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October 22, 2013

Recon Report: The gauntlet

A week after being held to half their average output in a 35-25 win in Manhattan, the Bears flexed their offensive muscles and posted some style points in a 71-7 win over Iowa State. As impressive as the offense was (714 total yards), the Baylor defense deserved just as much praise. Phil Bennett's unit held Iowa State to just 174 yards of offense and didn't allow a point until inside the final minute of the game. The 174 yards allowed was Baylor's best defensive effort against a conference opponent since 1990. One of the key BU defenders was linebacker Eddie Lackey, who posted a team-high eight tackles, a sack, 1.5 TFL and a fumble recover which earned him Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. Offensively, the Bears were led by another huge receiving day from Antwan Goodley. The Big 12's receiving yards and touchdowns leader caught 11 balls for 182 yards and two more touchdowns, giving him 861 yards and eight touchdowns through six games. Lache Seastrunk had another two touchdown day, while racking up 112 yards on 18 carries. Bryce Petty posted 343 passing yards with both of his scoring strikes going to Goodley. Petty also added a 6 yard rushing TD. It was Baylor's 4th game with at least 700 yards of offense this season. On special teams the Bears had both a punt return and kick return for a touchdown. With the 6-0 start Baylor climbed to 5th and 6th in the polls and 8th in the opening BCS standings. The Bears travel to Lawrence on Saturday night to face 2-4 Kansas at 6.
Whether it was gimpy starter Sam Richardson or redshirt freshman backup Grant Rohach at quarterback, the 1-5 Cyclones failed to get anything going offensively in their 71-7 loss in Waco. ISU managed just nine first downs versus the Baylor defense and 57 of their 174 total yards came on their lone scoring drive which ended inside the final minute of the game. Rohach hit Devondrick Nealy for a 27-yard touchdown pass for the Cyclones' only score. RB Aaron Wimberly was held to just 21 yards on five carries and lost ISU's second fumble of the season. The 'Clones converted only 25 percent of their third downs and looked like an overmatched and run down team that has now lost three in a row and doesn't get a reprieve in each schedule until the final month of the season when three of its final four games are against TCU, Kansas and West Virginia. Defensively, Jeremiah George continues to lead the Big 12 tackles (69) averaging 11.5 per game. Next up is an 11 a.m. kickoff this Saturday in Ames vs. No. 19 Oklahoma State. Iowa State famously derailed the Cowboys national title hopes in 2011 in Ames, upsetting OSU 37-31 on a Friday night game when the Pokes came in ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Playing without its most explosive playmaker, Tony Pierson, the Kansas passing game struggled mightily again despite posting an early 13-0 lead on Oklahoma. A week after posting just seven first downs in a 27-17 loss at TCU, KU mustered just 12 first downs at home vs. Oklahoma and almost all of them came on the ground. RB James Sims turned in a productive line of 129 rushing yards and two touchdowns and backup Darrian Miller added 67 more on nine carries (7.4 ypc) but KU quarterback Jake Heaps completed just five passes. Heaps was 5-13 for 16 yards and a touchdown and was briefly spelled by Montel Cozart (a freshman QB whose redshirt was pulled Saturday) who did not attempt a pass but rushed for eight yards on three carries. Kansas hopes to get Pierson back this week and he was reportedly close to playing on Saturday. Pierson has been out since suffering a head injury against Texas Tech two weeks ago. Also missing Saturday was All-Big 12 linebacker Ben Heeney -- KU's leading tackler -- who hopes to return this week. Kansas plays host to No. 5 Baylor on Saturday at 6 p.m. Baylor rallied to beat KU in overtime 31-30 in its last trip to Lawrence in 2011. Down 21 points in the fourth quarter, Robert Griffin III helped engineer the largest fourth quarter comeback in Baylor history.
The Wildcats had an open date last weekend and used the week to not only prepare for Saturday's tilt with West Virginia, but also to get healthy. KSU's top two receivers, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson, have missed the bulk of the last two games but both are expected to play Saturday. Boston Stiverson could also be back contributing on the offensive line. Despite competitive efforts at Texas (31-21), at Okahoma State (33-29) and versus Baylor in Manhattan (35-25), KSU is off to an 0-3 start in league play. Add in their season-opening loss to North Dakota State and the Cats are 2-4 at the midway point needing to close 4-2 to be bowl eligible. The second half schedule is favorable starting with West Virginia this week at 2:45 p.m., followed by another home game with Iowa State on 11/2. The last time KSU missed out on the bowl season was 2009 -- Snyder's first season back on the sidelines following the brief Ron Prince era -- when the Cats finished 6-6. K-State fans are hoping for better in 2013, but the Wildcats have their work cut out for them.
In fashion similar to the Red Raiders, Oklahoma spotted Kansas a two-score lead in Lawrence, falling behind 13-0 early. The Sooners would then score 25 consecutive points to grab a hold of the lead for good and eventually win 34-19. The win improved the Sooners to 6-1 and helped them move up to 15th in the polls. Bob Stoops is now 15-0 the week after the Texas game. The biggest highlight on the day came from receiver Lacoltan Bester who hit Sterling Shepard in stride on an end-around pass late in the second quarter to give OU it's first lead at 15-13. It was one of two TD receptions on the day for Shepard (7 catches, 82 yards), the other coming from Blake Bell. The Sooner starting QB was 15-25 through the air for 131 yards, 2 TDs and an INT. He also rushed for 53 yards. Despite the 60 percent completion rate, Bell didn't look especially sharp for the second week in a row and it's clear OU has become more reliant on it's run game (235 yards) rather than throwing downfield with Bell. Damien Williams led the Sooner rushing attack with 56 yards and a TD on 15 carries (3.7 ypc) and Roy Finch provided a nice spark with 53 yards on just 7 carries (7.6 ypc). Defensively, playing again without Corey Nelson and Jordan Phillips, the Sooners gave up 185 yards on the ground as KU senior James Sims ran for 129 yards on 23 carries (5.6 ypc) and two touchdowns. OU stymied KU quarterback Jake Heaps though -- holding him to just 16 yards. The Sooners now return to Norman for homecoming on Saturday at 2:30 versus Texas Tech. The Sooners lead the all-time series 14-6, but it's been a 3-3 split over the last six years -- including a Tech upset of the Sooners in 2011 that derailed OU's 39-game home field winning streak.
