Texas Longhorns: Tavon Austin

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
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After 16 years, the BCS era is finally over. Next season, college football will have a playoff instead.

With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:

Offense

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesWith Vince Young at the helm, Texas won a national title and Rose Bowl.
QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05) -- Young led Texas to its first national title in 35 years with an unforgettable performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. The Heisman runner-up also became the first QB in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season.

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.

OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.

OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.

OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.

APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.

Defense

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.

DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWest Virginia receiver and returner Tavon Austin had a huge 2012 season.
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002) -- Newman was a solid player for Bill Snyder his first three seasons, then broke out as a senior. Newman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and the Thorpe winner, given to college football’s top defensive back.

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.

Special teams

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.

KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.

Best WR tandems in Big 12 history

November, 4, 2013
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The Big 12 has featured some prolific wide receiver tandems over the years.

Baylor’s Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley, however, have a chance to top that list.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley, Tevin Reese
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAntwan Goodley and Tevin Reese rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in receiving yards per game.
This season, Reese is second in the Big 12 with 118 yards receiving a game. He trails only Goodley, who leads the league with an average of 128 yards receiving. They are a big reason why the Bears are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game that were set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989.

But Reese and Goodley aren’t the only big-time duos in the Big 12 this year.

Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett have been lighting it up since returning from injury. The last two weeks the two have totaled five touchdown catches.

Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lead the Sooners with five touchdowns apiece. Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant are fifth and sixth in the league in receiving. Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore are beginning to warm up with Clint Chelf at QB. And Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis have been stalwarts in this league for years.

But who are the best tandems ever to play Big 12? We lay it out below.

Tight ends were not included (sorry Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman). The tandems were evaluated on what they accomplished together, not on whether their careers simply overlapped (eliminating Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, for example); and, this is a list for duos, not singles, trios or quartets (apologies to Rashaun Woods, and the 2008 Oklahoma and 2010 Baylor receiving corps).

To the list:

1. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012): In their only year in the league, this tandem was one-two in the Big 12 in receiving, combining for 224 receptions and 2,914 receiving yards. Bailey himself had 25 receiving touchdowns; nobody else in the league had more than 13. Austin, meanwhile, also rushed for 344 yards in one game at running back. As Bailey tweeted out earlier Monday morning on this topic, “case closed.”

2. Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, Texas Tech (2007): Crabtree got all the headlines in 2007 on his way to winning his first of two Biletnikoff awards. But out of the slot, Amendola quietly put up 109 receptions for 1,245 yards, as Tech went 9-4.

3. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, Texas (2008): Shipley and Cosby starred on one of the three best Big 12 teams that didn’t win a conference title. The two each had 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs from QB Colt McCoy, as the Longhorns finished the year 12-1, their only loss coming on Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown in the final seconds in Lubbock. The two were also prolific on special teams, with Shipley’s kick return touchdown sparking Texas’ 45-35 comeback win over Oklahoma.

4. Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State (2011): As with Crabtree-Amendola, Blackmon got all the attention on his way to a second Biletnikoff award. But Cooper was a pivotal piece in OSU’s first Big 12 title team, as he racked up 71 receptions out of the slot. Blackmon, of course, had a monster year with 121 catches and 18 touchdowns.

5. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, Baylor (2011): Reese was actually the third wheel to this duo, which shined with RGIII at quarterback. Wright was an All-American with 108 catches, 1,663 yard and 14 touchdowns. Williams was big time, too, finishing fifth in the Big 12 in receiving before taking over the No. 1 role in 2012.

6. Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (2010): Broyles led college football with 131 receptions on his way to becoming the all-time FBS leader in career catches. Stills broke OU’s freshman single-season receiving record, as the Sooners stormed back to capture the Big 12 crown after a pair of midseason losses.

7. Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2008): It might be difficult to remember now, but the Jayhawks used to play some ball. Meier tied Crabtree for second in the league with 97 receptions. Briscoe trailed only Dez Bryant with 1,402 receiving yards. This was an underrated duo.

