FROM THE STANDS
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT UT SPORTS
WITH TREY McLEAN
CO-OP Game Day
I think I have a handle on these personal foul calls involving helmet-to-helmet contact (I’m just talking about the ones in the college game): It’s all about the reaction. As near as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the play, the context or whether or not the hitee is prone or defenseless. It’s all about how the hitee reacts to the hit. I’ll take two examples from this weekend. Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M. In the fourth quarter Ryan Swope caught a pass over the middle for 25 yards and as he was breaking a tackle, an OSU safety came up and laid a lick on him as he was spinning and trying to get more yards.
The tackle was necessary as Swope seemed to be gathering himself for a big gain after the catch, and with him coming out of a spin move there was no way you could say the Oklahoma State db was targeting him or that he was defenseless. Still, a flag was thrown and 15 yards were added on. So why was the flag thrown? Swope was laid out, going down immediately on impact and the flag came a second behind him. Meanwhile, in the Alabama/Arkansas game, I saw Hogs’ qb Tyler Wilson throw a pass for a touchdown, falling backwards as he released it, and then took a vicious facemask-to-facemask hit that absolutely flattened him. That play was the definition of helmet-to-helmet and seemed to be exactly the type of play this new rule is there to prevent as Wilson had no ability to defend himself and he had already released the ball; yet no flag came because Wilson popped up right away to celebrate the touchdown. It cannot possibly just be a flag when someone gets hurt, can it? No. Again, I understand the spirit of the rule, but the application is terrible. If it only gets called when a player stays down, this is going to turn into soccer, because eventually players are just going to start staying down to see if they can draw the flag. Please, please, please do not let it get to that.
A couple of notes from the weekend of college football:
•Gary Pinkel ruined his kicker with that icing at Arizona State. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere but on the field against ou Saturday night. Imagine if he hadn’t ruined him? That’s a 38-34 game going to the end.
•Speaking of ou, they found a terrific tailback in walk-on Dominique Whaley and quietly lost superstar recruit Jermie Calhoun — who many people were outraged Texas didn’t recruit him— to transfer a week ago.
•I don’t see how Houston Nutt keeps his job. Ole Miss is TERRIBLE.
•I guess a Nutt apologist could point to injuries and suspensions, but I don’t see those excuses at Arizona for Mike Stoops. For what seems to be a weekly occurrence, I watched someone (Oregon this week) turn the Arizona Wildcats into a chew toy. Arizona is also terrible and I can’t imagine anyone is Tucson is happy with the national TV efforts or the national TV outbursts from their coach.
•Toledo was robbed. They lost at Syracuse in overtime, 33-30, but that isn’t the story. With 2:07 left, the Orange took the lead, 29-27, on a touchdown pass with an extra point pending. They kicked it and went up, 30-27, but here is the thing- they missed the extra point. It was called good on the field and after review the rule stood. (Apparently no one in the replay booth had EYES because you could clearly see the ball cross the goal post.) Toledo answered, driving down the field to kick a game-tying field goal to send it to overtime with seconds to play. They lost the game in OT, but they actually should have won it in regulation. And the Big East conference agreed, saying the referees blew the call. They aren’t going to overturn the game or anything, but they are real, real sorry.
•I’m not sure what the pollsters are watching, because LSU is the best team in the country right now, followed closely by Alabama. I watched the ou/Missouri game and it only reinforced that belief. The Tigers are so sick with talent Mr. Miles might not be able to mess it up. Key word is “might.”
•I watched a lot of quarterbacks play and some of the decision making I saw from brand names makes me appreciate what Case McCoy did last week even more.
Texas got through the bye week unscathed and now it’s time for Big 12 play. On to Ames.
No.17 TEXAS (3-0) @ IOWA ST. (3-0)
Saturday, October 1st
I keep thinking about last year and how this was the game that sent the proverbial train off the tracks and into football oblivion. The UCLA loss set the tone and planted the seed, but a big win at Nebraska had Texas ranked No.22 and sitting at 4-2. There was optimism that the ugly loss to UCLA and the frustrating loss to ou were in the rearview mirror and the Horns were on the way back to what everyone expected. Texas would move to 5-2 and climb back up the polls, having five of their last six games at home. Texas was nearly unbeatable at home and this was Iowa State after all. They hadn’t beaten Texas in Big 12 play and had given up 120 points the last two weeks. Texas had this. Right? Wrong. Very, very wrong. Texas turned the ball over four times, all of them inside the 20 it seems, and lost a shocker to the Cyclones, 28-20. Texas seemed emotionless and lethargic while Iowa State was excited and ready to play. After the game Mack Brown said something to the effect of “… I came ready to play; no one else involved with this team did.” It was clear the staff was not on the same page and it was clear the leadership of the team was not there to turn the tide. Texas was derailed and would lose their next three before beating FAU and losing to A&M to end the year at 5-7. Who knows what happens if the Horns find a way to beat Iowa State that day? At worst, they are 6-6 at the end of the year and bowling; but it doesn’t matter, because they didn’t win.
