Big 12: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
4:00
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In Tuesday's mailbag we talk Charlie Strong, the futures of TCU, Oklahoma State and West Virginia and the College Football Playoff committee. Thanks for your questions this week, to submit a question for next Tuesday's mailbag, click here.

On to the mailbag:

[+] EnlargeBill Snyder
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBill Snyder's Wildcats have a difficult remaining schedule, but it's one that would garner national attention should they negotiate it successfully.
Cain in Auckland writes: Hey guys, love the blog! Firstly, do you think Kansas State has found their answer at running back with Charles Jones? And also, with K-State's schedule (Auburn, at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, at TCU, at West Virginia, at Baylor) do you believe KSU as an 11-1 Big 12 champ makes the playoff over a 11-1 SEC West runner up or 11-1 Big 10 Champ?

Brandon Chatmon: I really like what Charles Jones is bringing to the table for the Wildcats. He’s not John Hubert, but he has the chance to be a very productive back and has proven his ability to find the end zone with eight touchdowns in four games. To answer your second question, I think an 11-1 K-State should get in over most one-loss Big Ten champions or most one-loss SEC West runners-up. Obviously a lot of that has to do with who those losses came against, but the Wildcats would have a strong case with road wins at Baylor and Oklahoma. Now, will they get in? That’s another question entirely and we don’t have a history to look back upon to know how the College Football Playoff committee will handle these situations.

Christian in Missoula, Montana, writes: Do you have week 8 circled on your calendars for a little more clarity in the Big 12 title race? The top six teams are on the field against one another. Also, even as an Oklahoma State grad I'm left wondering why so much love for WVU and so little for TCU? I personally would put TCU's wins over WVU losses, but who cares, right? We'll know what TCU has by next Saturday.

Chatmon: I think every week is a big week. We sometimes overlook the week ahead of us in anticipation of later matchups then something unexpected happens. Week 8 will be a big week but we could have some clarity before then. TCU hasn’t really been tested but can take care of business against the Sooners and plenty of love will be headed their way.

Matt in Fort Worth writes: The Playoff Committee had already publicly stated that they will not be looking at margin of victory. Now Barry Alvarez says he has been looking at just that (normalized for schedule strength). And, he made the statement just in time for some teams viewed as having little shot to make the playoffs to whip up on their final weak out-of-conference foe. This doesn't seem right. What do you think?

Chatmon: That’s why they have a playoff committee. Everyone has their own bias, expectations, etc., but I’m confident the committee will do a solid job. And I doubt any team would be running up the score based on what one committee member says. I can’t imagine winning by 44 instead of 24 over a weak opponent is going to be a deciding factor.

Louie in Pace, Florida, writes: What do you think WVU's chances are of going 9-3 this year? They played two of the top four teams in the country and pretty much competed with both of them. The toughest game left on their schedule are at home with the exception of Tech and Texas being on the road. If not 9-3 where do you think they will finish?

Chatmon: I’m not ready to lock them in at 9-3 but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mountaineers finish with 9 or 10 wins with a bowl game. I’d add Oklahoma State to your list of tough road games making WVU’s tough stretch of Baylor, at OSU, TCU, at Texas the main reason I’m looking at 7 or 8 wins for WVU as of right now.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTexas coach Charlie Strong is still trying to gain a foothold in his first season.
John McKay in Louisville writes: Why in the world is Charlie Strong getting any criticism at all? He has coached four games, not four seasons! He did not turn around Louisville in four games, it took his third season to have a really good one, and beat a perceived powerhouse program. Everyone needs to calm down and give him at least 3-4 complete seasons to see what his effect is on the program. A third of a season does not a career make.

Chatmon: I agree John, but we live in a "win now" world. Strong should get a pass this season as he tries to lay a quality foundation but if we don’t see clear signs of progress early next year, that’s when I would understand the heat starting to turn up under his seat.

Nicholas in Houston writes: OSU has a brutal stretch in the back half of the season. Apart from OU and Baylor, which of our remaining opponents should scare us the most? As of this moment, my vote is WVU.

Chatmon: I’d also keep on eye on the Pokes visit to TCU on Oct. 18. The Horned Frogs will play good defense and will be the best defense Daxx Garman has faced since he took over as OSU starting signal-caller. How will he respond?

Taylor Cook in Houston writes: After watching OK State vs. Texas Tech play with alternate uniforms on Thursday I wonder what happens first with a Bill Snyder-coached team: A CFB Playoff appearance or a game with alternate KSU uniforms? Even some "iconic" teams have gone with slight tweaks to the uniform or helmet, but K-State has been the same for a long time.