8. Quincy Morgan and Aaron Lockett, Kansas State (1999): On one of the first passing teams in the Big 12, Morgan and Lockett shined. Morgan had 42 receptions for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first-team all-conference selection. Lockett, Tyler Lockett's uncle, was a second-team all-league pick for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and finished the year ranked sixth in the polls.

9. Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani, Texas Tech (2005): Neither might be a household name around the Big 12 anymore, but these two were both first-team All-Big 12 selections in ’05 along with Iowa State WR Todd Blythe.

10. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (2004): Clayton carried the moniker of best receiver in OU history until Broyles came around. Because of Adrian Peterson, Clayton’s numbers dipped in ’04, but he was still an All-American with 66 catches. Wilson led the Sooners with 11 TD grabs, as OU advanced to a second consecutive national championship game.

Position breakdown: Running back 

February, 12, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Like the quarterback position, there are plenty of options for Texas at running back in 2013.

And, as it is at quarterback, there is also a clear top option, Johnathan Gray. Not only is the rising sophomore the leading returning rusher (701 yards), but with the switch to the spread offense, he presents Texas with a more tools than the other two possible starting running backs, Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown.

Gray has plant-and-go ability that is superior to the other possible every-down backs. That means he can be utilized as a big-play threat in many more scenarios than Brown and Bergeron. He also works in space better than the other two backs. And given that the spread offense not only spreads the offense but the defense as well. It’s only natural that play-caller Major Applewhite is going to tinker with a variety of ways to get Gray the ball this spring.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Dana Holgorsen’s run game was going nowhere.

And since Texas was only on West Virginia’s schedule once, the Mountaineers coach was searching for answers.

[+] EnlargeDaje Johnson
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesDaje Johnson showed promise in his limited touches as a freshman.
"We had to do something," he said after the decision to move wide receiver Tavon Austin to running back.

That decision paid off, as Austin went for 344 rushing yards against Oklahoma.

"It probably should have been done four years ago," Holgorsen said in the postgame. "Moving him around and giving him some different matchups was probably a pretty good idea."

It’s an idea -- an epiphany, if you will -- that Texas needs now, so that three years from now, when rising sophomore Daje Johnson is on the doorstep of exhausting his eligibility, as Austin was, the Longhorns coaches are not looking back, lamenting and mumbling, "You know, if we would’ve ... "

Now, while Johnson is not quite as mercurial or shifty as Austin, he does have similar abilities. And as he grows into the game, so too will his repertoire. But in the run game, those talents need to be fertilized.

As a freshman, Johnson only touched the ball on running plays an average of 2.2 times per game. (He was suspended the first game of the season.) He averaged 7.5 yards per run.

(Read full post)

Trending up or down: Big 12 in 2013

December, 18, 2012
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Colleague Phil Steele checked in with our ESPN Insider folks for a look at all 70 bowl teams Insider... in 2013.

What can they all expect next season? You'll need Insider to see his full comments, but he weighed in on the nine Big 12 bowl teams.

Baylor's stock: Down

My take: I'd lean more toward even for the Bears. They're losing Nick Florence and Terrance Williams, but Tevin Reese is a strong candidate to continue the receiver tradition at Baylor under Art Briles, and Lache Seastrunk might end up being the Big 12's best back next year. Don't be surprised if new QB Bryce Petty is even better than Florence. It's very easy for me to see Baylor winning seven (or more) games next year, and once again, it's hard to see the defense getting worse.

WVU's stock: Even

My take: The record might be the same (7-5) next year, but I would lean toward trending down for WVU, just because it won't have the upside or potential of this year's team. WVU was good enough to win 9-11 games this year, but with a new QB, no Tavon Austin and no Stedman Bailey, it's tough to see next year's team being able to make that claim.

Texas' stock: Up

My take: How up depends on David Ash's development, once again. When he played well early in the season, Texas looked like it could beat a whole lot of teams. When he struggled against KU and Oklahoma, Texas didn't look like it could beat anyone. The defense can't be any worse.

