Tag Archives: Clint Trickett

Terps Can’t “Triumph” Over Trickett and WVU

The Maryland Terrapins lost a heartbreaker in a shootout with the Mountaineers of West Virginia after orchestrating a furious comeback Saturday in College Park. Maryland wore rather unique uniforms (which they are no stranger to doing) commemorating the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, complete with the outline of Fort McHenry on the helmet, representations of the script from the actual document on the helmet and shoulder pads, and the word “Triumph” in place of the player’s names on the back of the jersey. Triumph the Terps could not, however, as the comeback wasn’t enough; West Virginia kicked a game-winning 47-yard field goal as time expired.
The defeat is a tough one to swallow, especially considering the growing rivalry between the two programs and their respective fan bases. But the following statistics make the loss even more difficult to accept or comprehend. Two weeks ago against South Florida the primary concern following the game was the six total turnovers by the Terps’ offense. Against the Mountaineers, the team committed only one turnover to West Virginia’s four. But several other head-scratching statistics elucidate the story behind the 40-37 loss:
1.      The Terrapins defense allowed WVU quarterback Clint Trickett to throw for 511 yards and four touchdowns, with a completion percentage above 75% (37 for 49). For his performance, Trickett was rewarded with National Offensive Player of the Week honors and possibly a second kiss from Nick Saban’s daughter.
2.      The Terps had absolutely no answer for Mountaineer wide receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford. The duo beat Maryland’s defense in just about every way possible, from reeling in deep bombs downfield, to out-jumping the Terps’ cornerbacks for jump balls in the end zone, to ripping off large chunks of yards at a time on simple bubble screens, to snagging short passes on mere quick-slant patterns across the middle of the field and taking off for the end zone like Forrest Gump on a kickoff return. The two combined accounted for 347 yards, three touchdowns, and an exhausted Terrapins secondary.

Maryland's defense had no answer for WVU's Kevin White, who torched the Terps for 216 receiving yards and a touchdown. Photo credit: stardem.com.
Maryland’s defense had no answer for WVU’s Kevin White, who torched the Terps secondary for 216 receiving yards and a touchdown. Photo credit: stardem.com.

3.      This next one is probably the most troubling statistic for a variety of reasons. Maryland finished the game with 163 rushing yards. Quarterback C.J. Brown accounted for 161 of those. That means Maryland running backs gained (carry the three…) two total yards on the ground the entire game. Two. Two more rushing yards that I had. Four different running backs combined for two total yards on nine carries. This ridiculous stat begs a few follow-up questions:

  • Was this the Maryland gameplan going into the game, to try to beat WVU and Trickett in a shootout? Before Saturday’s game, the Mountaineers’ defense had allowed an average of 187 rushing yards/game over the past two seasons. Maryland has four very capable running backs that regularly see playing time. Maryland has struggled throwing the ball so far this season, not to mention the wet conditions on Saturday clearly should have led to more running plays. West Virginia wanted to play an up-tempo style of offense and scored with relative ease in doing so. Maryland tried to match WVU pass for pass instead of attempting to control the tempo by establishing the running game. Yes, the Terps fell behind early and throwing the football was necessary to make their comeback. But once the score became closer Maryland should have managed the clock to keep the ball out of the hands of WVU’s potent offense.
  • Do we really need three or four running backs seeing a relatively significant amount of playing time? Nine carries were spread out among four different Terrapins, one of which (Jacquille Veii) converted from running back to wide receiver prior to the season starting. They even threw a carry his way for old times’ sake. The story was similar through the previous two games this season, with four different backs getting carries in each. The coaching staff needs to determine a starter and stick with him, and occasionally mix in a different back for a change of pace. How else is a player supposed to fall into any sort of game rhythm? Based on previous performances and what each back brings to the table, I believe the pecking order should be Wes Brown (majority of carries), Brandon Ross (change of pace back), and Albert Reid (should be on the field for a series or two a game or for the occasional third-and-long).
  • Why was running back Wes Brown held out of the game? Brown was quickly emerging as the most reliable back this season and could have factored heavily into the offense. Randy Edsall said after the game it was a “coach’s decision,” but after the remaining running backs gained two total yards the fans deserve an explanation with a little more detail.