Chatmon: That’s easy Taylor, a College Football Playoff berth.

Mike in Goldsby, Oklahoma, writes: You said, "If the polls affect the College Football Playoff committee then we have bigger problems". Do you think there's any chance of the opposite happening? The CFP committee rankings affecting the polls?

Chatmon: I would hope so. I expect the College Football Playoff committee to invest more time in their rankings than the average voter.
Oklahoma State and Iowa State will meet in Stillwater this weekend in a battle of coaches unhappy with their running games.

The Cyclones are last in the league with an average of just 104 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys are faring better on the ground, but their 4.1 yards per carry average is the worst Oklahoma State has had since Mike Gundy’s first season in 2005.

“It’s not good enough,” Gundy said. “You’ve got to be over five in most cases.”

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has become exasperated with his rushing attack, as well. Running backs Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy gained just 17 yards on 12 carries in a 49-28 loss to Baylor last weekend.

"There is no running attack," said Rhoads, whose club is averaging just 3.4 yards a carry, which ranks 108th nationally. "You've got to run the football and you've got to defend the run if you want to be successful. We're not even scratching the surface at doing that."

That starts for both teams with the offensive line. After graduating several key players, Oklahoma State had one of the most inexperienced offensive lines coming into the season. That wasn’t the case for Iowa State. Only Oklahoma had more career returning starts along its offensive line than the Cyclones. But so far, Iowa State has been unable to pave consistent lanes for Wimberly and Nealy.

"We need to do a better job of blocking. That's not just the interior five, that's everybody," Rhoads said. "Receivers are part of the blocking group and the tight ends. And our running backs need to do a better job of running the football. We've got to make some folks miss.

“In watching Oklahoma State, other people are taking care of every gap, too, and sometimes backs make folks miss. We need that added to the quotient."

The Cowboys have a back in Tyreek Hill who can make opponents miss, and another in Desmond Roland who can through tackles. Roland broke out in Ames last year with 219 yards rushing.

But Gundy would disagree about his offensive line taking care of every gap. Gundy called it a “stretch” to say that the line was any better in a 45-35 win over Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders, who had been awful in run defense, stacked the box to compensate for their own deficiencies, which made running the ball tough sledding.

“Last week we didn't really have an opportunity to run the ball with the way they played defense,” Gundy said. “Tech's perspective was to stop the run with safeties, which didn't really give us numbers throughout the evening."

But after watching Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman throw for 370 yards and four touchdowns, it’s unlikely Iowa State will utilize a similar scheme and put its young secondary in vulnerable situations.

The Cowboys hope this will be the game that finally gets their ground attack going. Iowa State, too.
Oklahoma State figured replacing Justin Gilbert would not be easy.

The former Cowboy was the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft after an All-America season at OSU a year ago. While Gilbert provided game-changing plays and three years of starting experience to the Cowboys secondary in his final season, Kevin Peterson was the overlooked lieutenant in the cornerback duo, quietly holding his own opposite his standout teammate.

This year it’s Peterson’s time to be the captain in the Cowboys’ backfield. And he’s slid into the role with unusual ease.

[+] EnlargeKevin Peterson
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsKevin Peterson had big shoes to fill in Oklahoma State's secondary, replacing Justin Gilbert as the top corner.
“He wanted that role,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “He knew Gilbert’s gone, I’m the guy, I’m going to be put on a island a lot. I think he wanted that.”

Lots of guys want a role like that, as the key cover man who can be counted on to battle with the Big 12’s best receivers throughout a 60-minute frenzy of passes from all angles. Fewer guys seize the opportunity and hold up under the barrage.

“To want it and then to be effective every snap is different,” Spencer said. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do now preparations-wise and practice-wise to fulfill that role. It’s a week-by-week process though.”

Now he finds himself on a similar path as Gilbert. He’s been a starter since his sophomore season after making an impact as a freshman and teams that test him, more often than not, end up regretting it. Most importantly, he sets the competitive tone and provides a daily model for OSU’s freshman cornerbacks Ramon Richards and Juwan Offray as the most experienced cover man on the roster.

“They see how he approaches practice and when we’re doing scout reps he’s not backing up, he’s not going through the motions,” Spencer said. “The harder they practice it translates to Saturday and Kevin does that, so it’s good for the young guys to see … 'He's practicing like this? Against the scout team on a Wednesday?' Then they say, that’s probably the way it’s supposed to be done.”

