By Steve Lansdale
What a week in the Big 12: Texas held off Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas had the week off, and two of the three other games, at least on paper, were considerable upsets.
In its simplest form, the week means the Longhorns are alone in first place with a 4-0 mark in games against Big 12 teams, and already have a win over the team many viewed before the season as the conference’s prohibitive heavyweight: the Sooners. But head coach Tom Herman will be the first to say, in a chorus that would be echoed by his entire coaching staff and players, that the conference race is far from decided.
So what went down in the rest of the Big 12?
Kansas State 31, Oklahoma State 12
More often than not in recent years, the Cowboys have had an up-and-down defense that sometimes has had to rely on the explosive OSU offense to win games. Such was the case Saturday, when Kansas State running back Alex Barnes ran for 181 yards and four tochdowns. The problem was that the offense didn’t make up the slack, K-State pulled away for a 31-12 victory.
The Wildcats improved to 3-4 on the season, and won their first game in four against Big 12 opponents. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State, which welcomes Texas to Stillwater next week, dipped to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in conference games.
“This is a week-to-week deal — we will practice again, get more coverage, get some rest,” OSU head coach Mike Gundy said after his team’s streak of 33 games with at least one takeaway ended, as did its streak of 19 consecutive victories when leading at halftime. “You can’t panic — you can’t do that, you know? We have to look and see what we’re doing, where we are at and what we can do to correct it. We are trying to do what we can as soon as possible to fix the problems.”
Iowa State 30, No. 6 West Virgina 14
The Big 12’s most shocking result was not just the fact that the high-flying Mountaineers lost, but the way in which they lost. Anyone watching ISU and WVU play Saturday would have guessed the nationally ranked, undefeated team on the field was the Cyclones, not the Mountaineers. ISU has pulled a few upsets in recent years, but West Virginia came into Ames with an unblemished record and a potent offense, and got stifled.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, turned in his worst performance since transferring to WVU, completing 11 of 15 passes for just 100 yards; meanwhile Iowa State freshman Brock Purdy threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns.
Rather than lauding the Cyclones for their performance, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen opted instead rip just about all aspects of his own team’s game.
“They didn’t come up with a magical defense to stop what we were doing,” Holgorsen said. “We didn’t do anything right. We didn’t make plays, we didn’t keep our eyes where they needed to be. We didn’t run fast, we didn’t get off coverage, we didn’t make good decisions. We didn’t call good plays, we didn’t tackle them, we didn’t block.”
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, on the other hand, prefaced his kudos for his team with a nod to the Mountaineers.
“West Virginia’s got a really good football team, and I have a ton of respect for them,” Campbell said. “We have still got a lot of work to do, but we continue to develop. This group has really gotten better every week. It will be interesting to see this group’s choice. They have a big decision to make on where we go from here, and what is our story.”
Texas Tech 17, TCU 14
If Iowa State’s romp over West Virginia was the biggest upset in the conference this week, it certainly wasn’t the only one. Jett Duffey became the third Tech quarterback to start a game this season, and threw a 62-yard touchdown and ran 38 yards for another score on a quarterback draw to lift the Red Raiders (4-2 overall, 2-1 in Big 12 games) over the Horned Frogs (3-3 overall, 1-2 in games against conference opponents) in Fort Worth.
Tech won despite offensive production far below its standard entering the game. The Red Raiders put up 353 yards of total offense after averaging 591 per game in their first five games of the season, and won despite scoring 31 points fewer than their average before Thursday’s matchup.
Among those watching the game was former Texas A&M-turned-Cleveland-Browns-turned-current-Montreal-Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel, who played for Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury when he was an assistant at A&M.
Duffey was pulled for a series in the second half, but returned to lead his team to victory.
“I was really proud of Jett,” Kingsbury said. “That’s such a hard situation: first start ever, and then at halftime we’re going to try something else. Then have to be put back in and find a way to dig deep, be mentally tough to handle that, and make plays to win the game. I can’t say enough about his mental toughness.”
TCU entered the game after a week off, which didn’t help the Horned Frogs, but head coach Gary Patterson said he now worries about the fact that his next opponent, Oklahoma, has an extra week to prepare for next week’s matchup with TCU.
“This program has been here before,” Patterson said. “It doesn’t look good when you’re 3-3 and looking down the middle at Oklahoma, and they have two weeks to prepare for you.”