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Tackling Issues A Hot Topic With Big 12 Coaches
September 18, 2013

By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

Tackling is today’s topic.

In a season where much attention is being given to targeting penalties and ejections, the basic act of bringing down the man with the football is up for discussion and analysis.

Texas gave up a school-record 550 yards rushing at BYU and missed at least 20 tackles in the process. UT coach Mack Brown later said that tackling is a problem throughout America. In last Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss, the Longhorns missed five tackles – on one play. The result was a back-breaking punt return TD.

TCU missed two tackles on one play at Texas Tech and the result was a touchdown that gave the Red Raiders a quick 7-0 lead in a game they went on to win 20-10.

“We have to tackle better,” Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson said. “We had a guy who tried to push (Texas Tech running back Kenny Williams) out of bounds that goes down the sideline for the first touchdown. You can actually tackle people. That’s what TCU defense has been built on - physical, great leverage; come at you all the time. … Tackling has got to be important.”

Missed tackles are like errors in baseball or turnovers in basketball – they often lead to points for the other team. If it’s the key to the defense – forget schemes, alignments, blitzes – why is it often a problem?

“You have spread offenses with ball carriers operating in open space, one-on-one,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “You have good athletes getting at the ball at the second and third level of the defense, they have the ability to make people miss.”

Snyder went on to say that while tackling can be a year-round subject, there are just 12 regular-season games for defensive players to do their jobs. Assuming a player might average seven tackles a game, that means there are 84 opportunities to make – or miss tackles.

Plus, considering that tackling at game speed can lead to injuries, practicing tackles can lead to diminishing returns.

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, though, is an advocate of tackling in practice.

“We coach tackling and we practice tackling,” he said. “That’s why we only missed eight tackles Saturday. I can’t stand it when people tackle poorly.”

Kliff Kingsbury Keeps Cool
Texas Tech’s DeAndre Washington watched the NFL opener that featured Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan making an interception that went from a pick six to a six fumble. Trevathan dropped the ball a yard before crossing the goal line.

“I was like, ‘Man, how could he do that?’” Washington said.

A week later, Washington found out. He appeared to score on a long pass that would have given Texas Tech a 17-10 lead against TCU but like Trevathan, he dropped the ball prematurely. The Red Raiders retained possession and eventually scored on another TD pass.

“I just want to say it was a dumb mistake on my part,” he said. “I’m just glad we were able to come away with the result that we did.”

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech’s first-year coach, showed little emotion after Washington’s gaffe that could have cost the team a victory. His message to his team: “We’ve got to go score again.”

“Just what I told him on the sideline: ‘Hey, man. It happens. Go make another play. Not a big deal,’” Kingsbury said. “There’s no reason to jump on him. He knows what he did. Learn from it. Knowing DeAndre and the type of competitor he is, he made a mistake and he knew it was going to be all over the country on every replay.”

Kingsbury added that he has told his players that after scoring a touchdown, the best play is to hand the ball to an official.

History Lesson
When Trevor Knight won the starting quarterback job, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops met with junior Blake Bell, the runner up. He recounted the Sooners’ 2002 season and quarterback situation.

"I talked about Jason White and Nate Hybl, how they had a tight quarterback competition," Stoops said this week. "Jason ends up winning the job and gets hurt in the second game, tears his knee. And Nate goes on and leads us to a Big 12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory, and he's the Rose Bowl MVP. And he didn't start the year being the guy. 

"You just don't know when you go through a long season how it's gonna unfold." 

Knight started the first two games for Oklahoma but struggled to make the passing game work. He suffered a bruised knee in Game Two against West Virginia and was replaced by Bell as the starter against Tulsa. Bell threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns - all career highs. Bell’s 437 yards of total offense (413 pass, 24 rush) was the ninth-highest total in OU history.

"You have to prepare and be ready for your opportunities,” said Stoops, who confirmed that Bell would start when the Sooners play at Notre Dame Sept. 28. “At any position, a starter could be down, and then you're in the game. You need to be prepared for it." 

From Drops To Dropped
With Jake Heaps at quarterback, Kansas hoped that its passing game would see improvement. Through two games, though, the Jayhawks are averaging just 140 yards per game through the air. Heaps is not to blame; KU has dropped at least 11 passes.

Coach Charlie Weis made it clear that catching passes is Job One for his receivers. He reworked the depth chart. Rodriguez Coleman, a junior-college transfer, and sophomore Tre’ Parmalee are starting Saturday against Louisiana Tech, replacing Justin McCay and Josh Ford. And Trent Smiley will replace Jimmay Mundine as the starting tight end.

“(Last year) I couldn’t sit there and identify dropped balls as a problem, because a lot of the balls weren't close enough to be caught,” Weis said. “But now the ball is getting to the right spot most of the time. We just need to do a better job throwing and catching, because we’ll always be able to run the ball. The thing is, we need to be able to throw to score.”

Quick Slants
Before this season, West Virginia senior Brodrick Jenkins had played in 36 games with 11 starts. The fact that he left the team this week didn’t cause a stir, though. That’s because it appears that the Mountaineers maligned defense has plenty of talent and depth in the secondary. Jenkins has been on the field for just a few snaps during WVU’s first three games.

Of the 72 offensive plays Ole Miss ran against Texas, the Rebels used two different backfield sets on 56. Ole Miss gained 218 of its 272 yards rushing on 25 plays that were variations of the zone read/sweep.

Baylor had a bye week and will be at home against Louisiana Monroe Saturday. The last two seasons, the Bears have played three regular-season games following a bye week. The Bears are 2-1 in those games, defeating Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin and losing to TCU.

Baylor linebacker Bryce Hager on the Bears off day last Saturday:
“It’s hard to watch games on TV and not be able to go out there and play. So we’re very eager.”

Texas coach Mack Brown, whose team has allowed 832 yards rushing in the last two games:
“Kansas State will run the option. I told our defense this morning, if they didn't run it, they'll put it in. My gosh, we’ve got to stop it.” 

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads on sophomore receiver Quenton Bundrage:
“At this point, he’s taking that coaching and he applies it as opposed to a guy looking at you, hearing what you are saying and walking away and not being able to go out and apply it because they don’t have the maturity yet. That is where Quenton has progressed.”

Texas Tech senior defensive tackle Kerry Hyder on the Red Raiders’ 20-10 victory over TCU:
"It felt good to see we put together a real team win like that. Everybody played their part from secondary to linebackers to D-line. It felt great to put together a win like that."
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