4)      C.J. Brown continues to struggle throwing the football. This was his most productive game of the season in regards to passing statistics, as he threw for 241 yards and a touchdown with just one interception. But the sixth-year senior continues to make poor decisions and the struggles with accuracy persist. Brown missed open receivers on several occasions, most memorably a wide-open Malcolm Culmer streaking down the sideline early in the game. A better pass surely would have led to a touchdown, and the Terps may have avoided falling so far behind so early. Brown completed just 54 percent of his passes on the day.
Despite these unfortunate statistics and the mysteries surrounding some of them, the Terps kept the game close and showed an immeasurable amount of heart in doing so. There were several positives and highlights from Saturday that the team can draw from as they put the loss behind them. Stefon Diggs had his first Stefon Diggs-like game of the season, racking up 127 receiving yards and scoring his first touchdown of 2014 on a 77-yard pass from C.J. Brown in the second quarter. Maryland’s special teams made some big plays in the fourth quarter, including a blocked field goal and a 69-yard punt return by William Likely that at the time tied the game at 37.
A perfect example of the heart and unwillingness to give in displayed by the Terps came after C.J. Brown was almost knocked out of the game. Towards the end of the first half, Brown scrambled out of the pocket and slid to the ground which should have instantaneously ended the play. But a Mountaineer defender launched himself at the sliding quarterback’s head, dazing Brown and forcing him out of the game for the remainder of the half. The quarterback’s helmet fell to the ground as a result of the hit but inexplicably a yellow flag did not. Backup Caleb Rowe took the field to a chorus of boos directed at the officials who had just missed the most obvious of calls. On his first play of the game Rowe hit Diggs for 17 yards, and on his third tossed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jacquille Veii. C.J. Brown resumed his position under center to start the second half. On the first play of the second half, Brown scored on a 75-yard run down the Terrapin sideline, stiff-arming a defender before the two fell into the end zone.

C.J. Brown accounted for 161 of Maryland's 163 total rushing yards for the game. Photo credit: wvmetronews.com.
C.J. Brown accounted for 161 of Maryland’s 163 total rushing yards for the game. Photo credit: wvmetronews.com.

Wide receiver Jacquille Veii gets unsung hero honors in the losing effort, as the sophomore was the recipient of Rowe’s rainbow pass to the end zone just before halftime. Veii was able to catch the deep pass for a touchdown despite the blanketing coverage of a WVU defender. Veii also stepped up on special teams, recovering a West Virginia fumble on a botched return attempt following a Maryland punt.
The Terps travel to New York to face Syracuse next weekend, a team they lost to last season in College Park by a score of 20-3. Since Maryland’s 52-7 victory over James Madison three weeks ago, the last two games seem only to have raised more questions and concerns. Hopefully the Terrapins can find some answers heading into their final nonconference contest before the beginning of Big Ten play.

College Football's Week 1 Surprises and Survivors

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Is anyone shocked? I’m not taking applications for mildly surprised or amused, but just genuine shock. We’ve got our first Saturday in the books, with apologies to Eastern Washington and their opponent, and I’m pretty sure College Football fans aren’t manipulating their January travel plans for any reason just yet.
While no one was shocked, a la Appalachian State at Michigan Part I, I’m sure a few of the “haves” boarded airplanes with an eaiser weekend in mind than what happened across the College Football landscape in this final weekend of August. By the way, Part II of that wasn’t nearly as much fun in Columbus, Ohio or Boone, North Carolina, but let’s not break out the confetti for Michigan’s 49-7 win over the visiting Mountaineers, seven years after disaster on the Big Ten Network’s inaugural broadcast.

The hot seat stays hot for Brady Hoke. This weekend wasn’t about proving our preconceived notions from the off-season wrong, but introducing us to new some new and perhaps exciting things. I think the hot seat stays hot for Dana Holgoresen, even though West Virginia had a very impressive showing against Saban’s Alabama. A 10-point loss is still a loss, even if the #2 next to the word Alabama does metigate it. You can’t build your resume on quality losses, these Mountaineers need a better foundation to build on, but their showing in Atlanta shows they might be capable of it. Stay consistent, Clint Trickett.
Do you think Oklahoma State had a major advantage over every one of the ‘Noles 2013 opponents? I sure think an entire off-season of prep-time and a whole year of tape on Jameis Winston gave them something of a leg up. Auburn had a more abbreviated version of a lay-off to prepare to counter the 2013 Heisman winner, which got them a full half of joy, but not enough to close. If coffee is for closers, they’re drinking tea in Stillwater.

