For better and for worse, week one of Big 12 football is officially behind us. Frankly, it wasn’t a great week for the conference, but there were a couple of performances that stood out. Let’s break down the good, the bad, and the ugly of week one.
Fair warning: Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, and Texas Tech fans may want to avert their eyes.
Oklahoma’s Post Baker Mayfield Offense – The Sooner’s offense looked as good as any in the country. With Heisman winner, and first overall pick in the NFL draft, no longer on the roster, some wondered if dual threat quarterback Kyler Murray could keep the offense as much of a scoring machine as they were in years past. After the season opener with Florida Atlantic, a very good group of five school, the answer seems to be yes.
Murray completed 9 of 11 through the air for 209 yards and two scores. He also used his legs to pile up 23 yards in a solid performance in his limited time on the field.
The star of the show though, was running back Rodney Anderson. He tallied 100 yards and 2 touchdowns on just five carries. All in all, Oklahoma put up 63 points in route to a 63-14 victory and moved the ball with ease. The UCLA defensive coaching staff might want to pack plenty of antacid for their trip to Norman on Saturday.
Will Grier’s Heisman Chances – Grier completed 25 of his 34 attempts for 429 yards and 5 scores. Those numbers, the most of any power five quarterback in week one, awarded Grier the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week along with Walter Payton’s Nationwide Offensive Player of the Week award. Grier and his receivers showed that this WVU team is a force to be reckoned with, and all Big 12 defenses should be scared. Needless to say, If Grier keeps that kind of performance all season, the Heisman should fall right into his lap, and maybe some team hardware as well.
West Virginia’s New 4-2-5 Defense – The Mountaineers, typically known for a three-man front defense under Tony Gibson, broke out a 4-2-5 defense against Tennessee. West Virginia has a well of defensive line talent, and Gibson took advantage of it.
“Obviously, you saw a lot of rotation between me, Zeke (Rose) and Jabril (Robinson) and what we decided to do was to throw everybody in there at the same time when Kenny (Bigelow Jr.) was playing the nose,” Defensive end Reese Donahue said after the game. “Really, that four-down, anyone can play any position. We’re not limited to me and Kenny playing inside because if we have to we can put Kenny at end because he knows exactly what to do.”
The Volunteers had a hard time getting a push upfront as last year’s 60th-ranked rush defense was no longer a pushover. The held the Vols to just 129 yards on the ground on 38 carriers. The numbers don’t tell the full story, either. The majority of Tennessee’s offense came on just a couple of drives when WVU had the game in hand, and was simply out to protect their lead.
“They schemed us up a little bit with our three-down in the second half,” Gibson said after the game. “They were running some inside zone, and they got that off of Oklahoma. That was what Oklahoma was doing to us a year ago, and once we made our adjustment then we kind of took it away in the fourth quarter.”
It was a significant improvement from a year ago, and it should be fun to watch how that defense develops over the season.
Thunderstorms in Ames – Rain put Iowa State’s season opener on hold. The Cyclones were slated to play South Dakota State and open their season, and they did for about five minutes. The game ended up being cancelled because of weather, and the Cyclones will face a much tougher task to open the season in week two.
The Cy-Hawk rivalry between Iowa and Iowa State will be Cyclone Nation’s first real chance to see what they are about. Obviously a cupcake to open the season is a better way to feel out new players but the weather didn’t cooperate.
However, for those five minutes they did get to play, Iowa State didn’t look too bad and was already up 7-0 when the game was called.
Texas Isn’t Back – At least that’s what their season opener indicates. Texas traveled to Landover, MD, to take on the Terps in what was supposed to be a revenge game for what happened last season in Austin. Unfortunately, the story ended the same this season, just in a different location. After a lightning delay, and fighting all the way back from down 24-7 to leading 29-24 at the end of the third quarter, the Longhorns choked down the stretch and lost 34-29.
The hype in Austin was overrated once again as the offense was extremely inconsistent and the the defense, the overwhelming strength of this team, wasn’t particularly imposing. Maryland racked up 405 yards of total offense, and the team that started the season 23rd in the AP Poll, is now not even receiving votes.