TCU's stock: Up

My take: Way, way, up. Maybe more up than any team in the country. TCU was 70 percent freshmen and sophomore this year and still managed to go 7-5. It has tons of talent on both sides of the ball, and running back Aaron Green, a blue-chip transfer from Nebraska, will be on the field. Quarterback Casey Pachall may return, too. Big 12 title contenders.

Iowa State's stock: Even

My take: I'd agree. Sam Richardson showed some promise, but I don't know if I see a true impact player there. ISU still has to improve its skill position talent in a big way to truly make the jump from fringe bowl team.

Oklahoma State's stock: Up

My take: Other than TCU or Texas, no Big 12 team's stock should be more up next year. OSU can absorb the loss of Joseph Randle if he leaves, and if he stays, OSU will likely have the Big 12's best offense with a good O-line, maturing QBs and experienced backs. They'll go from seven wins to a Big 12 title contender.

KSU's stock: Down

My take: Agreed here. It's pretty simple. This is a very, very experienced team with two huge talents in Collin Klein and Arthur Brown that will be difficult to replace. K-State has a lot of potential at QB in Daniel Sams and juco commit Jake Waters, but Chris Harper will be gone, too. John Hubert and Tramaine Thompson will have to play big, and the offensive line will have to lead the way.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Nearly 11 months ago, before the celebration became subdued, Texas coach Mack Brown stepped in front of his team to tell them where he had been and where they were going.

A pattern had been established, he explained. Steps his past teams had taken that were to be followed by the present one – Holiday Bowl, BCS bowl, BCS title game. It had happened twice before -- 2003, ’04, ’05 and 2007, ’08, ’09. Now, the coach told those players fresh off a Holiday Bowl win, he -- and they -- were poised to make it happen again.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesQuarterback David Ash has bounced back from a rough game against Kansas to lead the Longhorns to an 8-2 record.
Thanks to Baylor, Brown was right. With two weeks to go and the possibilities still endless, the Bears' victory over Kansas State has cleared a path for Texas to make it to a BCS bowl. Of course, that is predicated on Texas winning out, grabbing second place in the Big 12 and the almost certain BCS at-large bid that comes with it. Oh, and by the way, one of those wins would have to come at Kansas State.

But, after a season of head slaps as well as some heady play, Texas, even though everything didn’t always go as planned, will gladly take it.

Now the Longhorns just have to figure out how to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them by the Baptist school to the north. By the way, had West Virginia managed to either make an extra point or a two-point conversion, the Longhorn faithful, giddy with the possibility of a conference title, might have been bowing in the direction of Morgantown as well.

(Read full post)

AUSTIN, Texas -- Kenny Vaccaro is a senior.

He's a leader.

He's the spirit of the Texas defense.

And he is at a loss.

[+] EnlargeKenny Vaccaro
John Albright/Icon SMISenior safety Kenny Vaccaro has been the most consistent part of Texas' inconsistent defense this season.
"Right now all I can say is we've got to keep working hard and I don't have all the answers," said the Longhorns safety.

It's impossible to have all the answers when it comes to the Texas defense because there are so many questions. Why can't Texas tackle? What's wrong with Carrington Byndom? Is Mykkele Thompson really the answer at safety next to Vaccaro or should Adrian Phillips be the guy? What will change when and if Jordan Hicks comes back?

The questions, much like the points scored by West Virginia, abound.

One place where there are no questions though is with the play of Vaccaro.

"Kenny has been the key," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "He has played great. He is tough and he is smart."

But the issue remains that Vaccaro has been the exception rather than the rule. As a whole, the Texas defense has not lived up to the hype manufactured by the media. And it is not just since Hicks went out in the third quarter against Ole Miss. There were cracks in the foundation as far back as Wyoming and the Keystone cops missed tackle that led to an 82-yard touchdown. And even further, according to Brown.

"I've seen this from spring that we were giving up yards," Brown said.

(Read full post)

Five thoughts: WVU 48, Texas 45 

October, 7, 2012
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Here are five thoughts following Texas’ 48-45 loss to West Virginia

Watch out for the overreaction
I was listening to the post game show and I heard from four or five different people from host to callers that this is a normal Texas team that will go 8-4. The Longhorns could have easily won this game. Was it their fault that they lost? Yes. Do they have correctable mistakes? Yes.

