Oklahoma Sooners: Joseph Randle
With all the success he’s had during his career in Stillwater, Mike Gundy is still searching for his first win in Norman, Okla. as a head coach. And OU coach Bob Stoops is 5-1 against the Cowboys during his tenure.
During the Cowboys' last trip to Norman in 2009, they appeared to have their best chance of giving Gundy his first win with the Sooners playing a makeshift offensive line in the midst of a disappointing 8-5 season.
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While there has been plenty of attention on the Cowboys quarterbacks and their success, running back Joseph Randle's excellence has been the foundation of the offense. The junior running back brings versatility, toughness and big-play ability to the table. He’s not Tavon Austin, but he presents problems of his own.
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With Kasitati also now lost for the season, the Sooners will lean on Austin Woods and Ty Darlington for depth.
But offensive line coach James Patton said Tuesday that starting right tackle Daryl Williams could move to guard in a pinch. If that happened, the Sooners would probably move Lane Johnson from left to right tackle, and bring in Tyrus Thompson in at left tackle.
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“I expected a lot from him when he got here, he’s a San Diego cat so you know he got skills,” Jefferson said. “I feel like he’ll play an important role in our offense this year.”
Said Stills: “We all heard about each other when we were growing up through scouting. I knew he was gonna help us in the run game.”
Even Clay, who battles Williams for playing time at running back, believed the junior college transfer could make this type of impact.
“Damian Williams played for my rival [in high school],” Clay said. “He can play, I know he can ball out. Him and I went at it [in high school]. Him and I are great competition, we’re going to feed off each other.”
Four games into the season, Williams is making the Cali Trio look prophetic while proving to be the Sooners' most complete and explosive running back.
2011 record: 12-1 | 2011 conference record: 8-1 (Big 12)
OU’s all-time against Oklahoma State: 82-17-7
Top returners: RB Joseph Randle, FB Kye Staley, WR Josh Stewart, WR Tracy Moore, OG Lane Taylor, DT Nigel Nicholas, LB Shaun Lewis, LB Alex Elkins, CB Brodrick Brown, CB Justin Gilbert, S Daytawion Lowe, P/K Quinn Sharp
Key losses: QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin Blackmon, WR Josh Cooper, C Grant Garner, RT Levy Adcock, DE Jamie Blatnick, DE Richetti Jones, S Markelle Martin
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Joseph Randle* (1,1193 yards)
Passing: Brandon Weeden (4,328 yards)
Receiving: Justin Blackmon (1,336 yards)
Tackles: Daytawion Lowe* (97)
Sacks: Jamie Blatnick (8)
Interceptions: Justin Gilbert*, Brodrick Brown* (5)
What they’re saying: "Our facilities gave us a chance a number of years ago. We've had tremendous continuity with our coaching staff. We had a plan and we were able to stick with it, particularly in recruiting and our thought process and how we wanted to approach it, the type of young men we were looking for, try to be very detailed in how they fit in our style of play and what kind of character they had and whether football and graduation and things that we think would contribute to success was really important to that particular player. And sustaining it, again, it comes down to recruiting and having quality people in our organization.” – head coach Mike Gundy
Three things to watch:
1. The Oklahoma State Cowboys went from having the oldest starting quarterback in college football to one of the youngest. All eyes will be on true freshman Wes Lunt, who won the starting job in the spring. Lunt figures to go through growing pains. But whether the Cowboys can be viable Big 12 title contenders depends on how fast he grows up.
2. There may not be a better corner duo in the country than Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown. Physical and fast, Gilbert and Brown will allow defensive coordinator Bill Young to focus the rest of his defense on stuffing the run. If they play up to their potential, OSU might have its best defense in 15 years.
3. Who will be OSU’s primary pass-catcher now that Justin Blackmon is gone? The Cowboys don’t have a lot of production returning at receiver with Josh Cooper also gone. Then again, nobody had heard of Blackmon two years ago when the Cowboys were trying to replace Dez Bryant.
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He looked at his top 10 candidates from the Big 12, ranking them from top to bottom.
Topping the list?
West Virginia's Geno Smith. Huston pegged Oklahoma's Landry Jones as the No. 3 candidate, but had a moderate surprise at No. 2 with Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein on his list of "Contenders"
"Klein was probably the toughest player in college football last year, pound for pound," wrote Huston. "I can’t remember the last time I saw a player improve as much as Klein did between his sophomore and junior seasons."
No arguments here. The guy carried the ball 317 times, 67 more times than anybody else in the Big 12 and third-most in the nation. He took a beating every week and kept improving, kept running and kept growing as a passer.
I might have Jones ahead of both Klein and Smith, but it's definitely close. Klein needs wins and production to gain some more name recognition, but he's everything to Kansas State's offense.
