Big 12 Football Roundup

The publishers and editors of Scout's Big 12 sites provide an update on their respective teams following the first week of the college football season.

Baylor

Read more at Bears Illustrated www.scout.com/college/baylor

The Good: The Bears rolled in a 55-7 victory over Northwestern State Friday night. The Bears dominated in all three phases of the game, scoring 48 points in the first half, and holding the Demons to less than 50 yards total offense during the first 30 minutes. Special teams, a long weakness for the Bears, also impressed with solid kick return defense by not allowing a return longer than 19 yards. Tony Nicholson had a strong debut at punt returner, averaging over 20 yards per return, even with a touchdown called back. Defensively, the Bears new 3-4 look proved impossible for the Demons to beat with 12 of 15 drives not gaining a single first down and gaining only 1.3 yards per play for the entire game.   

The Bad: While the Bears cleaned up one issue they have struggled with in special teams, penalties were still a negative for the Bears. Twelve penalties for 93 yards is not good enough. Senior center Kyle Fuller had two costly holds in the first half. The Bears also had a punt return touchdown brought back due to a holding penalty. Baylor had few defensive penalties, but the Demons never posed enough of a threat to force much. Four of the Baylor penalties were pre-snap, things that are expected early in the season. The one bright side? The Bears only had 5 penalties in the first half with the starters playing the bulk of the time.  

Something to Keep an Eye On: With the Bears building a  41-0 lead, Zach Smith made his Baylor debut with just 2:48 left in the second quarter. With most of the first team offense still on the field, Smith led the Bears on a touchdown drive, completing two passes for 28 yards before Terence Williams ran the final yard for a touchdown. Smith was poised in his first college action, completing 5 of 7 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.  Smith is a big piece for the Bears as the only scholarship quarterback behind senior Seth Russell. His playing time early in the year is very important if Russell goes down with an injury. 

Iowa State

The Good: At least Northern Iowa is a solid FCS team. The Panthers advanced to the quarterfinals of their playoffs a year ago, and routinely compete for league titles. Still, that's the Missouri Valley Football Conference, not the Big 12, and that doesn't do a lot to assuage a 25-20 loss. Iowa State was able to rally to take a 20-19 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but couldn't convert on two subsequent possessions with the chance to get the win. In all, there just wasn't much for the Cyclones to hang their hats on.

The Bad: Make a list. It was just a bad debut for first-year head coach Matt Campbell, who saw his team commit a ton of mistakes. Four turnovers, nine penalties for 89 yards, shaky punting and three fourth quarter turnovers with the game in the balance combined to kill the buzz on the new era. Campbell also contributed by calling timeout before the last play of the half when Northern Iowa had lined up for a field goal attempt at the Cyclone 2-yard line. Given time to reconsider, the Panthers instead went for six, and got it when quarterback Aaron Bailey dove in to give them a 16-13 halftime lead.

Something to Keep an Eye On: Coming from a ground-first offensive system, Campbell was expected to lean heavily on star rusher Mike Warren. Instead, the sophomore got just 12 carries in the loss. Granted, his numbers were limited by ISU's abnormally low total of 53 offensive snaps, but for an offense that struggled to get much going, it seems like a low number. Watch for Campbell to try to get Warren more involved in the next game. That will depend heavily, though, on the play of the offensive line, which was poor against a stacked Northern Iowa front. The Cyclones averaged just two yards per carry and yielded three sacks against the Panthers, one of which resulted in a safety. The unit has been decimated by injuries and a suspension, but it will have to improve if ISU is to rally from this difficult loss.

Kansas

Read more at Phog www.scout.com/college/kansas

The Good: Kansas broke a 15-game losing streak with a 55-6 win over Rhode Island and the Jayhawks did on the stat sheet just as they did on the scoreboard with a total yardage edge of 570-to-219. Still, it took a special teams play to ignite the Kansas barrage as after an empty first offensive series, senior Chevy Graham came through on the coverage of the punt for new special teams coordinator Joe DeForest, who has been at Oklahoma State and most recently West Virginia in the Big 12. Graham recovered a muff by Rhode Island and set quarterback Montell Cozart and the offense for the first touchdown. Cozart started and threw for 199 yards on 18-of-25 passing with three touchdowns and he threw one interception.

The Bad: The 15-game losing streak and KU breaking it, even against an FCS opponent, inspired the students that were left from the crowd of 28,000-plus to start the game to storm the field. It was a meek storming of the field and one that the Kansas athletic administration was not very happy about as the few students left ran in and around players shaking hands and preparing to go to the dressing rooms.