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Texas doomed by inability to get stops

October, 7, 2012
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Though things might not seem this way right now, not after Texas dropped a 48-45 shootout at home to West Virginia in head-shaking fashion, so much actually went right for the Longhorns on this night.

Consider, for a second, everything that played out in Texas’ favor.

Geno Smith threw for 268 yards. He hasn’t thrown a pick in five games yet he fumbled twice against Texas. He got sacked four times, as many as he had been all season.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Buie
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThe Longhorns allowed 192 rushing yards to West Virginia.
Between fumbles, field goal attempts and punts, West Virginia didn’t reach the end zone on six of its drives. WVU went 3 of 12 on third downs.

Texas wins the turnover battle. Texas scores a defensive touchdown. Texas blocks a field goal and a punt.

Another near-flawless game from David Ash. Another career-best performance from Johnathan Gray.

The list goes on, so long that even Mack Brown admitted it when asked about Texas’ good fortune after the game.

“If you had told me we would have done all those things,” Brown said, “I would’ve felt really good.”

This was as good a blueprint as you’ll find on how to beat West Virginia when the Mountaineers are playing their best. But stats weren’t winning this game, and Texas’ coaching staff had been saying that all week.

Despite all that had gone better than planned, this game came down to exactly what those coaches said it would come down to.

Texas couldn’t make a stop.

The Longhorns were supposed to have the Big 12’s best defense. On paper, it might’ve been the most talented starting 11 outside of SEC country. Who knows, it might still be down the road.

Right now, though, Texas can catch all the breaks in the world -- and it nearly did on Saturday night. Still have to make a stop.

“We knew that we were going to have to focus on getting stops,” cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “Throughout the game, that’s what our goal was. Just get one stop at a time.”

(Read full post)

Balanced attack pushes WVU over Texas

October, 7, 2012
10/07/12
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Geno Smith is used to having the game in his hands. It's been the story of West Virginia's season. Near the end of a chilly night in central Texas, that changed.

Smith's offensive line had a simple message for their Heisman candidate: "We got this. It's over. We're going to win this game," they said.

"Andrew Buie said, 'Put it on my back,' Smith said. "He put it on his back and led us to a victory."

Not just any victory. He led them to a 48-45 victory in West Virginia's first road trip in the Big 12, where they found a record crowd of 101,851 waiting at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium -- a crowd Texas coach Mack Brown called the loudest in 15 years.

Said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who was an assistant in the Big 12 for nine years: "I've never seen this place like that."

It even got after Smith at one point, serenading him with a "Geno Sucks" chant as he gestured to the crowd, egging them on.

"Where does that come from?" Smith said. "Obviously, I don't suck. I'll let them believe that."

[+] EnlargeAndrew Buie
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThe second of Andrew Buie's rushing TDs gave West Virginia a 48-38 lead.
Buie led them to a victory that helped West Virginia clear the highest hurdle of its Big 12 (or national?) title "marathon," as Smith called it.

The Big 12 title runs through Morgantown, with Kansas State and Oklahoma waiting later in the season.

Saturday in Austin, though, it was Buie's time.

"He carried us," said Smith, the man used to carrying the Mountaineers. "We knew we were going to need to run the ball, because those guys like to get after the quarterback."

Texas did exactly that, sacking Smith four times and twice forcing fumbles inside the West Virginia 20-yard line. Before tonight, Smith had been sacked three times in four games.

Buie's 207 yards? Holgorsen said he wasn't surprised by those. But the 31 carries? That was a head-turner.

"We did commit to the run," he said. "That was something we talked about early in the week, and there weren't any tricks, either. We lined up and we just ran it right at 'em. We felt like that was gonna be the difference. If we could do that, it was going to alleviate some of the pressure on Geno."

