Knight’s demolition of Alabama.

That all began with how he played in Manhattan.

“We got in there and hit a couple shots right off the bat and scored on the opening drive,” said Knight, who threw a touchdown strike to Sterling Shepard on third-and-goal from the K-State 12-yard line to cap Oklahoma’s first possession. “That got the momentum going. Set the tone for the whole game.”

The Sooners would like to get back to setting the tone offensively. But that will hinge on whether they can get Knight back in sync.

This week, Stoops refused to detail how Knight has performed recently. Yet Stoops did confess that he’d like to see his quarterback run more to get the offense going. Knight didn’t carry the ball once Sept. 20 at West Virginia. He had 13 rushes at TCU, but most of those came after he was forced out of the pocket. And against the Longhorns, Knight gained just two yards on the ground.

Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel noted the Sooners have been cautious thus far with how they’ve used Knight in fear of losing him to injury. But that has also handcuffed the offense, which in turn has placed it in more third-and-longs.

“The (zone-read) is something we haven't used as much as we did a year ago,” said Heupel, who noted defenses have also been gearing to stop it lately. “It's something we'll continue to mix in. Trevor's got to be able to pull it when you're running that scheme and make plays with his feet.”

The Sooners got Knight’s feet going against K-State a year ago. His arm, too. That helped transform Oklahoma late in 2013.

Against the same opponent, the Sooners hope this weekend they can get Knight rolling once again.

“Once you get going, once you ride that momentum. … you get that rhythm,” Knight said. “Hopefully we’ll go out there and play to the best of our ability and get that confidence to go down the stretch.”

DALLAS -- Oklahoma defensive end Chuka Ndulue jogged down the sideline waving the oversized Oklahoma flag. The band boomed "Boomer Sooner." And Sooners wide receiver Durron Neal walked the Golden Hat trophy up the tunnel before placing it on his head.

Yet the sentiment on the crimson half of the Cotton Bowl was as much relief as celebration.

Saturday in the Red River Showdown, Texas outgained the Sooners and, in many aspects, outplayed them. But thanks to its big plays, Oklahoma came away with the 31-26 win.

And, just as importantly, with its Big 12 title and playoff hopes still intact.

"Do I like everything that happened today? Heck no. We have a lot to work on. That’s obvious," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "Don’t take anything away from Texas. … But it’s always good when you win and you didn’t play very well and you know you’ve got things to correct."

In Charlie Strong's Red River debut, his Longhorns didn’t win.

But they dominated the box score.

Texas outgained Oklahoma, 482 yards to 232.

Texas generated 13 more first downs than the Sooners, who had only one the entire first half.

And Texas converted 7 of 18 on its third down attempts, while Oklahoma went just 1 of 11.

The Longhorns also had the better sophomore quarterback Saturday in Tyrone Swoopes, who decisively outplayed Oklahoma counterpart Trevor Knight in the first Red River start for either player. Swoopes completed 27 of 44 passes for a career-high 334 yards and rushed for another 50 while almost producing the greatest comeback in the history of the rivalry.

[+] EnlargeSanchez
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesOklahoma's Zack Sanchez returns an interception 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, giving the Sooners a 17-3 lead against Texas.
Oklahoma ground out a 31-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Swoopes engineered back-to-back touchdown drives to give Texas a chance late. The Sooners, however, ran the clock down with two first downs, leaving Swoopes without enough time for a miracle rally.

"I think you can look at this game and say, 'They fought, They believed,'" said linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led a valiant Texas defensive effort with 10 tackles. "There’s no quitting in this team. We’re not going to quit. There’s no disbelief in who we are."

Texas (2-4, 1-2 Big 12) might not make a bowl this season. Yet Texas’ fight and Swoopes' poise showed the Longhorns might be able to become a contender again in the Big 12 before long.

"You would love to see the whole team build on this, not just Tyrone," said Strong, whose Longhorns were a two-touchdown underdog coming in. "I love the way our team came out today, and loved the way we competed and how hard we played.

"We battled back."

But while Texas hopes to be a contender again in the future, Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1) is a contender now.

Although the Sooners didn’t make more plays than Texas, they made the ones that counted the most.

Alex Ross returned a kickoff 91 yards for his second special-teams touchdown of the season, giving the Sooners an early lead, a lead they never relinquished.

Later, Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez stepped in front of a Swoopes pass and took it 43 yards for another TD.

And, in the third quarter, Sterling Shepard beat Texas’ best defensive back, Quandre Diggs, on a wheel route for a 24-yard TD to put the Sooners up 24-13.

