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Big 12 Roundup: So near, yet so far

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Week 4 was almost the week of the underdog. ALMOST.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Days Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Apologies for the extreme tardiness of this review. I may have bitten off more than I could chew here. Then again, I’ve just sort of previewed Texas, right?

The past weekend of Big 12 football was light, featuring just three contests (six teams) in action. Of the two non-Kansas Stage games, one was an ugly dragged out affair, but with a predictable outcome—even if it took the favored team a while to put the game away. The other game was wild and featured pretty much everything that makes Big 12 football what it is, swinging from utterly unwatchable to fantastically brilliant, sometimes in a single possession.

These are the facts: Texas went 1-0 in the Big 12 with a 17-7 win over Iowa State. Late on Saturday night, Oklahoma State pulled to 1-1 in the conference by beating Texas Tech 41-34,

Think back to that magical 2012 season, Kansas State fans. Remember when the mothership featured The Alphabetical and The Numerical*? Consider this an homage of sorts to those now-defunct columns.

[*NB: The Numerical is not defunct so much as completely altered in format and content].

The Alphabetical

Do I have 26 things to say about a 17-7 game that was even duller than that scoreline would suggest? Well, there’s only one way to find out!

Ames: a place where strange things happen to perfectly good football teams, and especially at night. Just ask Oklahoma State.

Buechele: as in Shane, the Longhorns’ quarterback freshly returned from an injury (and possibly injured again). He finished 19/26 for 171 yards and a touchdown. Those are not impressive numbers, but in Buechele’s defense, it was more than he needed on a day when Iowa State couldn’t move the ball on offense.

Chris (Warren III): The Longhorns’ featured running back didn’t have a fantastic day by statistical standards. In fact, he only managed 44 yards off 16 carries. But an 11-yard touchdown scamper to get Texas on the board early was more than enough.

Defense: This was the least Big 12 game of the season so far in that neither team managed to crack 20, and the second half of the game featured just 10 points total. Texas absolutely owned the line of scrimmage, holding Iowa State’s normally potent running game to just 10 yards total (or 35 yards, discounting sacks). Iowa State was no slouch on defense either, bottling up the Longhorns’ rushing game and giving Tom Herman fits with new and unexpected formations.

Eaton: The Iowa State wide receiver caught an 11-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter for the Cyclones only score of the night. The drive was set up by a shanked punt from Texas that went all of 17 yards. It was the only bright spot for the Iowa State offense, which was about as terrible as it’s ever been.

Fumbles: Texas had two, Iowa State had one, and the game was exactly as sloppy as this stat suggests. A sluggish Texas team did just enough to win the game, but the offense was nothing to write home about, and the team had none of the energy the Longhorns had shown against USC.

Garbage: Iowa State on third down. The offense was just awful on third down conversions, going just 3-of-12 and 0-fer on fourth down. Iowa State’s defense was, if possible, even worse on third down. Texas converted 7 of 11 third downs in the first half alone.

Hairy: Iowa State quarterback’s Jacob Park and his hair have gotten a lot of press this season. This seems appropriate considering Park’s performance was pretty hairy. He passed for 246 yards, but also threw three interceptions, a career high.

Iowa State: is still Iowa State. Sadly. Given the chance to make a primetime statement, Matt Campbell’s offense was mostly missing in action.

Joel (Lanning): Sometime last season, it became obvious to Campbell and other Iowa State staff that Lanning was not the long-term solution at quarterback. But he was a great athlete, an extraordinary competitor, and a team player. Wanting to get Lanning back on the field somehow, Campbell asked Lanning to switch to middle linebacker. That’s not the strange part of this story. The strange part is that it worked. Lanning played a grueling 40 minutes against the Longhorns and led the team in tackles (20), including solo tackles.

Kamari (Cotton-Moya): It feels like Cotton-Moya has been at Iowa State forever, but it’s only been four years. Maybe that’s because he has immediate impact whenever he gets on the field? Cotton-Moya only played a half against Iowa and missed the Akron game altogether with injury, but in the nine quarters he’s played, the Cyclones have had five turnovers, and against Texas, he had an interception in the third quarter that helped Iowa State stay in the game.

Losses: Both Texas and Iowa State are 2-2 after this game, but seemingly headed in opposite directions. Texas is, of course, back. As always. Iowa State? Well, it was one step forward, two giant steps back for the Cyclones.

(David) Montgomery: David Montgomery is Iowa State’s best running back. David Montgomery has 355 yards on the season at a clip of about 5.5 yards per carry. David Montgomery got nine whole carries against Texas.

Narrative: the only real winner in a game this ugly is the narrative. Depending on who’s doing the talking, Texas is either totally all the way back, or Iowa State is just the worst.

Officiating: The Cyclones played a home game at night against Texas, and their real opponents, the Big 12 referees. After Iowa State’s only score of the game, Texas fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but that was overturned. Then Texas fumbled again, and yep, you guessed it...it was overturned. Afterwards, Campbell said both calls were correct, but who the heck knows anymore?

Penalties: Man, was this game sloppy, and I don’t just mean two terrible offenses and a bunch of turnovers by both teams. Combined, the two teams gave up more than an entire football field in bad yards. The Cyclones gave up 40 yards for four penalties, including two early miscues that Texas turned into points. The Longhorns had seven penalties for 76 yards.