On West Virginia's final drive, needing points to ice the game, the Mountaineers handed the ball to Buie on seven of eight plays. He turned them into 63 yards, capping his big night with a five-yard touchdown run, his second score of the night. While his teammates ran wild and kicked off the party on the West Virginia sideline, he trotted back through a parade of backslaps before being bearhugged by his position coach, Robert Gillespie.

"If we would have just drop back pass after drop back pass, they would have had 12 sacks. Maybe 20," Holgorsen said. "We just felt like it would be in the best interest of our football team to commit to the run."

Texas stuck in its nickel package for most of the night with just two linebackers on the field, even when West Virginia used its jumbo packages with bigger bodies. Buie saw it as a sign of "disrespect," and proved he'd make the most of his opportunities.

"With coach Holgorsen, you never know what the game plan is going to be fully," Buie said. "You just always want to be prepared to run from whatever he's put inside the menu for that week. When he calls your number, obviously he has confidence in you to make plays."

Holgorsen (and Smith, who often checked to various running plays at the line of scrimmage) had confidence in Buie 31 times on Saturday night. Buie was likely West Virginia's No. 3 back entering the season behind Shawne Alston and a recuperating Dustin Garrison. He looked like a man well deserving of the No. 1 spot against one of the Big 12's top defense. Before last week's 25 carries, Buie had never had more 15 carries in a game, and hadn't topped even 100 yards in a game. He had 52 carries in his entire freshman season in 2011.

Since 2009, Texas was 18-0 when winning the turnover battle. The Horns won it 2-1 on Saturday, but Buie's effort helped the Mountaineers overcome both of Smith's fumbles and move into the driver's seat for the Big 12 title.

"We're not going to force the ball. We're not going to force the issue. We'll take what you give us. I'm a smart quarterback, I understand defenses. I understand how to exploit them." Smith said. "The offensive line did a great job of getting all those guys, finishing blocks, getting to the second level. Buie was reading it and cutting back. Yards after contact was big. He ran hard tonight."

Think West Virginia's offense is just Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey? West Virginia proved otherwise.

Instant analysis: WVU 48, Texas 45

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
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AUSTIN, Texas – If there was any doubt as to whether West Virginia is the best team in the Big 12, the Mountaineers gave their answer on Saturday night.

In front of a Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium-record crowd of 101,851, West Virginia didn’t flinch even despite two Geno Smith turnovers. Its much-maligned defense made stops on two crucial fourth-quarter Texas drives, and its offense -- thanks to a remarkably potent rushing attack - was as good as advertised in the 48-45 victory.

Here’s how it all played out:

It was over when: Anthony Fera missed a 41-yard field goal with 5:25 left in the fourth quarter. A Smith fumble put Texas at WVU’s 12-yard line, but the Longhorns took a 16-yard loss on a bad snap on third down. Fera, a Penn State transfer making his Texas debut after a groin injury had sidelined him all season, pulled the kick wide right.

Game ball: Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. Their Heisman-favorite quarterback gets most of the press, but Bailey and Austin were what broke this Texas defense. Bailey caught three touchdown passes, and Austin added another score, 102 receiving yards and 111 yards on kick returns.

Game ball, part II: Andrew Buie. The West Virginia running back burned Texas time and time again on Saturday night, hitting the soft middle spot of the Longhorns defense for a season-high 207 yards and two scores on 31 carries. He entered the night averaging 56 rushing yards per game.

Stat of the game: 5-for-5. West Virginia was perfect on the night on fourth-down conversions despite going 3-for-12 on third downs. The biggest pickup came in the first quarter, when Smith hit Austin on fourth-and-4 and he broke upfield for a 40-yard touchdown.

What it means: West Virginia is firmly in the driver’s seat for the Big 12. Its much-hyped Air Raid attack had no problem scoring on an athletic Texas defense that was supposed to be among the conference’s best. Texas, meanwhile, must go back to the drawing board and figure out how to fix its still-porous D. The loser of Texas-Oklahoma next Saturday may need lots of help to get back into the conference title discussion.
Shipley-Bailey US PresswireTexas' Jaxon Shipley and West Virginia's Stedman Bailey have been clutch for their QBs in 2012.
Texas and West Virginia have a pair of quarterbacks leading the nation in passer rating.