"We’re resilient," said Stoops, who became the first Oklahoma coach to notch 10 wins against Texas. "The group has a great attitude and great team chemistry. We just have to keep fighting. We made some mistakes and bad plays throughout the game, but you have to keep after it and make other plays to make up for it."

And the Oklahoma offense, which underwhelmed all day, did just that on its final drive to clinch the win.

Facing third-and-4 on the burnt orange side of the bowl, Knight floated a swing pass to wide-open Samaje Perine for a first down. Two plays later, Perine battered his way 8 yards through the Texas defense for another first down. When the Longhorns finally got the ball back, only 18 seconds remained.

“I think there is some frustration involved when you’re not running up and down the field like you want to,” said Knight, who passed for a season-low 129 yards. “But we made some big plays down the stretch.”

To remain in playoff contention and to win the Big 12 title, however, the Sooners will have to be better than they were Saturday. And better than they were two weeks ago in a loss at TCU that eliminated any further margin for error.

The big plays have been there for Oklahoma. But the little ones have not.

The past two weeks, the running game has completely stagnated against the uptick in competition. Perine finished with just 62 yards on 18 carries. Knight continues to struggle to keep the chains moving with the pass. The receivers have been unreliable aside from Shepard.

And a Mike Stoops defense that was supposed to be dominant has surrendered almost a thousand yards the last two games.

"We just couldn’t come up with a play," said Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator. "It’s the little things and execution that we are not doing as well as we need to be, as we should be."

Swoopes and the Longhorns did the little things Saturday, giving them hope for the future.

But the Sooners did the big things. Keeping their big expectations alive after a win that produced relief as well as celebration.
NORMAN, Okla. -- During his weekly news conference, Bob Stoops defended his team’s play calling while admitting that the passing game also needs to improve going forward.

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight completed just 14 of 35 passes, as the Sooners were held scoreless in the fourth quarter of a 37-33 loss at TCU this past Saturday.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsProtecting quarterback Trevor Knight was a key issue for Oklahoma this past Saturday.
“I thought in the first half [the passing game] was really positive, in the second half it wasn’t,” Stoops said. “We weren’t nearly consistent as we need to be.”

After hitting Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal for a pair of bombs early, Knight struggled with his accuracy the rest of the way, dropping his season completion rate to 54.5 percent.

Stoops agreed that Knight missed some throws. But the coach placed blame elsewhere, as well.

“There’s three reasons for it,” Stoops said. “At times, we’re getting pressured, we didn’t protect as well as we have in some other games. At times, it’s an errant throw. At times, we’re covered. So it’s a little bit of everybody.”

The Sooners have struggled all year to get anyone other than Shepard involved in the passing attack. Shepard had another huge afternoon in Fort Worth with seven grabs for 215 yards and a touchdown. But after Neal’s four catches, no other wide receiver had a reception. Tight end Blake Bell and running backs Samaje Perine all had a reception apiece.

“I think we do have to make sure we’re spreading the ball around more,” Stoops said.

Stoops confessed that in hindsight he wished the Sooners would have run the ball more and passed less against TCU.

But otherwise, Stoops said he had no issues with coordinator Josh Heupel’s play calling, including the quarterback draw Heupel called on Oklahoma’s final drive. The draw was stuffed, and with no timeouts, the Sooners lost valuable seconds off the clock as they scrambled to attempt to win the game in the final minute.

“I thought it was a great call,” Stoops said. “I was all for it.”

The reason the Sooners were out of timeouts was due to a pair of mental errors in the fourth quarter. The Sooners burned one timeout struggling to get the snap off before the play clock expired. They burned another because they didn’t have enough men on the line of scrimmage.

The mental mistakes carried over through the rest of the team, too. Stoops said the Sooners had several busted defensive calls, while the offensive line missed blocks.

“Some of it is very fundamental in what we do, and for whatever reason, even guys with a lot of experience didn’t do it very well,” Stoops said. “I believe a lot of it is easily correctable in that some is just discipline and fundamentals. We’ve got to do a better job coaching them and they’ve got to do a better job of being mindful of their disciplines and what we’re doing.”
Pop star Katy Perry caused waves on "College GameDay" this past Saturday morning, when she picked Oklahoma to beat TCU based on the looks of Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight.

"Trevor Knight, call me," said Perry, who also brought a poster of Knight in the shape of a heart.

Well, did Knight make the call?

“I have not called Katy Perry yet,” Knight said Monday.

Knight still has a chance to make his move, though. Perry is scheduled to perform in Tulsa, Oklahoma, later Monday night.

 

 

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