At one point, I watched Oklahoma State approach the threshold of having some momentum against a Florida State that is almost indisputably more talented, but Florida State wouldn’t budge. JW Walsh was fantastic at quarterback for the de facto home team Cowboys, but made a mistake that canceled out so much of his brilliance in Oklahoma State’ 2014 debut. One unfortunate cartwheel and the will of the defending National Champions spoiled what could have been an epic night for Mike Gundy and the men he leads.
I wonder if Oklahoma State is the best team to lose this week. You could make a good case for Clemson, who Georgia beat going away, which makes you wonder if Georgia just gets better with their running game as the game progresses or if they let Clemson hang with them. I don’t personally care for the “grown-ass man” label, but is there a better way to describe Todd Gurley between the hedges on Saturday?
South Carolina got us started on Thursday, hosting Texas A&M in what had to be the biggest surprise of the week’s schedule. Maybe it was the subtraction of the game’s best defensive player and its most dynamic offensive player, but leave that discussion at NFL Training Camps, this is 2014, and the constant is coaching. Steve Spurrier is a favorite around here, but even his gushing fans and supporters must admit that he’s possibly reached his peak in Columbia.
Every year, South Carolina proves they’re a Big Ten team with an ocean view, which isn’t a big deal any more, I guess. They create match-up problems for teams like Alabama that pound the ball up the middle, and really any hammer away at everyone in the trenches, but when that crazy SEC speed spooks them, it tends to haunt them for four quarters. Big Ten teams wish they could play with South Carolina like this actually; most of those historic Midwest institutions have scrapped three yards and a cloud of dust to participate in the track meet.
Are the Gamecocks any good? I think it’s hard to say, but I’m sure Gamecock fans are hoping that Texas A&M and Kenny Hill are just that damn good, and not simply 24 points better than the Old Ball Coach. For what it’s worth, Kevin Sumlin wins everywhere he goes and he’s probably just that damn good. Just so we’re clear on this, Texas A&M is that damn good until they prove they aren’t.

Les Miles and Gary Andersen
We know the players play their hearts out, but hat beats visor in Houston.

At the end of the day, who was the best team to lose. I’d make a case for Wisconsin, but someone needs to tell Gary Andersen that if he’s not going to take this seriously, then neither am I. Now, I know a lot of people are upset that Melvin Gordon III wasn’t on the field in the second half and that Tanner McEvoy seemed out of is element, while the guy that went 9-4 last year is holding a clipboard. While I think Les Miles out-coached the second-year Wisconsin coach on Saturday, I’m not dismissing the Badgers first half as a fluke.
I’m less willing to hand the Big Ten Championship to the winner of Michigan State and Ohio State at this point. That might change when I see either of last year’s Conference Championship participants play a Power 5 program. Wisconsin is going to be in the hunt, but I’m not as sure about Iowa after their underwhelming perfromance against UNI. If I don’t specify Northern Iowa, who is better fit to wear the slipper on the hardwood than the gridiron, the abbreviation leaves many to guess. All you need to know about their football program is that it recently took Iowa blocking field goals on consecutive snaps to beat their in-state FCS rival a few years ago. Clinging to a one-point lead late, I wondered if they’d have to do that again.
Iowa was one proposed Cinderella. Central Florida, last year’s American Athletic Conference and Fiesta Bowl Champ, was another. The dream ended in Ireland just after I woke up on the West Coast (I’m lying, Arizona is not the coast) on Saturday morning. Christian Hackenberg looks amazing. My viewing day begun with Penn State’s offense taking the field for their last-ditch effort against George O’Leary’s team, and I had little doubt that the super-sophomore would put them in a position to win…and he did. The only question would be whether they’d be true on the field goal…and they were, Penn State 26 UCF 24. I only wish I’d have gone to bed early enough on Friday to make the 5:30 AM kickoff.
I was actually wide awake by the time UCLA and Virginia kicked off in Charlottesville. Some might joke that UCLA was far from wide awake, struggling to beat a Virginia team that everyone will doubt until given reason not to. I think there will be plenty of tests for UCLA, so winning, even by the too-close-for-comfort count of 28-20, is all they need to do. Brett Hundley and the UCLA offense disappointed me, for sure, but no need to over-analyze their survival in a game that had a 9 AM Pacific time kickoff. On the other hand, Virginia is better. Sure, they presented the Bruins opportunity on a silver platter, but they will make some noise in the ACC. Mike London is still on the hot seat for the Cavaliers, but I could see him coaching his way off. You build on victories, not quality defeat, but don’t take Virginia lightly.
UCLA Virginia Football
Mike London needs actual victories, not those of a moral nature, to cool his seat at UVA.

Congratulations on surviving Ohio State. Valiant effort by Navy. Any takeaway from the Buckeyes 34-17 game, way closer than the final would indicate, will likely be told by how well Navy plays over their next seven games. 7-0 is not out of the question for one of the better “have-nots”, which is such a disgusting thing to say say about a service academy, but we’re talking about football here, and Navy does not have a real seat at the table.
This week’s best survivors are Florida State and LSU, and our favorite surprise was from our first game this week, with apologies to Georgia State. We still have a handful of games to carry us to the finish line of this holiday weekend, but it’s safe to say we didn’t much in the way of earth-shattering events in our first week. We’re only a few steps out of the gate, so there’s still plenty of time for an unknown to join the fun down the home stretch.
We have a long way to go, but I’m on board for every minute.
*photo credit (in order of display) – USA Today, The Advocate, Hampton Roads