That's no big surprise for the Mountaineers' Geno Smith, who earned a nod as the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year without playing a down in his new conference.

But the Longhorns' David Ash? No Big 12 quarterback had worse numbers a year ago, and he ranked last in the Big 12 in passer rating as a true freshman.

Smith and Ash had different stories entering the season, but through four games, they have one big thing in common: They're getting a lot of help from a corps of receivers who have been overshadowed by their quarterbacks' accomplishments.

That, and they'll both be playing Saturday night in Austin, Texas, when West Virginia heads to Texas for its first Big 12 road trip.

"You start looking at all three receivers, Marquise Goodwin, Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley. They’ve helped us so much," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "[Receivers coach] Darrell Wyatt's got them blocking downfield, maybe more than ever before. They're very unselfish."

Shipley hauled in three touchdowns in the Longhorns' 41-36 win over Oklahoma State, but Davis had one of the game's biggest plays, catching a jump ball for 32 yards to set up Joe Bergeron's game-winning, albeit disputed, touchdown run.

Ash said after a 66-point outburst against Ole Miss that he was the "master of the underthrow," but his receivers made him look good, turning questionable accuracy into touchdowns.

Goodwin caught only two passes against the Rebels but turned them into 102 yards and a touchdown. He carried the ball just twice but rushed for 80 yards, highlighted by a 69-yard touchdown run.

"It's been a different guy that seems to get the ball in his hands each week, and they've caught the balls when they're thrown to them," Brown said. "This time last year, I don't think Marquise had even caught a pass. He was just trying to learn the offense. Mike Davis stayed hurt all year, and Jaxon Shipley was a true freshman.

"One of the reasons we're playing better on offense is all three of those receivers have really stepped forward."

At West Virginia, though? High octane has become even higher octane. Anybody who saw Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin a year ago had high expectations, and they've exceeded them.

"They made a lot of plays last year. You guys didn’t see it because of the different conference and all that, but you're still talking about two returning 1,000-yard receivers who made a lot of plays at a pretty high level," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Year 2 in this system obviously helps, and just the rapport that they've got with Geno is helping as well."

The duo combined to catch 27 passes and make up 518 of Smith's 656 passing yards in last Saturday's 70-63 win over Baylor. Austin leads the nation in receptions per game, and he has topped his previous week's reception totals and receiving yards each week of the season.

Bailey and Austin are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, nationally in receiving yards per game, behind only Baylor's Terrance Williams.

"The rapport they have with Geno is going a long ways," Holgorsen said. "They've been hanging out together for going on four years now, been playing a whole lot of football now for four years, and Geno and Stedman goes back even further than that."

The former high school teammates have hooked up for 10 of Smith's 20 touchdowns. Smith leads the nation in touchdown passes by four. Bailey's caught three more touchdowns than anybody in the country. Who's No. 2? Well, it just happens to be Austin (tied with USC's Marqise Lee and New Mexico State's Austin Franklin).

"There's a lot of reasons why things are working the way they are. It's always about what have you done lately and all that," Holgorsen said. "In addition to those guys, the O-line is playing tremendous. Joey Madsen’s probably had his best game since he's been here, and he's going on being a four-year starter. We've got some pretty good experience up front, and Year 2 in this system makes everybody a little more comfortable as well."

For Austin and Bailey, it shows. The same is true for Shipley, Goodwin and Davis in Year 2 under new coordinator Bryan Harsin in Austin.

Texas and West Virginia have seen better quarterback play than anybody in the country so far. It's clear, though, that neither has done it alone.
AUSTIN, Texas -- For as much publicity as West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is receiving, he’s not racking up these video game-type numbers without someone catching his passes.

The collection of wide receivers he has are about as good a group as one will find anywhere in the country, and it begins with the trio of Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and J.D. Woods.

[+] EnlargeJ.D. Woods
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesJ.D. Woods is one of several West Virginia pass-catchers who have put up big numbers this season.
“They are unbelievable,” said Texas coach Mack Brown. “Two of them are 5-foot-10 and can fly. Woods is 6-foot-1. They’ve caught 19 of the 20 touchdowns.”

