Bevo's Daily Roundup - September 7, 2009

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The Austin American-Statesman has the Horns' report card.

Texas has a few issues to resolve before they head to Wyoming.

There were several troubling problems with the game that the Longhorns hope to solve before they head to Wyoming, the first road game of the season.

• Before the contest started, Brown was forced to bench three key contributors — receiver Brandon Collins, safety Christian Scott and cornerback Deon Beasley — because of academic eligibility questions with the NCAA.

• Two starters — offensive guard Michael Huey and linebacker Jared Norton — were injured, with Huey's ankle sprain appearing the most significant. A UT spokesman said Sunday there were no new details on the two. Neither position is deep enough to absorb any more injuries.

• Texas allowed 20 points, although one touchdown came with just under three minutes to play. The Longhorns haven't given up that many points in a season premiere in a decade.

What did we learn about the Big 12? (Let's face it, we only care about we learned about Texas.)

Suddenly, that Oct. 17 game between Texas and Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl doesn’t look like Armageddon. The Red River Rivalry still should be one of the pivotal games of the season, but the Texas-Oklahoma State game two weeks later might end up playing much larger on the national stage.

Texas' most exciting running back was one who emerged from out of nowhere. For all of the talk about the potential running backs in Texas’ deep backfield, we didn’t hear much about redshirt freshman D.J. Monroe coming into the season. Heck, he wasn't even listed anywhere on the Longhorns' two-deep roster coming into their opener. Monroe made the most of his debut with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and 64 yards rushing in the Longhorns’ triumph over Louisiana-Monroe. The big night from the 5-foot-9, 170-pound converted wide receiver almost was enough to make Texas coaches forget Vondrell McGee’s two fumbles -- but not quite.

A little more on D.J. Monroe.

D.J. Monroe wowed a state-record football audience of 101,096 at Royal-Memorial Stadium that was rarely wowed otherwise. He broke off an 89-yard kickoff return and ran untouched for a touchdown, save maybe the placekicker's fingernail. He dipped, darted and dazzled his way to 64 rushing yards on only nine carries for a robust 7.1-yard average. He showed a burst that his teammates do not have.

Could Monroe be our speedy new weapon?

The former Texas state high school 100 meters champion zipped to an 89-yard touchdown on a second-quarter kickoff return in the No. 2 Longhorns' 59-20 win over Louisiana-Monroe.

"It's totally different," Monroe said. "In the 100, you run a straight line. Here, you're able to make a couple of moves."

He was making plenty Saturday night. After his electrifying return, Monroe also rushed for 64 yards on nine carries in a big debut for a 5-foot-9 redshirt freshman who weighs 170 pounds on a good day.

"We're excited about what he can bring us," coach Mack Brown said. "We think that he can be a real factor for us as we get more used to what he can do best."

For all the stat junkies out there: box score.

The Statesman goes high-tech. Here is an interactive drive chart from our hometown paper.

Barking Carnival has the good, the bad and the ugly.

For more game coverage, check out the Sunday edition of BDR.

 

Wyoming

The Cowboys won their opener against Weber State 29-22.

 

 

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The Aggies won! And they won big.

The Texas A&M football program finally seems to be moving in the right direction.

Jerrod Johnson threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score to lead the Aggies to a 41-6 win over New Mexico on Saturday.

This win may help to restore confidence in Mike Sherman.

This merely was a huge, impressive and necessary step in the right direction, a night Texas A&M fans could see a glimmer of light.

The Aggies rolled over New Mexico 41-6 on Saturday in front of 73,887 at Kyle Field. They did it with a huge game from quarterback Jerrod Johnson, with a first-rate defensive effort and by playing 18 freshmen — 13 true freshmen and five red-shirt freshmen.

These Aggies bear so little resemblance to the team that opened last season with a loss to Arkansas State that comparisons are silly. They’re different physically, different emotionally.

"The kids really, really came to play," Sherman said. "I was pleased with their effort and the passion they brought to the game."

The Aggies might finish last in the Big 12 South again because there’s work to be done, because they’re oh so young, but the Aggies are on their way to becoming the team Sherman envisions.

The defense held New Mexico to only 231 yards.

The defense held New Mexico to 231 yards — the fewest total allowed by the Aggies since Mike Sherman came back on board last year. Von Miller had three of A&M’s five sacks after leading the Ags last year with 3.5 for the whole season (the team managed only 16 for the year).