It’s part of the reason the Cowboys have been better than expected thus far this season. Gilbert wasn’t just a superstar. Along with fellow three-year starter and departed Cowboy Daytawion Lowe, Gilbert passed along his good habits and provided a baseline during Peterson's first two seasons for how to strive to mimic their success when he was the man.

“Having those guys show how to work hard instilled it in me,” Peterson said. “It takes more than athletic ability to be a great player.”

Said defensive tackle James Castleman: "I feel like what sets him apart from everyone else is not only is he a vocal leader, but he sets an example. So, you know, ‘You've got to do this, you've got to do that,' and it's good when you tell someone 'You've got to do this,' and you do it as well.”

Four games into his junior season Peterson has 15 tackles, six pass breakups and one interception. He ranks second in the Big 12 with seven disrupted dropbacks -- an ESPN metric that combines sacks, interceptions, passes broken up and batted balls -- behind Baylor’s Xavien Howard (7.5). He's not quite on Gilbert's level yet but he's quickly becoming one of the Big 12's top cornerbacks and a critical playmaker for OSU's defense.

“Up to now, game-by-game, he hasn't disappointed,” Spencer said. “He’s made some big-time breakups in critical situations and his discipline is good. He’s done what he’s supposed to do. His preparation needs to be the same. If he takes that approach he will do that every week.”

Big 12 recruiting scoreboard

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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Below is our weekly update on the Big 12 recruiting trail:

BAYLOR

Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears didn't land a recruit this past week, but plenty of Lone Star State prospects will be paying attention to Baylor’s trip to Austin. The Bears have been winning recruiting battles for the state top’s talent, and they have a chance to make another statement on the field.

IOWA STATE

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones landed a commitment for the first time in more than a month in Kissimmee, Florida, cornerback Stephon Brown, who had offers from NC State, Hawaii, Marshall, South Florida and Southern Miss.

KANSAS

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The first order of business for interim coach Clint Bowen was calling all of Kansas’ commitments Sunday and telling them they are still wanted in Lawrence. Despite his troubles on the field, Charlie Weis had put together another decent recruiting class that Bowen needs to hold together.

KANSAS STATE

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have been quiet on the trail lately, after landing seven commitments from June to August. More will be on the way once Bill Snyder figures out which junior-college players he wants to target in this class.

OKLAHOMA

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners landed their third commitment in the month of September in McAlester, Oklahoma, tight end Dalton Wood, who jones Midwest City safety Will Sunderland and Jenks defensive tackle Marquise Overton as Oklahoma's three in-state commitments.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Pokes pulled off one of the better recruiting steals of the year last week in convincing ESPN 300 safety Kevin Henry to flip from LSU to OSU. Henry had been committed to the Tigers, where he projected as a safety/linebacker since January but started reconsidering his other options in July. Henry joins WR Jalen McCleskey as the second Louisiana recruit in OSU's class.

TCU

Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: No new pledges for the Horned Frogs this week, but they get a chance to impress visitors this Saturday when Oklahoma comes to Fort Worth. One TCU commit worth keeping an eye on is WR J.F. Thomas, the Frogs' highest-rated pledge. He received an offer from Texas recently, and two of his Dallas South Oak Cliff teammates -- Jamile Johnson and Jordan Stevenson -- are already committed to UT.

TEXAS

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: Texas picked up a pledge from Austin Westlake LB Breckyn Hager, a three-star recruit who was committed to Baylor. The previous staff passed on Baylor's Bryce Hager in 2010, even though he's the son of Texas all-time leading tackler Britt Hager. Stevenson, who committed nearly a year ago, took an official visit to Wisconsin this weekend but remains solid with Texas.

TEXAS TECH

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders' staff made an intriguing find in East Texas last week. Longview's Broderick Washington committed soon after he received his Texas Tech offer. He's playing offensive tackle right now for Longview, but Tech loves his toughness and mean style of play and plans to develop him as a nose guard at the next level.

WEST VIRGINIA

Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: West Virginia locked up a huge commitment last Monday when ESPN 300 CB Tyrek Cole flipped from Florida State. You don't see that too often. WVU defensive line coach Damon Cogdell coached Cole at Miramar High School in Florida last year. The Mountaineers also received a commitment from three-star ILB David Long on Sunday. This 2015 class is in terrific shape so far.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 5

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
10:00
AM ET
Taking stock of Week 5 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: Baylor. Any time you go to Iowa State and come up with a win, it’s a big deal -- even if three teams have already done it now this season. Ames traditionally has not been an easy place to play, and Baylor made it look easy with a four-touchdown halftime lead on the way to a 49-28 win. The Bears dominated with 32 first downs and 601 yards of offense.