I liked Huston's picks as the three dark horses, too.
TCU quarterback Casey Pachall topped that list, ahead of running back Joseph Randle at Oklahoma State and receiver Tavon Austin from West Virginia.
I think it'll be tough for Austin to legitimately win as a receiver, but if OSU and TCU start racking up wins by the bushelful, Randle will make an appearance on the short list, as will Pachall, who has three outstanding targets in Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter.
Check out Huston's blog for his list of longshots, which includes four boys in burnt orange from Texas.
In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.
1. Texas A&M
The Aggies had the two most talented backs, and despite injuries to both, proved it through an otherwise frustrating 2011. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, but still managed 899 yards on just 149 carries. Cyrus Gray injured his shoulder late in the season, but secured his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and ranked third in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 198 times. This duo should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards, but even when they were injured, Ben Malena played well in the final two games.
Mizzou dealt with injuries, too, first to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Cue Henry Josey. Josey became the best back in the Big 12 this year before suffering a major knee injury that included torn ligaments. He may not be back in 2012. His 1,168 yards were third most in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 145 times. Lawrence finished 12th with 566 yards.
3. Oklahoma State
Joseph Randle stole the show this year, rushing for 24 scores and ranking second in the Big 12 with 1,216 yards. Only Collin Klein ran for more touchdowns and Terrance Ganaway was the only player with more yardage. Still, Jeremy Smith had averaged more than 7 yards a carry, and he'd be able to start for anyone else in the league. Herschel Sims showed promise, too, with 242 yards on 31 carries.
Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing with huge performances late in the season, including a 200-yard, five-touchdown game in his final outing as a college athlete in the Alamo Bowl. He averaged more than 6 yards on his 250 carries and had 330 more yards than any other back in the league. Jarred Salubi added 331 yards, too.
Texas' Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were banged-up late in the season, but Fozzy Whittaker played well until suffering a torn ACL against Missouri, too. Scatback D.J. Monroe was effective in the passing game as well. Four running backs topped 300 yards and Brown led the team with 742 yards, despite missing three games and having his carries limited early in the season.
It makes us all look like geniuses.
So, for the purpose of this, I'll assume a few predictions. First, I'll assume Robert Griffin III is heading for the NFL. I'll also assume Mike Stoops lands back at Oklahoma.
That said, it's time to project what this league looks like in 2012.
And, before we start, let me make this clear: The Big 12 from 1-6 is absolutely wide open. Last year, the league only had three legitimate title contenders: Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This year, every one of the top six teams (and maybe seven, if RG3 returns) can win the Big 12 in a realistic scenario. The difference between Nos. 2 and 6 is minuscule and could change a ton by the end of spring practice.
And for the curious: I would have Missouri behind Kansas State on this list, and I'd have Texas A&M right behind Texas.
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners moved into the familiar role of favorite after Landry Jones announced he'd return in 2012, but not nearly as heavy a favorite as they were in 2011. Injuries hurt Oklahoma late this season, and replacing Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander, along with linebacker Travis Lewis and corner Jamell Fleming won't be easy. Receivers Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds have to play big for the Sooners to get the win.
2. Kansas State: The big question mark for this team is can it take care of business and not get stuck in close games in 2012? The Wildcats were 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season. They can't count on duplicating that in 2012. They should be better, and return most of the big pieces from this season's 10-win team, most importantly quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown. Next season is the time to prove it.
3. West Virginia: Who else is excited to see Geno Smith, Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineer Express show up in Big 12 country next season? Like I wrote last week, giving up 33 points and still winning by five touchdowns is the Big 12 way of life. The Mountaineers broke Baylor's week-old bowl scoring record with 70 points, and bring back most of a good Big East champion team in 2012. The transition won't be easy, but they've got a chance to make a big splash in their inaugural year. The Big 12 and West Virginia are both convinced that the Mountaineers will join the Big 12 in 2012 and are planning as if it will happen, though pending lawsuits with the Big East mean it's still unofficial.
Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
Landry Jones had four turnovers in the Sooners' 44-10 loss to Oklahoma State.
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- The proud Pokes finally did the deed.
The goalposts came down, and the Oklahoma State flags went up.
Red state? Blue state? For the first time since 2002, Oklahoma is an orange state.
The impact of Saturday's dominant 44-10 Oklahoma State win over Oklahoma was far-reaching. After voters from coast to coast slot LSU No. 1, they'll have to decide on No. 2: Alabama or Oklahoma State?
But on this night, the Cowboys had a chance to enjoy the simpler pleasures, too.
All that politicking and SEC mudslinging will last less than 24 hours.
This win on Saturday night? It'll last a whole year and bleed everywhere -- from coffee shops to elementary schools across Oklahoma.