Plenty of positives, interspersed with enough negatives (like 14 penalties for 123 yards, including six holding calls) to give Sherman plenty of teaching material for the two weeks before A&M plays again when it hosts Utah State on Sept. 19.

 

 

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Oklahoma State

Wonder how those Bulldogs liked that defense? The Big 12 can play SEC football.

Ironically enough, it was because the Cowboys played SEC-type football that No. 9-ranked OSU defeated the No.13-ranked Bulldogs 24-10 on Saturday afternoon at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Simply put, the Cowboys defense was outstanding.

So now we know. Oklahoma State has a defense.

In a 24-10 win Saturday against No. 13 Georgia billed as the biggest home opener in school history, a stingy defense that forced three turnovers turned out to be the difference.

"Nobody really thought that we could do anything for the team, that our offense had to carry the team," linebacker Donald Booker said. "We're going to show this year that we're going to step in and we're going to be the one helping them win."

The defensive line did a great job against what some considered a mismatch in size and talent.

"I’m so proud of our D-line, because everybody contributed. It wasn’t one guy doing this, one guy doing that. It was every guy, every down trying to get to the ball."

It was as many as eight guys — four at tackle and as many at end.

The Cowboys rotated players frequently. And that was without tackle Chris Donaldson, who was held out with an undisclosed injury.

One of the game’s swing plays came when tackle Shane Jarka sacked Bulldogs quarterback Joe Cox, forcing a fumble that Nigel Nicholas recovered.

"That’s two backup players who were playing in the fourth quarter," said OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young.

Dez Bryant wants the ball. In fact, he expects the ball.

"Dez wants it every single play," said Cowboys quarterback Zac Robinson. "It doesn’t matter if he’s got three guys on him, he thinks he’s open. That’s what you want in a receiver."

Lucien Antone had a big day.

In a 24-10 victory over the Bulldogs, no Cowboy was more important than Antoine.

"I thought he played awfully good," Cowboy defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "He is a big, big hitter for us."

Antoine not only led the team in tackles with seven but also caused a fumble right before halftime that swung the momentum completely in the Cowboys’ favor.

Parrish Cox can be deadly on special teams.

Perrish Cox returned the opening kickoff of the second half 74 yards, setting up a touchdown that put the Cowboys ahead 17-7. Freshman punter Quinn Sharp averaged 50 yards on seven kicks in his debut. And OSU’s coverage teams bottled the Bulldogs at every turn.

Even though the defense played well, penalties hurt their game overall.

The last few years the Cowboys have been playing pinball. Now they are playing soccer.

For years Oklahoma State has been playing pinball, and pinball is fun. The scoreboard lights up, and who doesn't like it when the scoreboard lights up? But you know how it is with pinball -- eventually that ball goes down the drain. Just like Oklahoma State's last couple of seasons.

But this is a different season, and this is a different Oklahoma State team, and so when No. 13 Georgia came to town Saturday with its large and physical SEC defense, Oklahoma State didn't play pinball with the Bulldogs.

Oklahoma State played soccer.

Even Dr. Saturday thinks they might be legitimate.

As long as T. Boone is happy, Stillwater is happy. That was an expensive win.

Yet after Saturday’s victory, Gundy said that T. Boone Pickens, the 81-year-old Texas oil tycoon, told him that the victory was worth the hundreds of millions of dollars that he has donated to Oklahoma State football.

"That’s a lot of money for one win," Gundy said, "but I know that he expects more than that."

Everyone is talking about the Pokes now.

Asked if Saturday’s win was a program-changer, Gundy said, "I’d like to think that we’re a little beyond that."

He’s wrong. The Cowboys aren’t – or least they weren’t.

Oklahoma State has had some success under Gundy, who led his alma mater to a 9-4 record in 2008. Still, while the Cowboys mastered the art of beating the teams they should beat, they never could win the high-profile contests against the ones they shouldn’t.

There were last season’s blowout losses against Oklahoma and Texas Tech and that tail-whipping administered by Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. The Cowboys gave Texas a good game in Austin – but they still lost.

At the end of the season, Oklahoma State was still known as the team with the billionaire donor and the crazy, "I’m-a-man-I’m-40" coach who couldn’t quite get his team over the hump.

Not any more.

 

Oklahoma

The opening game was not good. Not good at all.

The national reverberations are colossal: Not only is Oklahoma almost certainly finished as a national championship contender -- besides this loss, the initial verdict that Bradford could be "out several weeks" with a sprained shoulder puts his status in doubt for Miami on Oct. 3 and possibly Texas two weeks later, and all-everything tight end Jermaine Gresham's return remains in the air -- but BYU suddenly finds itself in the picture.