Disappointment of the week: Kansas. The Jayhawks played Texas tough its last trip to Lawrence, and had every opportunity to give the offensively challenged Longhorns another tough fight. Instead, Montell Cozart threw four interceptions, and Kansas squandered away every scoring opportunity in a 23-0 defeat. The lackluster performance was the final straw in the Charlie Weis era.

Big (offensive) man on campus: Corey Coleman. Baylor insiders had been touting the sophomore as the next great Baylor wide receiver during the offseason. But when Coleman suffered a preseason hamstring injury, true freshman K.D. Cannon stole that hype. Coleman got it back in Ames with a monster debut to the season. He had 12 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown, leading the Baylor scoring barrage.

Big (defensive) man on campus: James McFarland. Sure, SMU might be inept offensively. Really inept, in fact. Still, the TCU defensive end had a huge afternoon in the Horned Frogs’ 56-0 stomping of the Mustangs. McFarland finished with three of TCU’s nine sacks. It was a career-high for McFarland, and the most sacks for the Horned Frogs in a game since 2002. McFarland also forced two fumbles, and produced a pass-breakup on a fourth down at the TCU 1-yard line to preserve the shutout.

Special-teams player of the week: Tyler Lockett. Another game, another big day for K-State’s do-it-all playmaker. In a 58-28 win against UTEP, Lockett finished with 143 yards on punt returns, the second-most in school history and 29 short of tying the school record of 172 set by David Allen in 1998. Lockett also caught four passes for 84 yards. He now leads the country in punt return yards per game.

Play of the week: It’s not easy to fumble and throw an interception on the same play. But that is what happened to backup Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes in relief of injured starter Davis Webb. Early in the fourth quarter, Mahomes had the ball stripped away. He then scooped it up and tossed it to his right wildly as he was falling down. The ball deflected off running back Quinton White and into the arms of Seth Jacobs for an interception. The Cowboys scored four plays later to go up 45-28 and put the game away.

Stat of the week: Texas Tech was flagged 16 times for 158 yards in the 45-35 loss to Oklahoma State. As a result, the Red Raiders now lead the nation with 105.5 penalty yards per game.

Quote of the week: "We have not made the on-the-field progress we believe we should." -- Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, on why he fired coach Charlie Weis.

Big 12 morning links

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
8:00
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Jerry Jones apparently has plans of taking over the world.
  • After winning just one Big 12 game as coach of the Jayhawks, Charlie Weis was fired over the weekend on the heels of a 23-0 loss to Texas. Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger told the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait that the "program had lost support at all levels." Though it was a tad surprising that Zenger pulled the trigger after just one Big 12 game, you can hardly blame him. Kansas had showed no signs of improvement this season, scoring a combined three points in losses to Duke and Texas. Attendance was plummeting again this season, even after an 8 percent drop the year before. Under Weis, there was just no excitement surrounding Kansas football whatsoever.
  • After two disastrous hires, the pressure is on Zenger and the Jayhawks to get this next hire right. Zenger, remember, fired Turner Gill after just two seasons; Weis, the man Zenger hired to clean up Gill's mess, lasted 33 months. CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd throws out some possible candidates that Zenger might look at, including Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. The Jayhawks had success previously hiring an Oklahoma offensive coordinator, as Mark Mangino took Kansas to the 2007 Orange Bowl. The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan, meanwhile, writes that interim coach and Kansas alum Clint Bowen brings some much-needed passion to the program. The Jayhawks are in some definite need of that.
  • Embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent interestingly met with Texas coach Charlie Strong on Sunday to discuss the coach’s five core values and his approach to building the Longhorns. Vincent was very complimentary of Strong's disciplinary stances following their meeting, telling Yahoo Sports' Eric Adelson that "this is a model that should be emulated across the country in both amateur and professional football." Vincent gave Strong and his staff plenty of ammo to use when meeting with parents on the recruiting trail. If opposing coaches try to negatively recruit against Texas because of its suspensions and dismissals, the Longhorns will be able to counter with the ultimate trump card, as defensive coordinator Vance Bedford points out.
  • There were some actual games over the weekend, too, and Baylor got a huge boost from the returns of wideouts Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman from injuries, as the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner details. Back from a hamstring injury he suffered in preseason camp, Coleman caught a career-high 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the 49-28 win at Iowa State. Goodley returned from a quadriceps injury suffered in the early minutes of the season opener against SMU to catch six passes for 114 yards. Clay Fuller also came back from a preseason collarbone injury and made two fourth-quarter catches. Levi Norwood could be back as soon as this weekend from a fractured wrist. After an injury plagued non-conference, the Baylor offense is operating at full strength again. Just in time for Texas, too.
  • The next two weeks will provide an opportunity for Oklahoma State to grow, writes The Oklahoman's John Helsley. The Cowboys get Iowa State at home this weekend, then travel to Kansas. In other words, Oklahoma State has a great chance to get off to a 5-1 start to the season after dispatching of Texas Tech last week. With so much inexperience coming into the season, coach Mike Gundy has to be pleased with the way the 2014 season has begun. At one point, Oklahoma State had five true freshmen on the field at once defensively in the Tech game. Those young players have a chance to develop even more over the next two weeks before the Cowboys hit the heart of their Big 12 schedule with an Oct. 18 road trip to TCU.