End of QB Woes for WVU

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I don’t know who last season was more painful for; WVU fans accustomed to stellar quarterback play, going all the way back to 2002 when Rasheed Marshall took the reigns, or Dana Holgorsen, who had coached four quarterbacks in a row to record demolishing seasons: Graham Harrell, Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, and Geno Smith.
Some fans worried about the drop in production after losing a guy like Geno Smith, coupled with the departures of standout receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, but the majority simply said, “Holgorsen’s offense is plug and play. The drop off shouldn’t be that severe.” I was one of those fans.
Well, after a year that featured three different starting quarterbacks who combined for 3,145 yards, 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions resulting in a 4-8 season, I think it’s safe to say that quarterbacks can’t just be put behind center in Holgorsen’s offense and break records. Unless by “break record” you mean break a streak of winning records that has been going since 2001.
Fortunately, I see much better things on the horizon. First, I’ll start with the announcement from a few weeks ago that Clint Trickett will be the starting quarterback for the 2014 season.
I’m one of the few fans that was ecstatic about that decision. While it’s true that Clint looked awful at times last season, it’s important to remember two things. One, he got hurt in his very first game as a starter. For those who forget, that first game was against 11th ranked Oklahoma State, which WVU won. Second, he didn’t arrive on campus until August, by which time Ford Childress and Paul Millard had been splitting all of the reps and were much farther ahead in the system. I don’t know how reps were distributed once he was on board, but considering he wasn’t given the chance to start until Millard proved incapable and Childress got injured, I have to assume he wasn’t getting a ton of first team reps.
As a side note, I don’t know if it speaks worse about Millard or better about Trickett that Trickett was still considered a better option injured than Millard was healthy, or that Trickett’s arm was still far stronger than Millard’s throwing with a bum shoulder.
I fully believe that with a full year under his belt, with 7 games worth of experience, Clint Trickett will look like a totally different player. He isn’t going to be Geno Smith, but with WVU’s stable of backs this season, even with Wendell Smallwood’s legal troubles, he won’t have to. He just has to distribute the ball and make the offense go.
With the above being said, I think WVU will have a better record this season than many pundits are predicting. Holgorsen has a full roster for the first time in his tenure, and recruiting the last few years has been outstanding. The team has depth it hasn’t had in years. So, for the rest of this article, we’re going to assume that Dana Holgorsen is returning after this season.
Now we’re going to look to the future. In the 2014 recruiting class, Holgorsen broke his traditional rule of one quarterback per class and brought in two. First was four star William Crest, and later JUCO quarterback Skyler Howard, who some sites listed as the #1 dual threat JUCO quarterback in the nation. As probably should have been expected, Howard underwhelmed in Spring practices, and is likely looking at a redshirt season, as is William Crest. With Paul Millard as a backup, along with senior Logan Moore, there’s no reason to waste eligibility on mop up time.
For 2015, Holgorsen has once again received verbal commitments from two quarterbacks. One from three star Chris Chugunov, who, while WVU was his only BCS offer, some say he’s the most underrated player on the East Coast. Then, more recently, David Sills broke a commitment he’s had with USC since the 7th grade and committed to WVU. He’s a three star on some sites, a four on others. He has the most impressive offer list of any quarterback WVU has signed since Geno Smith (I’m not counting Barry Brunetti, as he barely lasted a semester) with offers from Michigan, USC, Clemson, Boston College, Maryland, and Virginia Tech. Both Chugunov and Sills plan to be in Morgantown for Spring practice next year.
That will make 2015 a very interesting year. Barring unforeseen circumstances, WVU will enter Spring practice with four quarterbacks, the oldest of which will be a redshirt sophomore (Howard). It will be the first real quarterback competition since 2005. That – eventually – turned out some guy by the name of Pat White. He was ok.
Whoever wins the competition in 2015 will be the quarterback of the present, and the future. Something Holgorsen has yet to have in Morgantown. Obviously there’s the possibility of early NFL entry, but your quarterback playing well enough to leave early for the NFL is a first class problem to have.
Regardless, WVU fans have to be optimistic about the future of the quarterback position, especially when those quarterbacks will be paired with some of the most highly recruited skill position players that have ever committed to WVU (Shelton Gibson, Jacob McCrary, Jovon Durante if he keeps his commitment).
Dana Holgorsen is slowly but surely building his team to Big 12 quality. As the currently 21st ranked class in 2015 indicates, good things are on the horizon. All it takes is a little patience.

Big XII Year In Review

There are actually ten teams in the Big XII, and we’re just going to have to get over it.

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To think this conference almost died three years ago would have been a crying shame.  They’ve given us some pretty good football since Larry Scott almost gutted the meat and potatoes of this league to go the Cali-forny Way in a potential 16-team Pacific Coast super-conference, and it’s had very little to do with that school in Austin.  Well, they didn’t need the University of Texas to hold their own on the field, but it took the ridiculousness that is ESPN’s partnership with the school to keep 19 year-old conference glued together for this long.