In the summer a handful of publications had Clint Chelf as the preseason first-team All-Big 12 quarterback. He didn't last a full half as the team's starter in week one versus Mississippi State. JW Walsh sparked OSU on that day and has held the job ever since on the way to a 5-1 start. That could be about to change. Walsh threw two early interceptions versus TCU in Saturday's 24-10 win in Stillwater and was replaced by Chelf after a 9-18, 115 yard start. Chelf was promptly intercepted on his first throw, but settled won to lead OSU to a 17-0 half-time lead. Though he ultimately hit on only 40 percent of his passes -- and OC Mike Yurcich said "neither QB was great" -- Chelf could be in line to take the reins back this week versus Iowa State. Mike Gundy said Monday that the QB reps would be divided up equally this week in practice and he refused to name a starter. As for the rest of Saturday's win over TCU, Big 12 Special Teamer of the Week Josh Stewart provided a huge spark with 265 all-purpose yards and the longest punt return college football has seen this year (95 yards). Stewart caught 10 balls for 141 yards in addition to his heroics in the return game. On the downside, RB Jeremy Smith struggled to find running room all day (12 carries, 14 yards), OSU's turned it over four times and kicker Ben Grogan missed two field goals. Despite all of that, OSU is up to No. 19 in the polls and takes on the Iowa State Cyclones (0-3 in the Big 12) in Ames on Saturday.
The Horned Frogs were a mess offensively yet again on Saturday and ultimately fell 24-10 to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. QB Trevon Boykin opened the game 5-13 for 27 yards and two interceptions. Boykin was replaced in the second quarter by Tyler Matthews who proceeded to fumble the snap his very first play under center and not complete a pass. Boykin would return and finish 17-35 for 188 yards, and three interceptions. In Boykin's defense, he didn't have good offensive line play in front of him and fielded multiple groundball snaps from center Joey Hunt. The Horned Frogs defense forced four takeaways and shutdown the OSU run game (95 yards and just 14 from Jeremy Smith). Unfortunately for the Frogs, they did not have an answer for OSU receiver Josh Stewart who finished with 265 all-purpose yards including a 95 yard punt return -- the longest in the nation this year. To TCU's credit, amidst all the turnovers early and trailing 17-0 at the half, they still made a game of it in the fourth quarter. Waymon James scored from 14 yards out with 7:39 remaining in the game to cut the deficit to seven at 17-10, but TCU wouldn't get any closer, eventually bowing 24-10. The biggest offensive play of the day was a 69 yard reception from Boykin to Deante Gray that eventually set up a TCU field goal late in the third. The 3-4 Frogs now return home to host Texas at 6:30 on Saturday night at Amon Carter Stadium.
The Longhorns were idle last weekend, following their 36-20 win over Oklahoma the previous week in Dallas. Their 3-0 Big 12 record is now tied with Baylor for 2nd in the league, a half-game back of first-place Texas Tech. The 'Horns will travel to face TCU this Saturday at 6:30 and junior quarterback David Ash has already been ruled out for the game. Ash has been dealing with concussion symptoms since the loss to BYU, and in his absence Case McCoy has helped get the Longhorns back on track. Ash has not been ruled out for the rest of the season, and could be eligible for a medical hardship should he not be cleared to return for the rest of the season. Freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes could also wind up redshirting the season, although Mack Brown insists that they're preparing him to play each week if needed. The run game excelled versus Oklahoma with both Jonathan Gray and Malcom Brown topping the 100-yard mark. Gray is the Big 12's second-leading rusher with 562 yards on the season on 111 carries (5.1 ypc) and is averaging just under 94 yards per game. TCU boasts the Big 12's top run defense at 115 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry.
The Mountaineers fell to 3-4 on the season and 1-3 in Big 12 play with Saturday's 37-27 home loss to Texas Tech. Clint Trickett made his third straight start and threw for 254 yards and a touchdown, but was outshined by the West Virginia running game which was lead by JUCO addition Dreamius Smith who rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries (5.6 ypc) and two rushing touchdowns. Charles Sims also found the endzone on a four yard reception from Trickett, and rushed for 77 yards on 15 carries (5.1 ypc). Freshman WR Daikiel Shorts continues to pace the team in receptions, hauling in nine passes for 78 yards. The Mountaineers forced 2 takeaways (one defensively and one on special teams) but gave up 573 total yards and 21 unanswered points to end the game. Prior to that close-out run by Texas Tech, West Virginia had posted a 27-16 lead late in the 3rd quarter. Like every other team he's faced, the Mountaineers did not have an answer for Tech TE Jace Amaro who caught nine passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns en route to Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. The Mountaineers allowed Davis Webb to pass for 462 yards, a new single game record for a Texas Tech freshman. West Virginia is second to last in the Big 12 in pass defense, allowing 257 yards per game. (Iowa State is the worst at 293). The good news for Mountaineer fans is that no one in the league has opened with a tougher Big 12 schedule and it lightens up a bit from here. With Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech out of the way, the Mountaineers can close against Texas and the bottom half of the league starting with a usually-tough road trip to Kansas State this Saturday at 2:45.

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