Sam Bradford may be out for weeks.

Now, with no timetable for their star quarterback's return, the Sooners are looking for Plan C — or at least a revised Plan B.

"Whether he is here or is not here for this week and the weeks to come, we're sitting right here at 0-1 and we've got to buckle it up and get moving in a quick direction and a positive direction," offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Sunday

(It is a good thing Bradford has that insurance policy...)

Are the Sooners out of the title race?

Saturday night, those dreams were all but dashed as Bradford and Gresham watched Brigham Young stun the third-ranked Sooners 14-13 at Cowboys Stadium from the sidelines.

Landry Jones, Bradford's backup, took charge at halftime.

Going around the room, Jones gave heart to his disheartened teammates, still coming to terms they had just lost Heisman quarterback Sam Bradford for who knows how long with a shoulder separation.

"Landry was one of our best guys during the locker room at halftime," offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "He was assertive. He had a lot of juice and energy.

"And he gave us a chance."

What really ended it for the Sooners? A late defensive break down.

For the first 48 minutes of Saturday’s game against Brigham Young, the Oklahoma defense gave up only seven points. BYU quarterback Max Hall spent the next eight minutes and 38 seconds earning the next seven, a decisive 16-play touchdown drive that gave the three-touchdown underdog Cougars a 14-13 upset victory.

"We were just late. They kind of hurried and caught our guys off guard," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "He just found space on a curl. We’ve just got to have better awareness there."

Why did Bob go with kicker Tres Way instead of Jimmy Stevens on that possible game-winning 54-yard field goal? His gut.

 

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The Big 12 had an impressive start.

And Baylor's defense has produced four turnovers, including intercepting Riley Skinner three times to pace the Bears' lead.

Most importantly, the performances of Baylor, Missouri and Oklahoma State are showing that the Big 12 can play a little defense.

Tim Griffin is passing out stickers. The Longhorns didn't earn any this week.

 

The North

Bad corn reference coming. The Cornhuskers creamed Florida Atlantic 49-3.

The young Nebraska linebackers looked good.

They watched film as a defensive unit one last time Saturday before taking the field. The linebackers, without hesitancy or bashfulness, shouted out the plays and their calls. Like veterans.

So in Ndamukong Suh's mind, it was no surprise to see what the linebackers — two redshirt freshmen and a junior — did against Florida Atlantic during a 49-3 Nebraska win Saturday.

They were by no means flawless, but the three new starters played until the game got out of hand, covering open space and making plays at full speed. It's what they've been doing for the past month, Suh said.

"When we went through these last couple weeks, they were on point," Suh said. "We had their whole offense down. We were mixing it up, going through different situations. They were right on point."

Missouri rolled right on over Illinois 37-9.

Blaine Gabbert may have the Tiger faithful asking Chase Who?

It was one game. One magnificent game. But one game.
And even Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel couldn't restrain himself when talking about the debut of his new star quarterback, Blaine Gabbert.

"He's as talented a quarterback as I've ever seen," Pinkel said. "But you know what? Talent doesn't make you a great quarterback. It allows you to do some things.

"But what makes you a great quarterback is this (Pinkel pounded his chest). Your heart, your competitiveness, your toughness.

Bill Snyder's return wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

The night was supposed to be about celebrating the return of a few hundred former players and a legendary coach.

Instead, the 50,750 fans who were part of the largest crowd ever to witness a home opener at Kansas State spent most of Saturday evening sweating out a narrow victory over a visiting Division I-AA team.

In the end, K-State beat Massachusetts 21-17, but the game was much closer than it needed to be.

The Jayhawks did alright, taking out Northern Colorado 49-3.

The Jayhawks ran 47 times for 328 yards — more than in any game last season — and an average of 7.0 yards per carry. The beauty of it? KU’s record holder in every meaningful passing category only had to throw 20 passes (he completed 13 of them for 208 yards and two scores).

"We only had to throw it 20 to put up 49," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "We’ll take that anytime we can get it."

But all is not well in Lawrence. Mark Mangino suspended four players for Saturday's game.


The South

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"There's two ways to make it more complex for the defense," Mike Leach
says. "One is to have a whole bunch of different plays, but that's no
good because then the offense experiences as much complexity as the
defense. Another is a small number of plays and run it out of lots of
different formations." Leach prefers new formations. "That way, you
don't have to teach a guy a new thing to do," he says. "You just have
to teach him new places to stand."