Big 12 bowl projections: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State got their Big 12 Conference schedules off to a good start while TCU and Kansas State cruised to easy wins.

This week provides TCU and Texas the opportunity to stake their claim in the conference race with games against Big 12 favorites OU and Baylor. If the Horned Frogs knock off the Sooners or the Longhorns shock the Bears, either team would skyrocket up our projections.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: TCU
Cactus Bowl: Texas

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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Below is a look at the best performances from the Big 12 in Week 5:

DE James McFarland, TCU: McFarland led the nine-sack TCU barrage against SMU with three himself, as the Horned Frogs rolled 56-0. It was a career-high for McFarland, and the most sacks for TCU in a game since 2002. McFarland also had two forced fumbles, and his pass breakup on a fourth-and-1 at the TCU 1-yard line in the second quarter helped preserve the 11th shutout of the Gary Patterson era.

WR Corey Coleman, Baylor: Coleman had a monster outing in his first appearance of the season, hauling in 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the Bears 49-28 win at Iowa State. Coleman had missed the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury. He showed no signs of being slowed down in Ames.

CB Duke Thomas, Texas: After getting burned for the game-deciding touchdown against UCLA, Thomas bounced back with a monster performance in a 23-0 win over Kansas. Thomas grabbed two of Texas’ four interception, and could have had a third had it not been for penalty. Thomas also broke up a fade attempt on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter. The Jayhawks never came close to scoring a touchdown again.

LB Ben Heeney, Kansas: Don't blame Heeney or the Kansas defense for the Jayhawks' loss to Texas. Heeney had 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery at the Kansas 2-yard line that thwarted a Texas scoring opportunity. It was actually the All-Big 12 performer's first career fumble recovery. Behind Heeney, the Jayhawks also limited Texas to just 111 yards rushing.

RB Charles Jones, Kansas State: Jones scored three of the Wildcats’ first five touchdowns, as K-State demolished UTEP, 58-28. Jones finished with 76 yards on just 12 carries, as K-State held a 45-point lead over the Miners heading into the fourth quarter.

WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: In another tantalizing performance, Lockett put up 143 punt return yards, the second-most in school history and 29 yards short of tying the school record of 172 set by David Allen in 1998. Lockett also hauled in four passes for 84 yards.

WR James Washington, Oklahoma State: The Cowboys’ true freshman wideout torched Texas Tech in Oklahoma State’s 45-35 win Thursday. Washington reeled in a 33-yard touchdown in the first quarter, then a 39-yard score in the second. Three of Washington’s five catches this season have resulted in touchdowns.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
1:27
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Here’s what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 5:

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley
David Purdy/Getty ImagesAntwan Goodley made a triumphant return for Baylor after missing the previous two games due to injury.
1. Petty's toys are back in business: No video-game-crazy numbers for Baylor's offense in a 49-28 victory at Iowa State, just the usual display that makes it tough for Big 12 defensive coordinators to sleep at night. Bryce Petty sure had some catching up to do with his favorite injured wideouts, and Corey Coleman (12 catches, 154 yards, 1 TD) and Antwan Goodley (6 catches, 114 yards) both made it count. The Bears weren't up to their optimal speed -- there were five three-and-outs, a Petty interception and a failed fourth-down conversion -- but Shock Linwood (three TDs) makes them so difficult to stop when they hit the red zone, and the starters got to sit out the final quarter. Business as usual for Baylor.