That’s all in the past, though it doesn’t mean that they’ve been unaffected by conference expansion in Big XII country.  Four of its charter members have sought greener pastures, while only two have been replaced.  Only Colorado, one of Scott’s six targets (the others were Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State) made the jump to the old Pac-10, but Texas A&M and Missouri joined the Southeastern Conference, while Nebraska found a new home in the Big 10…which now has 12 teams.  Again, get over it.

In 2011, Oklahoma State had a clear path to a national championship appearance until a missed field goal on a Friday night in Ames, Iowa knocked them off course.  The next year, with A&M and Mizzu off to the SEC, West Virginia and Texas Christian (TCU) were the new kids on the block.  The new guys found that they actually would have to be in Kansas every now and again, and found themselves towards the basement of their new digs.  Speaking of Kansas, Kansas State to be specific, the school in Manhattan, Kansas had their sights set on a National Championship berth, but a night in Waco, Texas suggested that it was not to be for the Wildcats.

That brings us to 2013, and a new dawn in the Big XII.  Were we really thinking Baylor, two years removed from Robert Griffin III and a year removed from Nick Florence, could win this conference?  Hell, when the chips began to fall, we were actually thinking the final BCS National Championship might actually pit the Baylor Bears in the 16-year series final game, while a traditional favorite like Ohio State would be left out.  That was all in theory and on paper, after all the games were played, the guess-work was easy, if not non-existent.

However, the 2013 story of this conference runs much deeper than getting a team to Pasadena.  You could throw away the chalk.  This particular season could have served as a thesis for, “that’s why they play the games.”

Any Given Saturday

Iowa State, Kansas, West Virginia, and TCU were all denied the opportunity to go bowling, unless they were renting shoes at the local Brunswick house.  None of them won more than two conference games on a nine-game schedule, and even with the benefit of an FCS opponent on each of their schedules, these four schools couldn’t eclipse the four-win mark on the year.  In Iowa State’s case, the FCS opponent wasn’t a given; the Panthers of Northern Iowa defeated the Cyclones in Ames by a count of 28-20.  Even West Virginia trailed William & Mary by 10 at the half, before a second-half comeback.  But, you didn’t want to commit yourself to yard-work when these teams were in action; they had some fight in them, and yes, that even includes the hapless Kansas Jayhawks.

Charlie Weis, the place you start most arguments against hiring off the Bill Belichick Coaching Tree, had only one win in his first season in Lawrence, against South Dakota from the FCS ranks, so naturally Kansas invited another team from South Dakota in 2013, South Dakota State this time.  Weis was able to double his win total from 2012 with a 13-10 win over Louisiana Tech, a team that finished 4-8 in the mighty Conference USA.

Weis had his Any Given Saturday on November 16th, while playing host to West Virginia and NFL running back prospect Charles Sims.  It was a day for Sims to dominate, just not for Charles, who was held to 99 yards, while James Sims ran for 211 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 31-19 win to snap a 27-game Big XII losing streak for Kansas.  The fans stormed the field and tore down goal posts in the lone bright spot for the Jayhawks in Big XII play.  In their other eight conference games, all losses, they were outscored by an average of 39-12.

Iowa State did not start well; there was the aforementioned loss to Northern Iowa, followed by a rivalry loss to another in-state rival, Iowa, before finally getting in the win column at Tulsa in Week 3.   One might make an argument for the Cyclones showing in a 31-30 loss, a game Texas won with a Case McCoy touchdown run and Anthony Fera’s subsequent extra point with 51 seconds left, on October 3rd as Iowa State’s big surprise of the year.  However, a lot of people might have expected Texas to go down on this Thursday night at Jack Trice Stadium, given how low everyone’s opinion of them was at that point; not to mention, I’m not getting into Any Given Thursday in this space.

If you want to polish a turd, go ahead, but that loss was the beginning of an 0-7 conference record; even Kansas had a win with a victory over West Virginia the week before these titans would clash in Ames on November 23rd.  For Kansas, a 34-0 was essentially par for the course; for Iowa State, this was a big win, but not quite their “Any Given Saturday” moment.

With neither team going bowling, with balls weighing less than 14 pounds anyway, Iowa State’s finale in Morgantown was a game played purely for pride.  In what is surely a far cry from the old Backyard Brawl they used to play with Pittsburgh in the Big East, as far as finales go, West Virginia gave the home crowd plenty to be proud about early, and looked to be finishing the season on a good note after a 76-yard Charles Sims touchdown run put them up 31-7 early in the 2nd quarter.