Something to Keep an Eye On: The competition steps up next week with a meeting with MAC opponent Ohio at 1:30 p.m.(CT) at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.

Kansas State

The Good: Kansas State lost the game to eighth-ranked Stanford on the road 26-13, but the Wildcats actually outgained the Cardinal 335-yards-to-272. The difference was the Cats threw two interceptions and Stanford lost one fumble so the home team won the turnover battle and the battle of field position as K-State averaged starting out at its own 23-yard line and Stanford started on average from its own 37-yard line. That is a significant difference. Other than a couple of series Jesse Ertz was the guy at quarterback and was efficient with a 16-of-34 passing night and 207 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Charles Jones was the rushing leader with eight carries for 43 yards.

"Well, it's pretty much a mixed bag. I think number one, the biggest thing was penalties. Continually putting in a difficult situation,” head coach Bill Snyder said. “I thought we had some opportunities on deep balls that, you know, we had a drop. We had a couple of slip downs. We had maybe some, well, yeah, I think we had some opportunities there that wasn't good. But I mean, there was just absolutely no consistency with us offensively. There were a couple times we -- I say a couple times, but a couple drives where we ran the ball reasonably well, but we struggled most of the night to run the ball. Obviously we were not extremely effective throwing the football for a variety of different reasons.”  

The defense was really good, especially in the second half as they never allowed Stanford and Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey to get comfortable.  

The Bad: If the offense doesn’t get more consistent and show the ability to strike with some big chunk plays the Wildcats could lose a lot of games they are competitive in, but not explosive to get a lead.

Something to Keep an Eye On: A real key to better play on offense might be the offensive line, which is full of new starters.

“I thought in the first half they did a commendable job considering,” Snyder said of the offensive line. “Stanford's awfully good up front. They're a good defensive football team. I thought in the second half we were maybe not quite as effective. We had more issues in the second half. But then again, we got to that point in time where we had to throw the football, and Stanford knows if you're going to throw the football, they've got some pretty good guys coming after you. They kind of exposed us in that respect.”

Oklahoma

Read more at Sooners Illustrate www.scout.com/college/oklahoma

The Good: There really wasn’t much good other than Oklahoma springing to an early lead, the good or the backbreaker in Houston’s favor -- guess it’ll be called Kick-6, Part II, at least for Houston fans. OU kicker Austin Seibert’s rhythm was thrown off and a would-be 53-yard field goal turned into a touchdown return the other way by Houston’s Brandon Wilson in a 33-23 loss. Confusion among OU’s special teams group forced the Sooners to call a timeout and allowed Houston to regain its composure to make the call to have a returner waiting in the end zone.

The Bad: OU’s disappointment was across the board. Where to start? Bad penalties. Couldn’t get off the field on third down. Outmuscled at point of attack the entire time on both sides of the ball. Offense getting rattled. Terrible game-changing special teams blunder. You want more? Not the opener OU fans envisioned.

Something to Keep an Eye On: Well, the way OU is able to bounce back. The Sooners, of course, lost their fifth game last year before running the table. This time around it will have to be the final 11 games. Easy? No. But OU is lucky because you get one bad break it feels like in college football. If OU cleans it up vs. Ohio State in two weeks, big picture remains in play.

Oklahoma State

Read more at Go Pokes www.scout.com/college/oklahoma-state

The Good: Oklahoma State took control on the scoreboard early and won the way you should, 61-7, versus an FCS opponent. The Cowboys defense played really well, forced turnovers, the offense was good with Mason Rudolph completing 18-of-26 for 188 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions before retiring early for the day. A lot of players played and there were no serious injuries. The running game was better, special teams sensational, but the level of competition was what it was. It will be more challenging next week and throughout the season. The most exciting part for fans, and also some long-timers in the program, was the play of Barry J. Sanders with his 18-yard reception that set up a one-yard touchdown and then a 57-yard punt return that came very close to mimicking a return his father, who was watching in the stadium, made against Texas A&M some 28 years ago.

"It was pretty neat. We all thought about him making plays, and he's been tremendous,” head coach Mike Gundy, a teammate of his dad’s, said of the younger Sanders after the game. “There is a lot of pressure on him, unjustified, but that's the world we live in. It was good that he could make some runs, break some tackles and make some guys miss. Then obviously on the punt return, his dad returned a punt against somebody out here. It was about at that part of the field, and it looked a lot like that... (Sanders) made three or four guys miss. He's been solid back there and trustworthy. There's a role back there for what he does for our team."

The Bad: If there was any negative it may have been the crowd, which while listed at 50,079 didn’t look like that many. Season tickets are at a six-year low which is disappointing for a program that has been on the rise for the past decade.  