Coach Mike Gundy says he's immune from the ever-present smack talk. But everybody else?
"I know it affects the players," Gundy said. "And coaches' families, their kids. I've got three kids that go to school, and all the coaches have kids. They want to win. That's what their dads do. That's just a fact. Whether you like it or not, there's legitimate reasons for us to win, so when they go in those restaurants, they don't have to listen to, 'Hey, y'all made it all the way to No. 2 in the country, but you still didn't beat OU.'"
"It's one thing to hear it around the rest of the state, but when you go home and you have to hear people talk to you about it, it makes it worse," said receiver Justin Blackmon, who hails from the heart of Sooner country. His hometown of Ardmore, Okla., is only about 80 miles south of Norman.
"I know they won't be able to talk," Blackmon said.
The simple truth: Wins like these are more special for the folks in orange. They don't see them quite as often, but that number is growing.
For a year, they'll relish the first outright conference title in school history and the first since they shared a conference crown in 1976.
Gundy called it the most gratifying football moment of his career, overtaking the first time he beat Texas in 2010.
"Nothing compares," said the career Cowboy, who has spent 21 years as a player, assistant and now head coach at Oklahoma State.
This one was special.
"We've earned their respect over the last four, five, six years, so it's different," Gundy said. "There were a number of years we didn't even have their respect. They respected us, and that helps, but still, you've gotta beat 'em. Otherwise it's always, OSU has got to this level or that level, but they've never beat OU."
And Gundy, in a fashion that turned the second half into a party atmosphere instead of a tense one, became the first coach since that coaching savant down in the Bayou, Les Miles, to knock off Oklahoma as the Cowboy-in-chief.
The Cowboys didn't beat Oklahoma. They beat the heck out of Oklahoma. The offensive line: "Phew, dominant," quarterback Brandon Weeden said with a shake of his head.
Weeden had enough time in the pocket for most of the night to craft each of his linemen a handwritten thank-you note to hand out in the postgame locker room, where Gundy obliged his team with another one of his patented dance sessions.
"I had no choice," he said. "I'm a YouTube sensation. There's no telling what'll be on there next."
That was only after a well-deserved Gatorade shower.
"God, that was cold," Gundy said.
Yeah, Oklahoma fans felt the same way.
Oklahoma State running backs Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle -- who combined ran 22 times for 178 yards and four touchdowns -- found holes from the offensive line wide enough that if the two were Siamese twins, their numbers might not have been much different.
The last time Oklahoma State took the field, Iowa State fans stormed it. Saturday night, it was the Cowboys' turn, all before slapping on orange shirts and white hats declaring them "Big 12 Champions."
Fans braved the nine-foot drop from the stands to the field at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Weeden stopped and posed for an endless string of photos. Players celebrated among the mob.
"I had my helmet on, and I got slapped in the head so many times, I might have a concussion," Weeden joked.
He stopped and shook Pickens' hand after. Those hundreds of millions of dollars that Pickens handed over to the school he loves so much? BCS National Championship Game appearance or not, it's paying off.
Oklahoma State, for the first time, is the Big 12 champion.
"To see [the players] enjoy that, that's a huge thrill for me, because there's so much that goes into this," Gundy said. "I just want them to be able to enjoy it."
They will. And so will the rest of the Oklahoma State family.
Oklahoma State has completely dominated to this point, even more complete than anyone probably could have expected. A mental block against the Sooners, who have won eight consecutive Bedlams? I think not. OSU is on point. The Cowboys are a better team than Oklahoma, but not this much better. The Cowboys are out to prove something to ... pretty much everyone.
Oklahoma banged in a 48-yard field goal at the halftime gun.
Turning point: Oklahoma needed to move the chains. Facing a 3rd-and-6 at the OSU 19-yard line, OSU brought a big blitz and linebacker Alex Elkins knocked the ball away from quarterback Landry Jones. Defensive end Jamie Blatnick scooped it up and rumbled, young man, rumbled 59 yards down to the Oklahoma 1-yard line. Joseph Randle punched in his 22nd rushing touchdown of the season a play later to give OSU total control at 17-0. OU went three-and-out on the ensuing possession.
Stat of the half: Oklahoma has inexplicably ignored its running game, despite not having receiver Ryan Broyles. Jones has thrown the ball 38 (!) times. The Sooners' backs have carried the ball just eight times.
Best player in the half: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. Weeden's been very, very sharp while Jones has struggled. The Cowboys passer has completed 14 of 21 passes for 156 yards and consistently moved the chains, though he hasn't thrown a touchdown pass yet. The Cowboys have been running free on intermediate throws over the middle, and Weeden's been on the money all night.
