Around the Big 12: WVU offense soaring en route to Austin

Texas TEAM SHOP
Quarterback Will Grier and wide receiver David Sills lead a potent West Virginia offense, which hung 58 points on Baylor Saturday, into Austin next Saturday to face the Longhorns (photos courtesy of wvusports.com / graphic by Horns Illustrated).

By Steve Lansdale

The Texas Longhorns don’t have a lot of time to dwell on their loss to Oklahoma State. Regrouping is imperative, because at 4-1, UT still owns a share of the conference lead, as do West Virginia and Oklahoma … and one of those teams, the Mountaineers, is headed to Austin Saturday for a game that will have massive implications on the conference race.

So how did the rest of the Big 12 do over the weekend?

West Virginia 58, Baylor 14
Anyone who saw West Viriginia get upset Oct. 13 by Iowa State and thought the Mountaineers’ high-powered offense had lost its punch was sorely mistaken. Quarterback Will Grier, touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate, threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns Saturday as WVU took apart Baylor, 58-14.

“I thought he was solid — I really did,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said of Grier. “He managed it well. The thing I liked about it is we had a whole bunch of people touch the ball. There were a lot of guys that went in there and touched the ball. He’s spreading the ball around a lot … I was really proud of the way he played.”

Wide receivers David Sills and Gary Jennings each caught a pair of touchdown passes, and kicker Evan Staley connected on three field goals for West Virginia.

WVU is known for its offense, but the defense did the job, limiting the years to 278 total yards, barely half of the 568 yards piled up by the Mountaineer offense; WVU had 435 yards in the first half, the most before the intermission and second-most in any half in the history of the program. Since 2000, West Viriginia is now 118-15 when scoring 30 or more points, and 61-4 when scoring at least 40.

Oklahoma 51, Kansas State 14
It is said repeatedly that scoring margins don’t factor into the minds of voters. That may (or may not) be true, but the Sooners didn’t seem inclined to take any changes, running up a 37-point win over Kansas State.

Offensively, Oklahoma racked up a ridiculous 702 yards of total offense; by comparison, the Wildcats mustered 245. Quarterback Kyler Murray threw for 352 yards and three scores, while running backs Kennedy Brooks and T.J. Pledger ran for 94 (and two touchdowns) and 91 yards, respectively. Defensively, the Sooners limited Kansas State running back Alex Barnes, the Big 12’s leading rusher before the game, to just 28 yards on 13 carries.

“He has been tremendous against everybody,” OU head coach Lincoln Riley said, “so that's, of all the stats in the game, that's one of the ones that I know I'm most proud of.”

Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb had a with statistics rarely seen outside of a video game: four catches for 160 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including one from 82 yards.

“We talked about the physicality all week,” Riley said. “We knew the quality of the offensive line that was coming in here, how good their back is. Our guys probably got sick of hearing that all week. We took good steps there this week. I thought we did some of the things, specifically defensively, that we targeted that we needed to improve on from the TCU game. We did that ... We prided ourselves on being the most physical team on the field every time we step on and being the most physical team in this conference, so every week is a challenge that way.”

Iowa State 40, Texas Tech 31
The Iowa State defense grabbed three interceptions, one of which was returned 41 yards for a score by linebacker Marcel Spears, and running back David Montgomery ran for 125 yards and a pair of one-yard touchdowns to help the Cyclones win their Homecoming game against Texas Tech.

The Cyclones finished an undefeated (3-0) month of October, the second year in a row in which they escaped the month without a blemish on their record. They now have won three straight over Texas Tech for the first time ever.

The loss dipped Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s career record back under the .500 mark, at 35-36. Tech returned a blocked punt for a touchdown for the first time since 2005. 

Kansas 27, TCU 26
Remember way back at the start of the season, when there were those who suggested that it was TCU, not Texas, that might challenge Oklahoma for Big 12 supremacy in 2018, and perhaps even a longshot chance at a berth in the College Football Playoff? That chatter wasn’t during the playing careers of Davey O’Brien or Sammy Baugh or even LaDainian Tomlinson, but around Fort Worth, it might feel that way.

Defensive lineman Keyshaun Simmons recovered a fumble late in the fourth quarter to get the ball back for Kansas and secure the Jayhawks 27-26 victory over the Horned Frogs, despite being outgained by nearly 200 yards (504-307).

KU running back Pooka Williams ran 11 times for just 33 yards, but he caught seven passes out of the backfield for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Kansas offense.

“Our defense, I can’t say enough about those guys,” Kansas head coach David Beaty said after the Jayhawks’ victory. “Continuing to play, come up with two more turnovers. We didn’t turn it over offensively. Played really pretty good in the special teams. We talked about it all week. That was going to be the difference in this game, was special teams. I thought our coverage teams actually did a really nice job on a team that’s very explosive. Even without (Kavontae) Turpin, they’ve got some dudes that are really, really talented, and I thought our guys took that challenge well.”

Quarterback Michael Collins made his first start for TCU, and he completed 23 of 33 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown, and ran for two more scores.

TCU head coach Gary Patterson said this year’s struggles could lay the foundation for the 2019 season.

“I said before the season we were young,” Patterson said. “I knew what the motto was. We have had injuries. I am not making excuses. You can write what you want. We are 3-5, might be 3-9 before it is done. But the bottom line is we are going to keep fighting, we are going to keep moving forward so we can get better for next year.”

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