By KEVIN LONNQUIST
Big 12 Insider
Every week, the Big 12 coaches hold a conference call with the media. Rattle and Hum Sports points out some of the issues that made the most news. All rankings are BCS.
Texas true freshman running back Johnathan Gray has made the most of his opportunities to become the No. 17 Longhorns’ (7-2, 4-2) No. 1 running back. Gray has rushed for 111 and 106 yards against Kansas and Texas Tech and currently leads all UT running backs with 533 yards. “We’re excited at what he’s done,’’ coach Mack Brown said. “He’s very mature, tough, fast and smart football player. He’s so competitive. He loves football.’’… as for quarterback David Ash’s performance last week against Texas Tech – 11-19-0 264 3TD – Brown said, “It was big message to everybody.’
With Kansas (1-8, 0-6) already eliminated from bowl eligibility, coach Charlie Weis knows he has to do a better job with his team when trying to play for four quarters. With the exception of the blowout loss to Oklahoma, the Jayhawks have been in every game for a half. “Being competitive for a half isn’t good enough,’’ Weis said. “That’s my biggest disappointment. Obviously, it’s my responsibility to find a way to stop the recurring theme… with his 126 yards at Baylor, running back James Sims has five consecutive 100-yard games.
Playing at home against Baylor, No. 12 Oklahoma (6-2, 4-1) coach Bob Stoops knows his defense has to be ready for an up-tempo approach from the Bears… but Stoops has another offensive option in junior transfer wide receiver Jalen Saunders. The NCAA granted Saunders immediate eligibility the week of the Texas game. He shined with 15 receptions against Notre Dame and already has 24 receptions this year. “I knew he would make a great contribution,’’ Stoops said. “I saw how hard he works, and he was picking things up when he was working with Landry [Jones].’’
The Oklahoma State quarterback merry-go-round continued when freshman Wes Lunt went out against Kansas State with an apparent concussion. Coach Mike Gundy won’t provide specific updates so it’s unclear whether Lunt will play for the Cowboys (5-3, 3-2) against West Virginia. Senior Clint Chelf came on in relief. Gundy said he thought Chelf performed OK considering the circumstances. “I was proud of the way he competed,’’ Gundy said. “You can’t ask for more than what he gave us.’
Of course, the big question for Kansas State Bill Snyder was how was senior quarterback Collin Klein, who also left last Saturday’s game with what looked to be a concussion. “He seems fine to me,’’ Snyder said. When asked if he thought the Heisman Trophy contender would play Saturday at TCU, Snyder said, “Hope so.’’ Snyder makes it a policy not to comment on player injuries… when it comes to points off of turnovers, no one in the country does it better than the No. 2 Wildcats (9-0, 6-0). Kansas has scored 111 points off of opponents’ turnovers this season. Conversely, when K-State has turned the ball over, their opponents have zero points.
2011 marked the first time in the last 12 years that West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen didn’t have any connection with Oklahoma State. He coached against the Cowboys when he was an assistant at Texas Tech and Houston and then was the offensive coordinator at OSU before he went to West Virginia. The one-year gap ends Saturday when the Mountaineers (5-3, 2-3) travel to Stillwater. “They have old school toughness,’’ Holgorsen said. Holgorsen mentioned that his offense only added to what Gundy is doing at OSU.
Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was a little overly critical of his team’s performance in the red zone. “We’ve played pretty average there,’’ Tuberville said. “Penalties have hurt us. It’s really been the difference in our season.’’ However, when you look at Tech’s efficiency in that category, the No. 22 Red Raiders (6-3, 3-3) are pretty good. They’re third in the conference at 88.9 percent (40-45) with 31 touchdowns and nine field goals… with three games remaining this season, Tuberville said he will scale back practice times. “In November, they’re more prepared mentally than physically,’’ he said.
Baylor’s 41-14 victory over Kansas snapped a four-game losing streak and gave the Bears (4-4, 1-4) their first Big 12 win. “We’d been in a dry spell,’’ coach Art Briles said… transfer running back Lache Seastrunk broke out with his first 100-yard game as he scampered for 103 yards. This could be a sign of things to come for the rest of the season. “He has great ability,’’ Briles said. “He’s been a real positive addition to our football team.’’
When Iowa State (5-4, 2-4) lost linebacker Jake Knott to season-ending shoulder surgery on Oct. 29, it reshuffled that section of the team. A.J. Klein moved over to the weak side. Jeremiah George went into Klein’s spot. But the act of sportsmanship came from Texas coach Mack Brown, who sent Knott a get well message. “I try to send a note to any young man, especially in our league, who I’ve gotten to know by watching him play. This young man is a great player. By all accounts, he’s a better young man. I hate that any young man who is as passionate about this game as he is gets the latter part of his senior year taken away from him.”
Knott responded to the gesture by tweeting, “Mack Brown, thank you very much for the letter. You are truly a class act.”…Iowa State plays at Texas Saturday.
Admittedly, Kansas State alum and TCU (6-3, 3-3) coach Gary Patterson could not be more proud of what the Wildcats have done. But he can’t feel that way when teams meet Saturday in Fort Worth. “It’s a dilemma, isn’t it?’’ Patterson joked. “You do what you have to do to beat them. Obviously, I have to make sure my team and our fans are ready to go. Everybody should be excited.’’ This is the first time since 1970 the No. 2 team in the country has come to Fort Worth. That was Texas.