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Big 12 Football: Notes, Quotes, Anecdotes
September 03, 2014
Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 25 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.

By Wendell Barnhouse Correspondent

Neither Oklahoma State nor West Virginia wanted any part of the “moral victory” story line. The Cowboys gave defending national champion Florida State a scare and the Mountaineers pushed the Crimson Tide to the limit – both games were contested at neutral sites.

Most around the nation expected both games to be lopsided but Oklahoma State and West Virginia each proved that they were capable of playing with the nation’s top two ranked teams. Considering that the Cowboys were picked to finish fifth and the Mountaineers eighth in the preseason media poll, the outcomes indicate that the Big 12’s depth is impressive.

Here’s what Bruce Feldman, the outstanding college football writer for FOX, had to say about the two games:

Speaking of the Big 12, I doubt a conference will have two more impressive losses than the Big 12 had Saturday, with Oklahoma State giving No. 1 FSU all it could handle and West Virginia, 4-8 last season, doing the same to No. 2 Alabama. Keep in mind the Cowboys had only four starters back on D, but they swarmed the Noles and made a touted O-line look very shaky. Props to DC Glenn Spencer. 

When the fastest player on the field in an FSU game isn't a Seminole, that's noteworthy, and Oklahoma State newcomer Tyreek Hill showed Saturday night why he's going to be fun to watch in 2014.

As for the Mountaineers, they were giving Bama fits with all of their motion and up-tempo action. They also showed they have some explosive athletes, too. Unfortunately for Dana Holgorsen, his team had a few costly drops and one gut-punch 15-yard penalty after a third down stop.

That said, in a year where conference politicking will be taken to new heights, the lone league without a league title game can tout that two teams that were huge underdogs showed in Week 1 how much quality depth the Big 12 has.

And here’s a sampling of what some of the Big 12 coaches had to say about it:

Texas’ Charlie Strong: “It’s so hard to blow a team out. OSU and West Virginia are both well-coached. It says a lot about the strength of the conference and, honestly, the players.”

Kansas’ Charlie Weis: “I would have been surprised in opener those two teams getting blown out. Mike (Gundy) and Dana (Holgerson) did a really good job of getting their teams ready to go. I don’t think anyone that’s involved with the Big 12 finds that as a big surprise. We all know this is a loaded league, and you can’t underestimate any team in this league.”

Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops: "That should be obvious to everybody-the strength of the league and the depth," Stoops said. "Both those teams, we knew were better than what people thought of them and had them ranked. These scores and the way they played did not surprise me at all. These are good teams with good football players on them.”

Kansas State’s Bill Snyder: “There’s tremendous strength in our conference. Good depth in our conference. The teams at the top of the conference right now indicate what we all know – there’s good strength to our conference.”

Chasing OU’s Scoring Record
DeMarco Murray is Oklahoma’s career scoring leader with 393 points. Senior kicker Michael Hunnicutt, though, has 363 points so he’s in range of passing Murray this season.

In the season opener OU coach Bob Stoops had the Sooners go for it on fourth down four times and all four times they converted. One of those tries could have been a 51-yard field goal attempt for Hunnicutt.

 “I apologized to (Michael) Hunnicutt after one of them. I told him we should have kicked one of them just to get him a long field goal,” Stoops said. “It would have been good early in the year to get a good long one in.”

Stoops then disclosed that Murray, the current Dallas Cowboys running back, had jokingly pleaded with the coach to keep Hunnicutt from kicking field goals.

“DeMarco texted me the day before the game,” Stoops said. “He said, ‘Coach, don’t kick too many field goals this year because you have to keep my record intact.’ Then he did say they’re meant to be broken and he did hope Mike did it and tell him good luck.”

Short Yardage
* This just in … Baylor has sacked SMU … again. In Sunday night’s 38-o victory over the Mustangs, the Bears defense recorded eight sacks. But after reviewing a play and checking the NCAA rule book, Baylor was credited with sack No. nine, which tied the school record set in 1983. The play was initially ruled a team fumble for SMU and a tackle for loss but defensive tackle Beau Blackshear was credited with sacking Mustangs quarterback Neal Burcham for the sack.

* West Virginia is 86-18-6 all-time in home openers and faces Towson, the runner up in the FCS title game last season, in its home opener Saturday. The last time the Mountaineers lost a home opener was 2003 against Wisconsin.

* An interesting stats to ponder prior to BYU’s game at Texas: Excluding sacks, Texas gave up 914 rushing yards to quarterbacks last season. Louisville, coached by Charlie Strong, allowed quarterbacks to rush for a total of 924 yards … from 2011 to 2013.

* Danny Watkins was an out-of-nowhere All-American offensive lineman at Baylor in 2010 and first-round pick of Philadelphia in the 2011 NFL draft. He was a native of British Columbia and a fire fighter before taking up football. He was 26 when he was drafted. Watkins has now retired from the NFL and is back to being a fire fighter in Dallas.

Texas wide receiver Jaxon Shipley on sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who’ll make the first start of his career Saturday against BYU: "Tyrone doesn't have to be Superman. He just has to do his job. … I'm telling y'all, the dude can play. You better be ready."

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was asked if offensive tackle Cody Whitehair, who injured an ankle in the third quarter of the opener, would “see the field” Saturday against Iowa State: “We’re going to keep his eyes open so I would suspect he probably will see it, yes.”

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen on the day after the Mountaineers’ 33-23 loss to Alabama: “I was happy with Sunday. I thought the attitude and the energy was good on Sunday. We didn’t have a bunch of guys that were hanging their heads. We didn’t have a bunch of guys that were looking to be patted on the back just because we kept it close against a good team.’’

Kansas coach Charlie Weis on sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart: “He started off on fire, and then he had this little lull right in the middle of camp. Since then, I mean, he’s been on fire. …  I think that right now he’s confident, bordering on cocky. That’s a good place to be, and I never saw that at any time last year.”

Texas Head Coaching Debuts
Charlie Strong is the sixth Texas football coach since Darrell K. Royal made his debut in 1957. Strong won his first game Saturday, defeating North Texas, 38-8.Here’s a look at how the previous UT coaches fared in their openers and their first seasons:

Year Coach First Game Final W-L
1998 Mack Brown W 66-36 vs. New Mexico State 9-3
1992 John Mackovic L 28-10 vs. No. 21 Mississippi State 6-5
1987 David McWilliams L 31-3 vs. No. 5 Auburn 7-5
1977 Fred Akers W 44-0 vs. Boston College 11-1
1957 Darrell K. Royal W 26-7 at Georgia 6-4-1
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