Something to Keep an Eye On: The continued work on the running attack. The offensive line seemed to block better and all five running backs expected to play did, and all five had highlight plays. Chris Carson scored the first touchdown on a very explosive and powerful 14-yard run. Sanders had the reception out of the backfield and the punt return plus the short touchdown run. Jeff Carr had the longest run of the day of 26 yards, Rennie Childs the second longest run of the day at 25 yards, and freshman Justice Hill had a solid 5.5 yards per carry average. Keep an eye on how they do next week against Central Michigan.

Texas

Read more at Horns Digest www.scout.com/college/texas

Texas played Sunday night game against Notre Dame, so see the address above or Horns Digest on search for the latest on the Longhorns after their first game of the season.

TCU

Read more at Horned Frogs Insider www.scout.com/college/tcu

The Good: The offense was good. New quarterback Kenny Hill, who came from his Kenny Thrill days at Texas A&M, threw two interceptions but finished with 33 completions on 49 attempts for a whopping 429 yards and two touchdowns. The TCU offense got in gear and a good thing because it took all of three quarters plus to get even and then pull ahead of a high powered Jack Rabbits offense from South Dakota State. Hill also rushed for 45 yards on seven carries and had seven different receivers catch at least two passes for over 20 yards, so the ball was spread around pretty well. In the eyes of TCU head coach Gary Patterson, offense wasn’t the issue on Saturday night.

The Bad: TCU was a hot mess on defense against South Dakota State as they went up and down the field on the Frogs usually competent 4-2-5 defense. Patterson was frustrated and felt that his defense was not in game condition and struggled with the Jacks tempo and looked slow in pursuing the SDSU playmakers. After three quarters the Jacks had 437 yards to become the first FCS team to put 40 points or more on a Gary Patterson TCU defense.

“We’ve got to get them in playing shape and get them ready to go,” Patterson said. “There’s only one person I can blame and that’s me. Obviously, I didn’t do a very good job of getting them get things fixed. The second half, we did a better job. We’ve got to clean up our free safety position. Our linebackers have got to tackle better. And we’ve got to rush the passer better.”

Something to Keep An Eye On: One word, Arkansas! The competition gets much better next week when the Razorbacks travel to Fort Worth.

Texas Tech

Read more at Raider Power www.scout.com/college/texas-tech

The Good: Texas Tech rolled up 758 yards on the way to a 69-17 win over Stephen F. Austin in the season opener Saturday night, but all anybody wants to talk about is the defense which looks much improved over the past several seasons. It starts up front where transfers Ondre Pipkins at nose guard and Kolin Hill at defensive end dominated for much of the game. Pipkins finished with a team-high five tackles, including one for loss, while Hill tallied a couple tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry. Beyond the stats the pair were un-blockable all night and look to be as good, if not better, than expected coming out of fall camp.

The Bad: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury was furious with the second-team offense which looked sloppy after the starters were pulled midway through the third quarter with a 52-3 advantage. He took the blame in the postgame press conference and said the second-team group will be much improved next time out. 

Something to Keep an Eye On: This may be “Captain Obvious,” put Patrick Mahomes continues to impress with his stellar play. The junior signal caller looked as good as ever in the opener with 483 yards, four touchdowns (to four different receivers), no interceptions passing along with 57 yards, two scores on the ground.

West Virginia

Read more at Blue Gold News www.scout.com/college/west-virginia

The Good: The odd 26-11 final score of West Virginia's season-opening win over Missouri was reflective of the game itself, but the overriding positive was that the Mountaineers gained a win over an SEC foe. The Tigers aren't going to challenge for the league title, but West Virginia upheld a bit of Big 12 pride in getting the victory.

WVU's defense, which was a major question mark coming in, held the Tigers to a single field goal over the first 57 minutes of the contest. Although Missouri did pile up 462 yards of total offense, it took them 100 plays to do it.

The Bad: West Virginia struggled mightily in the red zone – an occurrence that kept the Mountaineers from turning the game into a laugher. Although West Virginia was 5-for-5 from inside the 20, four of those were field goals. Turning a couple of those three-pointers in sevens would have give WVU a much bigger lead, and allowed it to play a few more players than it otherwise did.

Something to Keep an Eye On: WVU took another injury hit, losing starting left tackle Yodny Cajuste on the third series of the game. Cajuste had a large ice bag on his knee, and while there was no announcement immediately following the game as to his status, his absence left the Mountaineers even more short-handed up front. WVU will get back Adam Pankey, who as suspended for the Missouri game, for its game next week against Youngstown State.


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