The Raider revamped defensive line looked a little like the group from last season.

The Red Raiders started their season Saturday with only four of the nine players who rotated along last year’s defensive front — Ra’Jon Henley, Richard Jones, Daniel Howard and Colby Whitlock. Two of the departed, McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams, combined for 22 of Tech’s 34 sacks in 2008.

Tech didn’t miss them much, though, in a 38-13 victory over North Dakota at Jones AT&T Stadium. The Red Raiders finished with only two sacks and didn’t completely dominate their Football Championship Subdivision opponent, but the early returns were acceptable enough.

The system is up and running and all is well in Lubbock. But there is something new: a running game?

The Red Raiders scored three of their five TDs on the ground, unusual for a team known for its pass-happy offense.

Potts, in his first start, got his rushing touchdowns on sneaks from 1 yard out. He also had three interceptions, one more than he had in the two seasons he played backup. North Dakota safety Joel Schwenzfeier intercepted all of them to tie a school record.

Tech kept the Fighting Sioux secondary wondering which receiver was Potts' target. He was 34-of-48 for 405 yards to nine receivers.


You were warned. Bears are unpredictable. Baylor certainly showed Wake Forest a thing or two.

The gambler in Art Briles wasn’t sitting on his cards Saturday afternoon.

Baylor’s second-year coach threw a collage of surprises at Wake Forest: defensive tackles blocking in the backfield, wide receiver option passes, nifty reverses and a punt by quarterback Robert Griffin.

The Bears needed all of those tricks to make the plane ride back to Waco a joy.

The Bears' 24-21 win over Wake Forest shows that they have definitely improved from last season.

"This isn’t even our potential, I don’t think," said defensive end Jason Lamb. "We still had a lot of mistakes, a lot of penalties. I know we’re a lot better than this. Getting a win against a pretty good ACC team, I mean, it’s not really a surprise to any of us. It’s kind of what we were expecting to do. We’ve just got to carry that out the rest of the year. It’s a different Baylor."

Much of that has to do with the maturation of Griffin, who is only a sophomore, but he’s hardly their only answer. The defense also did a good job of flushing Riley Skinner out of the pocket and forcing him into three interceptions. Jay Finley rushed for 91 yards on 14 carries, and receiver David Gettis had five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Defensive tackle Phil Taylor is everything Art Briles said he was and more.

When Phil Taylor transferred from Penn State, Baylor knew it was getting a dominating defensive lineman.

The Bears didn’t know they were getting a versatile 6-4, 355-pound guy who could intercept a pass and later shift over to offense and serve as lead blocker in the backfield.

"Phil gives us a presence up front — he’s a grown man," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "But I also liked the way he helped us get off to a good start with his interception, and the way he helped us get a couple of key first downs by blocking on offense."

 

 

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Handshakes have their place, just not before the game.

"The last thing George said to me, ‘Rock,’ he said, ‘sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper."

The players suddenly spring to their feet and scream with deafening enthusiasm. Rockne sees a fire in his team he hasn’t seen all season.

The right buttons have been pushed. The Fighting Irish are ready to fight.

Just as the players are about to storm out the door and take the field, Rockne shouts, "But first, gentlemen, shake their hands."

We can thank the Sooners for Saturdays loaded with football. 25 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that colleges could negotiate their own TV deals. Andy Coats, deam of the OU Law School, had a lot to do with that.

The comparisons will not end, even with the Cowboy's win over Georgia. The national press will still write about Big 12 vs. SEC.

People may not be laughing about using Notre Dame and title chase in the same sentence.

National championship shuffle: It's way too early but, yes, include BYU, Notre Dame and even Boise State in the conversation.

You can almost picture the T-shirts now if the highest-profile Mormon institution playing the highest-profile Catholic institution: Missionaries vs. Missionaries

Barry Tramel, NewsOK, got some feedback about his article on the Civil War theory.

 

And finally...

Best game day observations go to Dawg Sports. T. Kyle King recounts his time in Stillwater.

A few ancillary points in closing:

  • The bathrooms in T. Boone Pickens Stadium are labeled "cowboys" and "cowgirls." As Trav pointed out, we can’t very well get away with mascot-specific lavatory labeling in Athens, given what the signs on our women’s restrooms would say.
  • For all the perception that we in the South are overly enamored of our Second Amendment rights, folks in the Big 12 love them some firearms, especially when it comes to shooting them off during football games.
  • That "Cowboys Forever" song sounds like it was recorded by the Jonas Brothers.
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