Obviously, we’re still talking about the Cyclones, so you probably know where this is going.  It’s going towards great moments in hook-up history, featuring Grant Rohach and Quenton Bundrage.  On the ensuing drive, Rohach, whose 54-yard 1st quarter touchdown run represented Iowa State’s only points of the day to that point, found Bundrage for a 10-yard scoring strike that narrowed the gap to 31-14 before the half.  After a scoreless third quarter, the teams traded touchdowns early in the game’s final frame.  The Cyclones found themselves down 17 once again when Rohach and Bundrage connected again, this time for 62 yards and the score, making it 38-28 in favor of the Mountaineers.  Then, it was time for Rohach to move on from Bundrage, who finished with 7 grabs for 93 yards to go along with his touchdown receptions.

With a minute left in regulation, Rohach, who finished the day with 331 yards with his arm, hit Justin Coleman to tie the game at 38, prolonging the 2013 season for both of these teams for at least one more possession apiece.  They did nothing but trade field goals for two consecutive overtime periods, but Iowa State wasted no time the third time around.

On the first play of Triple Overtime, Rohach hit Coleman, who had five catches for 91 yards, for the touchdown, then made the required two-point conversion attempt to go up 52-44.  West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett nearly equaled what his Iowa State counterpart did, but Charles Sims was pushed out of bounds at 3 in the “home half” of the third OT.  Despite having four tries, nor Trickett or Sims could find the end zone, and the game ended when Daikiel Shorts was pushed out of bounds at the 3 after a reception.  That was the end of the season for both squads; one elated, the other devastated.

Hold on, if West Virginia stunk so much, and they did finish 4-8, what’s so signature about those wins for Weis and Rhodes?  I guess goes back to late September, when the Mountaineers hosted a man with a gaggle of players well under the age of 40 from Stillwater, Oklahoma.  A win over Mississippi State, UT-San Antonio, and Lamar had earned the Cowboys the #11 spot in the polls, but no poll wanted any part of Dana Holgorsen’s team that was thumped 37-0 by Maryland in Baltimore a week earlier.

Clint Trickett would be West Virginia’s third quarterback in five games, but Trickett was no stranger to the clipboard after transferring from Florida State, where he was EJ Manuel’s understudy.  So, he hadn’t played since mop-up duty in October 2011.  He completed less than 50% of his passes and was intercepted twice versus one touchdown, but it was all about the West Virginia defense slowing down JW Walsh, Oklahoma State’s dynamic quarterback.

Walsh did have three touchdowns in the game, but the visiting team trailed 24-14 at the half, and his scoring strike to Josh Seaton closed the gap to 24-21, but that would conclude the scoring for the Cowboys in their first Big XII contest of the season.  A pair of Josh Lambert field goals, the second coming inside of the two-minute mark made it a two possession game, giving Holgorsen his only signature victory of the season.

Finding a signature win of any sort for TCU, a team that has struggled in their three years away from The Little Sisters of the Poor (the Mountain West Conference), was difficult, if not impossible, in 2013.   Their four victories came against Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Methodist, and the aforementioned dregs of the Big XII; at least West Virginia knocked off a big boy on the national scene, adding value to anyone who took them down.

TCU took the Titans of Appalachia to OT at home, but West Virginia pulled out a 30-27 win on the road.  I think they deserve more credit for giving Baylor all they could handle in a game Baylor had to have to keep themselves alive for a conference championship.  They still lost 41-38.  However, this was not a season without some mitigating circumstances for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs.  After missing the 2012 season to personal problems, quarterback Casey Pachall was sidelined for five games with a broken arm in 2013, forcing Patterson to play some depth chart musical chairs with athlete Trevone Boykin assuming the duties.

If it’s Brown…

As I’ve mentioned, time starts and stop with what’s going on in Austin, Texas.  I don’t want to take anything away from the heroics of Vince Young, financial statements notwithstanding, or even Colt McCoy, but I don’t know when the expectations for the Longhorns reached the level of some mythical place where Mack Brown isn’t allowed to lose any games, like ever.  So, 5-7 isn’t where you’re supposed to be if you’re Texas; when that happened in 2010, it was the Longhorns’ first losing season since 1997, but they’ve lived in that 8-9 win range ever since.

This season, after poor showings against Ole Miss and BYU, angry mobs carried torches through the streets of Austin demanding Brown’s head on a platter—okay, not really, but they wanted him out.  I suppose that’s fair, but I’m not sure what part of that entitled them to the services of Nick Saban.  I know that all it would take for some people is a two or three Brinks trucks backing up to their front door, but Saban has money.  And right now, he has the University of Alabama football program under his charge; somehow, I believe that’s more priceless than all of the brisket in Texas.

The way things were made out to be after a 3-2 start, it was as if Mack Brown were somehow sabotaging the program.  Nobody gave him a chance in the Red River Shootout at the Cotton Bowl against Big Game Bob and his Sooners, but I guess this is why they play the games.  It was, in fact, Oklahoma that stood no chance at the Texas State Fair’s Main Event.  Aided by a good start that got them out to a 20-3 lead in the second quarter, Texas simply looked like the better team than #12 Oklahoma on this day.

