By Steve Lansdale
The Longhorns did their part … and in so doing, just might have reached one of their goals that some felt had slipped away.
Needing victories and a little help from other teams in order to secure a berth in the Big 12 championship game, the Longhorns took care of their end of the equation, grinding out a 24-10 victory over Iowa State.
But that was only part of what was needed. What else happened around the Big 12?
No. 6 Oklahoma 55, Kansas 40
As if the memory of a loss to the Jayhawks a couple of years ago wasn’t enough of a reminder to take every opponent seriously — even those with the 3-8 overall record, including a 1-7 slate against Big 12 teams — KU’s near-miss against the Sooners provided an ample reminder.
OU needed a strong finish, and a combined five touchdowns (two passing and three rushing) from star quarterback Kyler Murray to knock off the upstart Jayhawks, a pedestrian team in recent years that might have found a boost of sentimental energy in the news that popular coach David Beaty will not be back in 2019.
Beaty said after the game that Murray deserves to win the Heisman Trophy. But part of the reason his team stayed with the Sooners was the stellar performance by junior Kansas running back Pooka Williams, who ran for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns … on just 15 carries. For his efforts, Williams was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.
“I thought Khalil (Herbert) ran really, really well and then Pooka (Williams) just played unbelievable tonight, he really did,” Beaty said. “He’s so much fun to be around, just because he brings so much energy to that team. That kid just gets better every week because he works at it. He loves the game and he continues to work at it, and that’s why he continues to grow his game from week to week in an area that maybe we didn’t think he had the week before, and we’ll see something new. He’s a special player and he certainly was a guy who we turned to a lot tonight.”
Oklahoma State 45, No. 7 West Virginia 41
If the Longhorns can handle Kansas, they will face the winner of Saturday’s game between Oklahoma and West Virginia in Morgantown, W.V., a game that is relevant now because the Mountaineers stumbled in Stillwater.
West Virginia’s Heisman hopeful, quarterback Will Grier, was the marquee name entering the matchup, but it was his counterpart who stole the show. Playing in his last home game, Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius put up numbers expected of Grier or Kyler Murray or another headline quarterback when he passed for 338 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 106 and another score.
“If you can't respect the way that young man's played,” OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said, “and how he's bounced back and how he's played against really good defenses … who's played better than him against the top defenses in this league?”
It’s not like Grier took the night off — he did complete 27 of 48 passes for 364 yards and a pair of touchdowns — but the night belonged to the Oklahoma State offense.
In addition to Cornelius’ signature performance, running back Chuba Hubbard rushed 26 times for 134 yards, and wide receiver Dillon Stoner caught nine passes for 127 yards.
TCU 16, Baylor 9
A depleted TCU team limped out of Waco Saturday, but took a victory back to Fort Worth.
When starting quarterback Michael Collins exited late in the first quarter with an apparent ankle injury, the Horned Frogs turned to third-stringer Grayson Muehlstein, who had completed exactly one pass in his career prior to Saturday’s game.
Muehlstein completed 11 of 15 passes for 137 yards, including touchdown passes of 65 and 37 yards to wideout Jalen Reagor, to lift his team over Baylor.
The Horned Frogs and Bears now have identical records: 5-6 overall, and 3-5 against Big 12 teams.
"All I had to do was throw a quick little short pass, and he did all the rest," said Muehlstein.
With the Horned Frogs riddled by injuries, Reagor said he felt the responsibility to reach down deep to make plays for his team.
"The way season has gone, I have to do things like this," Reagor said. "When those injuries happened, I thought, all right, I've got to empty the tank more."
Kansas State 21, Texas Tech 6
Amid a swirl of questions about whether Saturday was the final home game head coach Bill Snyder would coach at Kansas State, the Wildcats turned in a defensive masterpiece, holding the potent Tech offense to just 181 total yards en route to the victory.
KSU and Texas Tech each have records of 5-6 overall, and 3-5 against teams in the Big 12.
Not surprisingly, Snyder heaped praise upon his defense.
"I was really proud of our defensive players, our coaches. Pretty special," Snyder said. "Regardless of the win, the real effort of how we played was special."
The Kansas State defense provided the game’s biggest stars, but the offense did enough to win. Quarterback Skylar Thompson returned from a concussion to throw for 213 yards and a touchdown, running back Alex Barnes ran for 136 yards and kicker Blake Lynch drilled four field goals.
K-State has won seven of its last eight matchups against Texas Tech, which has not won in Manhattan, Kan., since 2008.
Remember Tech quarterback, who threw for 444 yards and four touchdowns against the Longhorns? Against the Wildcats, he completed 19 of 27 passes for 150 yards and an interception. For good measure, he also lost a pair of fumbles.
"You have to give them credit," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said, "but we were not able to run the ball at all and the passing game was not very sharp. We were not very crisp."