2. Pokes can beat you deep: Oklahoma State won the Big 12's first primetime fight because it wasn't afraid to take big shots. Daxx Garman connected on eight passes of 20-plus yards, and even better, they were hauled in by six different receivers over the course of the 45-35 victory on Thursday. It's time to stop underestimating Marcell Ateman and James Washington after the underclassmen combined for 217 yards and two TDs, and OSU put something plenty scary on tape when Tyreek Hill beat his defender by a good 7 yards for a 50-yard scoring bomb. It wasn't easy, and it sure wasn't pretty -- 287 combined penalty yards on 26 flags -- but OSU found out Garman can handle the bright lights just fine.

3. K-State defense rallies in big way: Kansas State was missing two starters on defense but had no trouble taking out its Auburn-inspired anger on UTEP, a team that proved against Texas Tech it's no pushover. In the 58-28 win, KSU held the nation's No. 2 rusher, Aaron Jones, to nine yards in the first half and 47 on the day. The Miners couldn't get anything going for the three quarters KSU's starters played -- it was 52-7 when Bill Snyder sent in the backups -- and UTEP ended the first half down 31 points with just 23 total yards and one first down. KSU got right back on track and still looks like a legit contender for the Big 12 crown.

4. TCU's Air Raid keeps making it look ... too easy? The Horned Frogs are 3-0 with wins over Samford, Minnesota and now SMU, a team that’s been outscored 202-12 through four games. If there's an FBS team playing worse football than the Mustangs, I would not like to see it. So it’s tough to confidently make conclusions about TCU after this 56-0 victory. But Trevone Boykin (six total TDs) still looks incalculably more polished than a year ago. He has a diverse array of receivers and backs at his disposal, and the Frogs' 614 total yards were their most since 2011. To TCU's credit, Minnesota was solid in a 30-14 win against the dumpster fire in Ann Arbor. The Horned Frogs' offense couldn't have asked for a better start to 2014. It's time to find out what they're made of against the Sooners.

5. Texas still has issues: If Texas plays against Baylor next Saturday the way it did in Lawrence, Kansas, it probably doesn't stand much of a chance. Charlie Strong won't get too mad about a 23-0 victory that snaps a two-game slide, but he won't spend much time celebrating it, either. Texas never had to sweat too much, thanks to Montell Cozart's four interceptions, but its patchwork offensive line remains a work in progress (Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray combined for 73 rushing yards), and scoring points is still a struggle. Still, Texas did at least do what it needed to and gave Strong his first Big 12 win. KU showed some nice things in the run game and has a better defense than you think, but its offensive execution in many trips into Texas territory was fruitless.
In today's Twitter mailbag, we discuss Thursday night's game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and preview the games this weekend.

On to the 'bag:

@jake_trotter: Definitely. Look at last night alone. Forget the three turnovers, the Red Raiders left 10 points off the board directly because of penalties. Jakeem Grant's kickoff return touchdown. And the delay of game that pushed Tech out of field-goal range. Add those 10 points, and the game would have been tied. Tech is explosive enough offensively for this to be a bowl team. But when you shoot all the toes off your feet, it's hard to beat anyone. And Tech is going to have a hard time beating anyone as long as they lead the nation in penalties and lose the turnover battle.

@jake_trotter: I hear Garman Airlines will be taking plenty of flights this fall.

@jake_trotter: I would be deflated too if my team led the country in penalties. That said, everyone needs to show a little patience with Kingsbury, just like they need to show a little with Charlie Strong. Kingsbury has recruited well. He needs time for more of those prospects to make an impact. It hasn't been pretty so far this season, but it's way to early to judge Kingsbury.

@jake_trotter: Iowa State still has a chance to be a good, solid team in my opinion. But we're also talking about a squad that got run out of its own stadium by North Dakota State in the opener. So no, a win in Ames won't exactly quiet the doubters. But if the Bears win the following three games at Texas, TCU and at West Virginia, you won't hear a peep from the Baylor doubters.

@jake_trotter: If anyone deserves a break, it's West Virginia. In facing Alabama, Maryland and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers have played the toughest schedule in the country so far. So the open week comes at the perfect time. West Virginia can reset, heal and gear up for the final two-thirds of the season. If the Mountaineers play like they did the first third, they will win a bunch of games the rest of this season.

@jake_trotter: The player who has really impressed me so far this is Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. He has been the most impressive defensive linemen in my opinion, despite the Longhorns' troubles elsewhere. Other guys who have caught my eye so far: Kansas State's Ryan Mueller and Travis Britz, Baylor's Shawn Oakman, Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey, Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips and Charles Tapper, Kansas' Keon Stowers and TCU's Davion Pierson.