Case McCoy was efficient, despite throwing a 4th quarter pick-six, which brought the Sooners back to within two possessions at 36-20, a score that held up until the final gun.  He did need to do anything special with the way his backs were running the ball; Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown each eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards.  While Brown was starting to find answers, questions were being raised up in Norman.  Blake Bell struggled mightily, and the Sooners offense converted just 2-of-13 third downs.

They’d go on to win six straight Big XII games in all, the sixth being 47-40 overtime thriller at West Virginia, before dropping three of their last four games, in what turned out to be Brown’s final season in Austin.  They did this, despite getting a new athletic director in-season and having to avoid the writing on the wall about their head coach’s fate.  Sure, there’s nothing good about a 1-3 finish, but do consider the 3 came at the hands of #10 Oklahoma State, #9 Baylor, and #12 Oregon.  In the end, it was Charlie Strong from Louisville, and not Saban, who was brought in to prove that Texas is indeed too good for 4 and 5 loss seasons.

By the way, Texas finished the regular season in Waco, with a chance to win a conference title.  Art Briles and the Baylor Bears weren’t about to let that happen in the swan song for Floyd Casey Stadium, but after all of the scrutiny, Brown brought home a 7-2 conference record, and had his team in a “win and you’re in” (the Fiesta Bowl) scenario.

Snyder of Manhattan

Every time I’m out in Goodyear, Arizona, the spring home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, I’m teased by the Synder of Hanover building.  And, it’s not that I so much that I have a problem with pretzels as I’m reminded that I’m time zones away from Snyder of Berlin and those delicious barbeque chips that answered many a snack cravings as a child.  Okay, where was I going?  That’s right; it’s Bill Snyder and the 2013 Kansas State Wildcats.

While they’re talking about doing better than Mack Brown at Texas, someday Kansas State is going to have to do something other than Bill Snyder with their football program.  Snyder is 74, and has served as the Wildcats head coach for 22 years, albeit non-consecutive years.  If the next guy doesn’t work out for them, I’m not sure another un-retirement is in the cards, but who’s talking about retirement?

A year removed from a Fiesta Bowl appearance, an occurrence that’s become more regular than it ought to be for the school in the Little Apple, the Wildcats had a rough start out of the gate, losing to an FCS school.  Never you mind the small fact that North Dakota State won the Division I Playoff, the FCS stigma still remains.  After that, they did drop four games, only to the league’s Top 4 teams, but they returned to Arizona and finished on a good note, shellacking Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (can I still just say BW3?) by a score of 31-14.

Off the Kliff

We knew something would have to give in the Big XII, especially if Texas wasn’t as bad as we believed them to be in September.  There just wasn’t enough room at the table for everyone, even with A&M long gone, if Baylor was really going to insist on a spot at the adult table.

In a decision that may very well have been based on the availability of grilled cheese on glazed donuts on Tom + Chee, Tommy Tuberville left Lubbock for the potentially greener pastures of Cincinnati, Ohio.  That left Kliff Kingsbury, who played quarterback at Texas Tech only a few years ago, but was more recently credited with the fast development of Johnny Manziel at A&M, to take over a Red Raiders program that’s fallen a long way since they dismissed Mike Leach.

They got out to a 7-0 start, which earned them a #10 ranking, but a non-conference slate of SMU, Stephen F Austin, and Texas State probably never instilled fear into the hearts of men.  Now, I never like to say a team got “exposed” because they hit a gauntlet in their schedule; Tech had to play the Top 5 teams in the final Big XII standings in consecutive weeks, and they lost them all.

They went to Oklahoma, hosted Oklahoma State and Kansas State, played a neutral site game with Baylor, and then lost 41-16 in Austin.  There’s only score to be read there, but it tells the tale of the entire losing streak; the offense scored no more than 34 points in any game of the losing streak, while the defense allowed no fewer than 38 in any of those games.

They drew Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, which was an underwhelming draw for the Sun Devils if you ask people who support the Pac-12 runners up, but Texas Tech dismissed all perceptions with a relatively dominating performance.  Davis Webb threw for 403 yards and 4 touchdowns, as the Red Raiders took the Sun Devils behind the woodshed for a good ole fashioned beat down.

What’s a Little Bedlam between Two Thursdays?

We know that Oklahoma State didn’t play much of a non-conference slate.  Hell, that goes ditto for Oklahoma, though the latter went to South Bend and avenged their 2012 loss to the Irish on the God-forsaken Plains.  It was going to come down to conference play, and both took an early loss.  Somehow, some way, West Virginia took down Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys, and we know the story of what happened to Stoops at the Red River Shootout.  That said, each took down a giant, which gave shape to the Big XII title chase, and then un-did that very shape.