Questions: I have so many of them. Why did David Montgomery only get nine carries? Why did Herman start Buechele when Sam Ehlinger had the hot hand? Is Texas’ defense really this good? Should we Kansas State fans be worried? (That last question is rhetorical. I’d rather not think about it, to be honest).

Road games: The away teams went 2-1 this weekend, with Kansas State picking up the lone win for the home side. Let’s hope that winning trend for road teams continues in Week 6.

Season aspirations: Texas fans are naturally buoyed by a hard-fought road win over a pesky opponent in which the defense really showed up to play. But what does this mean for the Longhorns in 2017?

Toneil Carter: The Texas running game is in a bit of trouble. After averaging just 1.9 yards per carry against USC, the Longhorns were only marginally better against Iowa State (2.7 ypc). But Carter caught a floater from Buechele in the end zone for one of Texas’s two scores on the night, demonstrating both speed and agility. The true freshman may be maturing into a true threat at running back at just the right time.

Uh oh: Is Jacob Park not going to play for Iowa State against Oklahoma? There are rumors and other such ephemera floating around the Interwebz, and this unprovoked use of the word “suspended” casts some weird shadows for sure.

Vengeance: The last time Iowa State hosted Texas, the Longhorns were on the wrong end of a 24-0 beatdown. Quarterback Ryan Swoopes was held to 59 yards passing and 58 yards rushing. This time, there was no chance of the same outcome, and even if the offense looked sluggish, Texas exacted some much-needed revenge for 2015.

Xystus: I’m going to stretch the meaning of this word like a rubber band, and tell you that it means “stadium” (sort of) in Greek. This seems like a good time to link this excellent longform piece on Jack Trice and the decades- long struggle to name Iowa State’s football stadium after the lineman who died of injuries sustained on the field in 1923.

Yards: these were pretty hard to come by in this game. The two teams combined for just over 500 yards, which may seem like a lot until you consider that some Big 12 teams can gain that much yardage all by themselves.

Zzzzz: Undoubtedly, this is how you’re feeling after reading this much #content on Iowa State vs. Texas.

Oh, and then, there was this:

(You thought I’d forget this , didn’t you? Ha!)

The Numerical

Oklahoma State surged late in the game and held on to a one-score lead to beat Texas Tech 41-34 in Lubbock.

Let’s break it down by the numbers, because there were a lot of them in this game.

1,909: total yards for Mason Rudolph through five games this season. That’s with a nearly 70% completion percentage, and a 1:4 interception-to-touchdown ratio. Just give him the Heisman already.

1,578: Nic Shimonek is no slouch through the air either. He’s just barely off the pace set by Rudolph and his completion percentage and INT:TD ratio (1:6) are even better than his counterpart at Oklahoma State.

597: That’s how many yards the Pokes had against Texas Tech, so any thoughts of “improved defense” from the Red Raiders can be laid to rest right now. In contrast, Texas Tech had a nice day in the passing game (surprise!) but only added 54 yards on the ground. For comparison, Rudolph—not exactly Collin Klein, mind you—had 50 rushing yards on his own.

221: That’s the rushing yardage total for the Pokes. Oklahoma State seemingly ran all over Lubbock, and Texas Tech’s retooled defensive line had no answers for Justice Hill, who racked up 164 yards on the day. It was the most total yardage for an Oklahoma State back since 2013, and it’s only fitting (but maybe not entirely warranted) that Hill—who broke Thurman Thomas’ freshman record last season—would draw comparisons to one Mr. Barry Sanders in the process.

127: total receiving yards for the Pokes’ James Washington, Jr. off just nine receptions. Yes, he really is that good. He’s also maybe out for revenge, as he grew up not far from Lubbock but wasn’t recruited by Texas Tech. Over his career, Washington has totaled 22 receptions for 572 yards and 6 scores against just the Red Raiders. Ouch.

46: Total pass attempts for Shimonek. Granted, he plays on a team that has an offense built around chucking the ball a lot, but does this strike anyone else as excessive? The Red Raiders also ran the ball 26 times. Oklahoma State showed more balance, with 38 pass attempts and 44 rushing attempts. Yes, that means the two teams combined for 154 total plays. That’s nuts, and maybe why nobody outside the Big 12 has ever warmed to this style of offense. Then again, maybe this is why Big 12 defenses look so bad.

30:39: Time of possession for Oklahoma State. As a demonstration of how close this game was, consider that Texas Tech held the ball for 29:21.

18: DOUBLE DOINK! Pokes kicker Matt Ammendola missed a field goal late in the game that bounced off the upright. It would have given his team the lead with five minutes to go. He also missed a 22-yard kick in the first half when his kick, yep, bounced off the upright.

10: trips to the red zone for Oklahoma State offense. Interestingly, only five resulted in touchdowns.

8: Penalties for each team. This was not a particularly clean game, with the Pokes getting flagged to the tune of 78 yards. Texas Tech was marginally better with 63 yards.

5: The two teams combined for just five punts total, and Oklahoma State only punted once in the entire game. I guess nobody told these teams that Punting Is Winning.

1: Turnovers for each team. There were no fumbles in this game, but Rudolph and Shimonek each threw only one interception, but Rudolph’s error was returned for a touchdown.

0: Number of wins so far for Oklahoma State’s next opponent, Baylor. Texas Tech gets a slightly better opponent in an improving Kansas squad.