@jake_trotter: Well, yeah. If the Horned Frogs defeat Oklahoma, they have to be considered a legitimate Big 12 contender. That is going to be a huge game for the Frogs. Perhaps, in fact, the biggest of the TCU Big 12 era.

@jake_trotter: Anything is possible, but I have a hard time seeing K-State winning in Norman and Waco. That said, before the season, one of my bold predictions was that K-State would win one of those road games. I see no reason to back off that prediction just yet, either.

@jake_trotter: I asked my wife about this and she vetoed it. However, she said if Iowa State knocks off Baylor and Oklahoma in Ames, then I can do it. So we're on, provided you find me a barber familiar with the Cy logo..

The numbers aren’t pretty.
  • 3.8 yards per carry.
  • 10 penalties for 129 yards.
  • 4 of 12 conversions on third down.
  • 8 of 16 opponent conversions allowed on third down.
  • One momentum-halting red zone interception before the end of the half.

That’s not a recipe for winning football.

Yet Oklahoma State defeated Texas Tech, 45-35, at Boone Pickens Stadium on Thursday night in a game full of big plays, mistakes, penalties and miscues from both teams. It was a game OSU felt fortunate to win and, undoubtedly, the Red Raiders feel they gave away.

“When you can make as many mistakes as we made and win, it’s a plus,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “You don’t get away with that very often. We made a lot of mistakes but were still able to win the game.”

It was a game that, in the past, OSU would have found a way to lose, particularly after injuries catapulted even more youth onto the field.

That’s not the current version of Gundy’s Cowboys, however.

In a year billed as a rebuilding campaign, Gundy’s team sits at 3-1 after four games despite losing 17 starters who combined to start 393 games off a team that finished 10-3 in 2013. It’s another clear step forward for the Pokes under Gundy as they’ve immediately replaced talented players with talented -- albeit, inexperienced -- players. In a lot of ways, it’s fulfilled the vision Gundy had in mind when he took over the program in 2005.

Only seven players on the roster have started more than four career games and eight true freshmen find themselves on the Cowboys' two-deep. And the Pokes have no choice but to count on that unproven talent to get the job done in 2014.

“I see all those freshman out there, it makes me nervous,” Gundy said. “We have a ton of true freshmen out there, it’s scary. They’re competing, but you’re lost. You know it’s like being in ninth grade and going to high school and you’re just kind of looking around, that’s what they’re doing right now.”

Yet, they're still winning.

A near upset of the nation’s No. 1 team, Florida State, was the first sign this group of Cowboys might be better equipped to compete this season than anyone expected. Then three straight wins over Missouri State, Texas San-Antonio and Texas Tech, despite subpar play and plenty of youthful mistakes, were another sign of the program’s growth.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way around here to play that many freshman and compete,” Gundy said. “Long term I thought that [the goal was seamlessly replacing talent with talent]. But I think, at times, I wasn’t smart enough to realize it’s not easy. But we’re further along than I thought we would be with so many young players.”

The Thursday night odyssey of true freshman cornerback Ramon Richards is a perfect example. One minute he was on the sideline, the next minute he was thrown into the heat of battle, chasing Red Raider receivers around in his first-ever conference game after starter Ashton Lampkin was injured. Tech went right after him but Richards won his share of battles including a interception. The freshman had no idea what he was getting into, but the atmosphere that surrounds him each day had helped lay the ground work for his five-tackle performance.

“Ramon had like 70 snaps [in three games] but he saw how those guys had approached practice,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “Then he says, ‘Hey if I’m going to stop this, I better pick up my preparation and do what these guys are doing.’”

That has been the most encouraging sign of all for Gundy. His inexperienced players are making up for that lack of experience with their competitive nature, mental approach and unusual composure.

“I told them in the locker room after the game, the one thing I liked, they were more composed than I was,” Gundy said. “In the fourth quarter, I lost my composure several times. We talk about that, instilling that in them, and they were better than I was.”

Big 12's top recruiting visits 

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
12:55
PM ET
With four weekend games on tap this weekend, the Big 12 will have an opportunity to add some quality players. It’s already been an interesting week, as ESPN 300 defensive back Kevin Henry (Oklahoma State), athlete Tony Nicholson (Baylor), lineman Broderick Washington (Texas Tech) and linebacker Breckyn Hager (Texas, flipped from Baylor) already have declared their college futures.

Of the four games, only one involves a Big 12 team on the road. TCU travels toward the eastern Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to face rival SMU. Here are two home games pitting Big 12 foes to keep an eye on, as it could be a big weekend for recruiting.