Somehow, some way, it was Baylor that became the giant that needed slaying.  On a Thursday night in Waco, Oklahoma showed that they were far from ready for the task.  It was a 41-12 loss that everyone not glued to every snap in the Oregon-Stanford game saw.  I’m not sure that game really set us up for what would go down in Stillwater, when those giants, I mean Bears, would claw their way into T. Boone Pickens Stadium for the Saturday Night Main Event.  What Baylor did, was take all of the goodwill given to them after beating up the team from Norman, and torch it over a couple of hours during a 49-17 loss at Oklahoma State.

When the two met in Stillwater on December 7th, Oklahoma State was playing for the conference title and a bid in the BCS.  A BCS bid was a long shot for the Sooners, but the opportunity to spoil the Cowboys title hopes sat right in front of them.  This was Bedlam, and absent a post-season conference championship game, this would serve as a de facto championship of sorts, and would turn out to be a BCS clinching game for the winner.

The game was tied after the first, second, and third quarter.  It had five lead changes, a punt return, a kicker scoring a touchdown, and it ended with a scoop and score as time ran out, and the Sooners upset the Cowboys in their own house.  They spoiled everything for Oklahoma State, and opened the door for Texas to play Baylor for a Fiesta Bowl berth.  The Cowboys were sent to Arlington to play Big XII expat Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, while the Sooners earned a date with the might Crimson Tide of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

A Friday night loss in the House of Jerry rendered Oklahoma State’s season forgettable to an extent, which isn’t to take anything away from them or Missouri, but it left me to believe they were just a team that upset Baylor, rather than being sold on them actually being the best team in the Big XII.  Oklahoma lost to Texas and Baylor, which left them mathematically ineligible for the conference title in the season finale, but they did enough to be noticed.

It was them, and not 2-loss Oregon from the Pac-12, that filled the final at-large spot in the BCS.  When it comes to believing a team without a conference title as the best, this Alabama team came to mind, weighing the reality of how they lost at Auburn to end their regular season.  No one gave Oklahoma a chance, except for maybe Bob Stoops and his young men.

However, when they took the field in New Orleans on that Thursday night, they showed that they were not only capable, but that Trevor Knight and company might have even been a downright better team that AJ McCarron and the Tide.  The nail in the coffin was similar to the finish at Bedlam, a scoop and score.  Final score: Oklahoma 45 Alabama 31.

Ida Gone To Baylor

So, the story goes like this, as my friend Miko would tell it.  Now, I haven’t seen Miko in a number of years, but this will stay with me forever.  He was an Oklahoma guy, an alumni, and he recalls a cowboy telling the Baylor mascot how it is, with a big ole chew in his mouth, in the thickest of thick cowboy accents, he says, “I’d have gone to Baylor, (spits tobacco juices) if they had a football team.”  Of course, it comes out like this, “Ida gawnta Bay-Ler, they had a Foot Bawl team!”

It was a good time for the Oklahoma program; in the same breath, it was a good time for Ohio State, the early 2000s.  Shortly after that, I’m pretty sure he moved back to Oklahoma shortly after that.  I’ve only heard from him once in the years since.  It was the night of October 22, 2005.  The first text read, “Oh shoot, maybe they do have a football team.”

I looked at the TV, a side TV because Baylor-Oklahoma was supposed to be a throw-away game.  Baylor quarterback Shawn Bell had thrown a 55-yard touchdown pass to bring the Bears within two.  Bell converted on the 2-point conversion with his legs, which tied the game at 27, and we had overtime in Norman.  Baylor kicked a field goal on their first possession of the bonus period, and it took a 39-yard boot from Garret Hartley to keep the game alive.  The Sooner held on in the second OT, and I got a second text from Miko, the last thing he ever said to me.

“Phew”

That was eight years ago.  Guy Moriss is out, Art Briles is in, and thanks to a 45-38 win over the Sooners in 2011, the Bears are no longer 0-for-forever against Oklahoma.  Art Briles has changed the program; Robert Griffin III obviously deserves some credit for changing the culture there.  They won’t accept 2nd-rate facilities or a 2nd-rate program in Waco.  They were contending for the national championship before their trip to Stillwater.

Though they stumbled in Glendale, Arizona on the big stage against an underrated Central Florida team, and it isn’t like they stumbled hard or even to a bad team.  They just lost a game they were favored to win, but I wouldn’t let the Vegas standard affect how I feel about Baylor.  Their biggest win came in retaining Briles, who easily could have and probably should have been the new man in Austin.  I see nothing but more of the same from this program, one that was left out of the fold when the entire conference was being poached, in favor of Colorado.  I know that it was more about the Denver TV market than anything else, but still, Baylor does more for their conference in 2014 and beyond than I ever see happening for the Pac-12 in Boulder.