It’s not the start Longhorn Nation looked forward to. It’s not the start they were promised. And while Tom Herman seems to think Texas played just fine, Longhorn Media would very much disagree.
“Sure, it might have seemed like the Longhorns made all of the same mistakes they did last year, and that the offense showed no signs of progress from a season in which it ranked as one of the worst in the Big 12, but that’s only because we did not notice any of the details Herman and his staff did.”…”And although we know-nothings might have assumed it might be a unnerving to lose a second-consecutive opener to a moribund program that had spent the past month mired in a scandal, and was playing for an interim head coach, and had not beaten any ranked team aside from UT in 22 tries dating back to 2011, it’s actually not that big of a deal.”
“Sorry, Tommy Boy, you earned this. All of it. And I’m not talking about the money, because no one earns checks of that size; they steal those.”…”No coach in recent memory thrust out his chest, strutted, smacked that bubblegum, scowled and tried to intimidate the masses while acting as if he owned the place without having done a thing on this level more than Tommy Boy Herman.”
It’s getting ugly in Austin, and it may get worse before it gets better. Texas faces the likes of USC, TCU and Oklahoma over the next five weeks. As it looks right now, best case may be a 2-4 start to the season. And that’s if they beat Tulsa and Kansas State.
The Entire State of Kansas – Both Kansas and Kansas State had an absolutely embarrassing week one. The Wildcats faced FCS team South Dakota and needed a couple of missed field goals to narrowly walk away with a win. At least they escaped with the win, though. Kansas wasn’t as fortunate. Over in Lawrence, the Jayhawks hosted the FCS’ Nicholls Colonels, and ending up losing in overtime.
Whatever the Jayhawks were doing on Saturday, it was barely football. They only managed to put 255 total yards on a team that finished third in the Southland Conference last season. Despite the poor offensive performance, they had a chance to win late in the game. After scoring a touchdown and converting on the 2-point conversion, the Jayhawks led by three with less than five minutes in the game. All they had to do was keep the Colonels out of field goal range. As you should be able to figure out based on the outcome of the game, they didn’t. Nicholls sent it to overtime where Kansas settled for three on their possession and Nicholls answered with a game-winning touchdown.
The loss is so bad, and Kansas is so far from where they were in David Beaty’s first year, many wonder if he will make it to the end of the season as Kansas’ head coach.
K-State at least held onto their late-game rally, but there wasn’t much to cheer about. If they continue to play like they did on Saturday, there aren’t too many wins left on the schedule.
Statistically, it was a pretty typical K-State performance, if you know, they weren’t playing a team that finished .500 in their FCS conference. The Wildcats put up 256 yards rushing with another 152 yards passing. They just couldn’t hold onto the ball as they gave up four turnovers on the day. And had it not been for a missed field goal off of a fumble recovery in the final seconds of the game, those turnovers could have cost K-State the game.
The Wildcats have a lot to work one before Mississippi State shows up to Manhattan on Saturday.
Texas Tech’s Anticipated Debut of an Actual Defense – Defense was all the rage in Lubbock over the off-season as the return of several defensive stars promised a marked improvement in an area where they have been the butt of many college football jokes. Forty-seven Mississippi points later and Red Raider Nation’s hopes were as empty as the liquor store shelves in Lubbock.
The Red Raider’s run defense was atrocious as the Rebels averaged 7.5 yards a carry. With that kind of average, I’m not sure Mississippi needed to throw the ball, but they did as quarterback Jordan Ta’amu racked up an additional 336 yards through the air with two touchdowns.
It took Mississippi all of two plays to score to open the game and it was a sign of things to come as Texas Tech was embarrassed in a game they entered into as a slight favorite.
In all fairness, true freshman quarterback Alan Bowman being thrust onto the national stage when starting quarterback McLane Carter went down with an ankle injury didn’t help matters. Carter is a game time decision next week against Lamar. So, hopefully he can make it back sooner rather than later, because for yet another year, Tech is going to need as much offense as it can get.