Texas at Kansas
Thursday night, Oklahoma State defeated Texas Tech 45-35 in the Big 12 opener for both teams.

Here were my thoughts on the game:

The long ball figures to be Oklahoma State’s bread-and-butter going forward with Garman: This is not the sharpest offense Oklahoma State has featured under Mike Gundy. But with Daxx Garman at quarterback and some big-play receivers at his disposal, this offense has the ability to throw the ball downfield as well as any offense Gundy has had. Garman completed six passes of 30 yards or more against Tech, and had chances to connect on several others. Marcell Ateman, true freshman James Washington, Tyreek Hill and tight ends Blake Jarwin and Jeremy Seaton were all part of the barrage. Brandon Sheperd, Jhajuan Seales and David Glidden all have the ability to go deep, too. At varying times since 2011, the Cowboys have been seeking a consistent offensive identity. They now appear to have one. It’s a little bit feast or famine, underscored by a drive chart Thursday that included six three-and-outs. But with all six of their touchdown drives against Tech coming in five plays or fewer, the Cowboys showed they are also capable of putting up points at any moment.

Tech won’t break out of its slump until it eradicates the penalties: The Red Raiders played much better in Stillwater than they did in the 49-28 home thumping Arkansas gave them two weeks ago. Quarterback Davis Webb came out on fire, and the Red Raiders basically controlled the game through the entire first half. Yet, Tech still trailed at halftime 21-14. The reason? Penalties and turnovers. Tech was penalized 16 times for 158 yards, and currently leads the nation with almost 106 penalty yards per game. Jakeem Grant had a kickoff return for a touchdown negated by a holding call. The Red Raiders also lost an opportunity at a field-goal try because of a delay of game. That’s 10 points Tech left on the field in a game it lost by, that’s right, 10 points. "I have to figure out something to tone that down, because we are not going to win any more games the rest of the year if we keep doing stuff like that," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. Kingsbury is right. No matter what else Tech does, it is going to be a long season until the Red Raiders correct their penalty problem, and fast.

The Cowboys have to get Hill more involved: Hill is an immense talent. But since the opener against Florida State, the Cowboys have struggled to find ways to get the speedy back involved. Before the season, Gundy said he wanted to get Hill 20-25 touches per game. But in each of Oklahoma State’s past three games, Hill has gotten exactly nine offensive touches. The Cowboys actually did a better job of involving Hill in the second half Thursday. In the third quarter, they lined him up in the slot, and he beat the defense down the middle for a 50-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Hill popped through on a well-designed, 17-yard draw on third-and-18, which led to a first-down conversion on fourth-and-1. That draw was the key play on a drive that ended with a field goal that put the Cowboys up by two scores for good. Hill is too explosive, though, to only be getting nine offensive touches per game. But the second half could be a sign offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is finally getting a feel for how to utilize Hill more often.

What Oklahoma State can take from this game: Before the season, this was the key game on the Cowboys’ schedule. With it now out of the way, Oklahoma State has a great chance to move to 5-1 before heading to Fort Worth for an Oct. 18 clash at TCU. The Cowboys still have plenty to correct before then. The offensive line yet again didn’t impose its will in the running game, despite facing a defensive front that gave up 438 yards on the ground to Arkansas. The Oklahoma State defense also had issues early on covering up Tech’s nickel-and-dime passing attack, and was dreadful at times with its tackling. That said, there is a lot to like about this team in what was supposedly going to be a rebuilding year. The offense with Garman has big-play ability. And the defense is loaded with young players who seem to be getting better with every appearance. Oklahoma State doesn’t have the look yet of a Big 12 contender. But the Cowboys could still do a lot of damage in the league.

What Texas Tech can take from this game: This was actually the best game Tech has played so far this season. Webb was on point early, and Grant, Reginald Davis and Bradley Marquez made big plays in the passing game. The run defense also made huge improvement in Mike Smith’s first game as coordinator, limiting the Cowboys to just 3.8 yards per carry. But while plugging the run, the Red Raiders were left vulnerable downfield, and the Tech defensive backs repeatedly failed to make plays in one-on-one situations. Even then, had it not been for the penalties and three turnovers, this was a game Tech could have won. In many ways, this is a performance the Red Raiders can build on. But it won’t amount to much unless they can also fix their penalty problem.
Sometimes, life gets in the way of football.

But that didn't stop a couple of Oklahoma State Cowboys fans at a childbirth class from keeping an occasional eye on the Oklahoma State-Texas Tech game on Thursday night.

 

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