With Oklahoma and Texas off, it was up to the Hateful 8 (minus Baylor) to pick up the gauntlet and make waves in primetime. I’m not sure any of these teams accomplished that goal, but the waters at least rippled a little.
The past weekend finally gave some struggling Big 12 teams a formula for at least temporary success: play a team that is new to the conference and you will probably get that W.
But there’s always an exception that proves the rule...
West Virginia vs Houston
Just as everyone began to marvel at West Virginia’s quiet but steady rise from its own ashes, the phoenix floundered, and the ‘Eers lost to Houston 41-39. In a wild contest that saw four lead changes in the final quarter, West Virginia finally pulled ahead with 12 seconds left only to have the win slip away in the end. That result wasted an otherwise great performance from quarterback Garrett Greene who passed for nearly 400 yards, and the ‘Eers had 155 yards on the ground too.
In the ‘Eers defense, there’s not a lot you can do about miracles. It took a near-impossible 49-yard Hail Mary pass on 4th down from Cougars’ quarterback Donovan Smith and an equally improbable tip-and-catch by Stephon Johnson as time expired for Dana Holgorsen’s new team to beat his old team. You kind of have to see it to properly process it.
The final 12 seconds of regulation between West Virginia and Houston:— Ben Stevens (@BenScottStevens) October 13, 2023
• Garrett Greene 50-yd TD pass
• Donovan Smith 49-yd Hail Mary TD pass for the win
There is no better sport than college football. pic.twitter.com/0MbuFZymCU
With the win, Houston has its first-ever Big 12 victory, and gets to move out of last place in the conference. A second win may be harder to come by, considering the Cougars play Texas next. Meanwhile, at West Virginia, Neal Brown’s seat is heating up again and probably won’t cool back down against a resurgent Oklahoma State team. He didn’t help himself by throwing his quarterback under the bus for the unsportsmanlike penalty that gave the Cougars great field position on that final play (though practical considerations involving Brown’s buyout may keep him safe a bit longer).
Oklahoma State vs Kansas
Was Kansas’ hot start this season as much of a false dawn as last season? It’s hard to say, especially with Jalon Daniels out, but the Jason Bean-led Jayhawks are pretty decent on offense. Bean passed for 410 yards and five touchdowns in a 39-32 loss to Oklahoma State, but also threw two costly picks and on a day when KU could only muster 88 yards on the ground too (whining over bad calls notwithstanding).
Oklahoma State controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, stifling KU’s rushing attack while letting running back Ollie Gordon loose to the tune of 168 yards rushing and 116 yards receiving. The Pokes are looking like a completely different team than the one that lost to South Alabama, and finding competence on the offensive line has a lot to do with it. Has Oklahoma State turned the corner? Only time will tell, but if you’re an Oklahoma State fan, things are looking good right now.
The Pokes take their winning streak on the road to West Virginia, while Kansas is off this week.
Iowa State vs Cincinnati
Since a blowout loss to Oklahoma a few weeks ago, Iowa State has settled down and figured some things out, especially on offense. Rocco Becht, taking over for the underage-gambling-charged Hunter Dekkers, struggled in single-score losses to non-conference losses Iowa and Ohio, but looks pretty solid now, much like the team itself. In a 30-10 win over Cincinnati, Becht threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and the team was never really challenged after erasing a brief Cincinnati lead. For Clones fans, football is fun again.
At least some of the Cyclones’ fun was at the expense of Cincinnati, a team that has now endured a fourth straight loss, is still winless in Big 12 play, and has not handled the transition to Power 5 play all that well. Quarterback Emory Jones has struggled to match the upgraded defenses in the Big 12, special teams miscues, and other self-inflicted wounds have kept the Bearcats from success in their new league. Still, there’s a silver lining on the horizon: it’s almost basketball season!
Oh, and lest I forget, this fan deserves applause for carrying on in spite of the losses:
Iowa State is off this week, and Cincinnati will try to finally win a conference game against almost equally hapless Baylor.
BYU vs TCU
BYU picked a bad time to have its worst game of the season so far. Quarterback Kedon Slovis began the game by throwing a pick six, and things just got progressively worse for the Cougars from there on out in a 44-11 loss to old rival TCU.
Slovis also lost a fumble on the way to a season-low 243 total yards for BYU. In their defense, the Cougars were also prepared for TCU to run the ball a lot, and were not quite ready for the Horned Frogs aerial offensive. Maybe the Cougars will do better against a Texas Tech team that has also fallen short of expectations?
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Josh Hoover got his first start for TCU in place of the injured Chandler Morris, and Hoover did not disappoint [insert jokes about vacuum cleaners here]. He went 37/58 for 447 yards and four touchdowns and looked perfectly comfortable and confident running the offense for the Horned Frogs.
Whether that will be enough against Kansas State in Manhattan remains to be seen. May the right purple team win.