Eight of those touchdowns -- yes, eight -- came in last week’s 70-63 victory over Baylor.

Bailey had the game of a lifetime by catching 13 passes for 303 yards and a school record five touchdowns (47, 20, 2, 87 and 39). He played most of the game from the slot as opposed to the outside receiver position he has normally played.

His outrageous performance, which included setting the Big 12 record for most receiving yards in a game only to have Baylor’s Terrance Williams break it in the same game with 314, has pushed his season totals to 41 receptions for 635 yards and an FBS-leading 10 touchdowns. His 158.8 receiving yards per game is second best in the country.

(Read full post)

Campus location: Morgantown, W.Va.
Nickname: Mountaineers
Conference: Big 12
Record: 4-0, 1-0
Record vs. Texas: 1-0

Last game: The Mountaineers put 70 on the board against Baylor in a 70-63 win. The combined 133 points in the game set a record for the Big 12 Conference. The two quarterbacks, WVU’s Geno Smith and Baylor’s Nick Florence, combined for 1,237 yards. That total is only 16 yards shy of the single-game record of total yards thrown for by opposing quarterbacks.


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Today is the next step in a new series on the Big 12 blog that we've never done before. I love predicting the standings from top to bottom, but we're going to do it week by week leading up to the season. The goal is to offer my official prediction for each Big 12 team's record heading into the bowl games.

Remember, these are preseason predictions. We'll obviously still do week-to-week picks once the season arrives, and they might change between now and then. There are a lot of preseason practices, and a lot of games between now and the end of the season.

There are always teams that disappoint and teams that surprise. But here's how I see the Big 12 shaking out in Week 10.

PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS
WEEK 10

West Virginia 38, TCU 28: The Horned Frogs will be walking into a powder keg in Morgantown. A year ago, these teams were to meet in a conference game, but who would have figured it'd be a Big 12 game instead of a Big East game? WVU takes care of business against a TCU secondary that can't handle the Tavon Austin-Stedman Bailey duo. Big game for Geno Smith. Two consecutive losses for TCU after starting 7-0.

Texas 31, Texas Tech 17: Texas has had some tough games in Lubbock, including a hard-fought win in 2010 to stay undefeated before the wheels fell off on a five-win season. Texas does the same thing it did last season and walks away a winner again, just not as emphatic. Texas uses a powerful running game to control the pace from start to finish.

Kansas State 28, Oklahoma State 24: Kansas State nearly knocked off the title contender in Stillwater last season. Kansas State got better. Oklahoma State's not as good. Kansas State takes care of business in Manhattan this time around, keeping the ball out of the offense's hands. OSU's biggest strength on defense is at cornerback. Collin Klein takes advantage of its biggest weakness, the defensive line. Snyderball, baby.

Oklahoma 37, Iowa State 24: These two played in maybe the windiest conditions of any game in the conference last season. Oklahoma didn't play its best, and receivers' drops were maddening for the Sooners' coaching staff. This time around, the Sooners' talent gap is pretty large when you compare the depth charts. Ames is proving to be a difficult place to play these days, but Oklahoma's got this one.

Baylor 27, Kansas 24: Baylor needed overtime and a three-touchdown comeback last season, and Kansas gives the Bears another scare. Nick Florence leads a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes with a touchdown pass to Jordan Najvar to win it. Kansas is threatening to break the barrier and its Big 12 losing streak, now at 15 games.

BIG 12 STANDINGS (after Week 9)

1. Oklahoma: 8-0 (6-0)
2. West Virginia: 7-1 (4-1)
3. Kansas State: 7-2 (4-2)
3. TCU: 7-2 (4-2)
3. Texas: 7-2 (4-2)
6. Oklahoma State: 6-2 (3-2)
7. Baylor: 5-3 (2-3)
8. Texas Tech: 4-5 (1-5)
9. Iowa State: 3-6 (1-5)
10. Kansas: 3-6 (0-6)

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