What Oklahoma needs to do: Find a balance between a fast-paced offense capable of putting up points and an offense that doesn't ignore the running game. If it sounds near impossible, that's because it is. But that's life with a 21-point deficit at halftime against the nation's No. 3 team. Oklahoma's passing game simply isn't the same without Broyles. Against the kind of pressure OSU's defense puts on opposing offenses, that's abundantly clear tonight. Did Oklahoma feel like it had to come out and outgun OSU?
What Oklahoma State needs to do: Uh, everything it just did. Lost in the "24" on the scoreboard is the "3." Oklahoma State's defense has been aided by a few drops, but they've tackled well, hit harder than Oklahoma and has been sound everywhere with no busts. Opportunistic turnovers have surfaced, too. For Oklahoma State, if it wants a chance at the title, it better keep scoring and preventing Oklahoma from answering. Now is not the time for mercy. Now is the time for style points.
All you need to do is glance at the stat sheet to see why the Cowboys lead, 10-0.
Brandon Weeden has completed 8 of 10 passes for 115 yards, and the Cowboys offense has been as sharp as ever. The running game is rolling too. Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle have run for 53 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Everything Oklahoma State has wanted to do offensively is working.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma has made moving the ball on Oklahoma State look pretty difficult. Landry Jones has completed just 9 of his 18 passes for 84 yards and an interception deep downfield in the end zone.
The running game? Nonexistent. Brandon Williams has three carries for nine yards and Trey Franks added four on an end around.
Analyze it all you want. This doesn't take much.
Oklahoma State has sprinted out front and the reasons are obvious.
Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. broke down a few of the matchups between NFL talents we're apt to see during Saturday's game.
You'll need ESPN Insider to see the whole thing and more on each matchup, but here's some of what Muench sees.
Oklahoma QB Landry Jones vs. Oklahoma State S Markelle Martin
It's important that Jones get his rhythm back this week, especially when throwing over the middle.Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon vs. Oklahoma CB Jamell Fleming
Martin reads quarterbacks' eyes, is instinctive and closes well when the ball is in the air. He's also shown above-average ball skills and he isn't afraid to jump routes.
Fleming doesn't have shutdown cover skills, but he can also hold up in underneath coverage thanks to his speed and fluidity. However, Blackmon's strength will be a distinct advantage in this matchup.Oklahoma State RT Levy Adcock vs. Oklahoma DE Frank Alexander
Oklahoma State's pass-heavy scheme also puts Alexander in a bit of a catch-22 against the run. He can't simply fly upfield and play the run on the way to the passer, because that will make it easy for Adcock to turn him outside when the Cowboys run the ball.Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle vs. Oklahoma WLB Travis Lewis
In terms of the passing game, Adcock can anchor and protect the edge working against Alexander. However, Alexander is relentless and won't give up when he doesn't win with his first move.
Lewis is an effective tackler who locates the ball quickly, takes sound pursuit angles and wraps up on contact. He doesn't stack and shed particularly well, though, so Randle must run with vision and make Lewis fight through blocks when pursuing. Lewis can't afford to start running around blocks in an effort to get to the speedy Randle, either, because he isn't explosive enough to recover if he gets caught out of position.
Good stuff from the scouts. Check out the full story.
Thanks to the passing of Landry Jones and the running of Blake Bell, the Sooners go toe-to-toe with the Pokes early. But after withstanding a couple of quick OU scoring strikes to open the third quarter, Brandon Weeden's offense pulls away in the fourth to give the Cowboys their first outright conference title in 63 years.
- Jake Trotter
Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35
The Cowboys finally get over the hump thanks to a late turnover by the Sooners which ends a potential game-winning drive. The weather has a impact on OSU as they struggle to make big plays through the air but still make enough plays to pull out the victory. OU leans on its running game to put up points but three turnovers prove costly.
Pick to click: Freshman Brandon Williams flashes the potential that has had Sooners fans drooling all season with one long touchdown run as he secures the first 100-yard game of his OU career.
- Brandon Chatmon
Oklahoma State 31, Oklahoma 22
Weather is going to play a big role in this one as freezing rain that could turn into snow is being expected. In a battle of the running games, it is OSU's Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith that get the best of OU's Roy Finch and Brandon Williams in helping the Cowboys earn a Big 12 championship and their first BCS bowl appearance.
Pick to click: The secondary has heard for the last two weeks about how the "sharks" moniker needs to go away. The group responds with an inspired game. Led by Jamell Fleming, OU's secondary will cause at least two turnovers.
- Bob Przybylo
Spring Game Wrap-Up
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
TBD North Dakota State Iowa State TBD Louisiana Tech Oklahoma TBD North Texas Texas TBD Stephen F. Austin Kansas State TBD Samford TCU TBD Central Arkansas Texas Tech 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 8:00 PM ET Florida State Oklahoma State