But it is this year and Texas is undefeated with a new staff, new energy and new goals. Likewise, Iowa State is undefeated and a win over Texas Saturday gets them ranked and makes a statement. It also gets them 2 wins from bowl eligibility and some national pub. Both teams have a lot at stake Saturday night in Ames. So who wins? Texas does, and here’s why:
I told you I love me some Paul Rhoads. He’s energetic, fiery and he’ll walk through fire for his team and they feel the same way. Texas is in for a fight, and I don’t just mean with the fans tailgating in the fields around Jack Trice Stadium where Minnesota Vikings-clad students talk non-stop trash and one might try and cut you with homemade scissors (I’ve seen all that happen), but on the field. This is a solid team and they bring some talent to the table. I see some holes, too, but all in all I like them — just not this week.
The Cyclones run the spread, which ideally produces some big numbers and opportunities for big yards and big plays. The result has been mixed, however. While they scored 41 on Iowa, the Cyclone offense ranks seventh in passing (235.3 ypg), ninth in scoring (29.3 ppg), last in rushing (145.3 ypg) and ninth in total offense at 380.7 yards per game. That doesn’t sound like a very imposing offense, but I’ve seen them play twice and, so far this year, when they have needed to make plays they got it done.
As I mentioned last week, the triggerman for the Cyclone spread attack is quarterback Steele Jantz. I wish that was my name. Steele Jantz (yes, I will be using his entire name every time in this article) is a 6-foot-3, 224-pound junior college transfer that started his career at Hawaii. Looking at him, he is very similar to the UCLA quarterbacks in size and athleticism. He’s big, mobile and can force defenses to account for his legs and his arm. He has 149 yards rushing (2.9 per carry) and two touchdowns on the ground to go along with 666 yards passing and six td passes this season. The problem is he’s too much like the UCLA quarterbacks with a 57% completion rate and six interceptions in just three games. Again, stats don’t tell the whole story: I’ve watched him take his team down the field twice to win games, one against their hated rival and the other on the road. Steele Jantz is at his best when he has to be, so look for some Case McCoy scrambling and fearless throws on third downs. The stats tell me he’s going to make some mistakes, but what from I’ve seen he’ll also make some plays.
His favorite two receivers are Darius Reynolds and Aaron Horne. Horne, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior leads the team in receptions with 14 and averages 13.1 yards per catch. He isn’t the biggest or the fastest, but he has great chemistry with Steele Jantz as they were teammates at City College of San Francisco last year. Reynolds is a senior and leads the team in yards (240) and touchdown receptions (4) and is the possession receiver. At 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, he’s big enough to go over the middle and catch the ball and athletic enough to make plays after he catches it. The third option is Josh Lenz, the 6-foot, 197-pound junior that averages 44 yards per game and has two scores. Lenz is a great deep threat and benefits from the attention given to bigger wide outs like Reynolds and 6-foot-1 Darius Darks as well as Steele Jantz’s ability to move around. In fact, I think the entire receiving corps benefits from Steele Jantz’ ability to move around, ad-lib and make plays. If he’s able to do that, then the opportunity will be there for the wide outs to make plays. If the defense can pin their ears back and contain Steele Jantz, it will be a long day.
The ability to keep defenses guessing is going to depend on the running game. So far, no good. The Clones are in the high 60’s nationally in rushing, averaging just 149 yards per game on the ground. They feature two backs: Shontrelle Johnson and James White. The two guys are nearly identical size-wise at 5-foot-8/9 and 180ish pounds. Both are fast, very quick and can make plays in space. Neither is really big enough to be a workhorse like Malcolm Brown, but the two together split the carries. On the season they combine for 103 yards per game and three touchdowns runs from White. In the spread you’ll see these backs get the ball on the zone read, draws and swing passes (they average 18 yards per game receiving) to get them outside and maximize their speed. If they can get some room, they might keep Texas’ defense on their heels enough to get the passing game on track.
And who will make that happen? The offensive line. The leaders of the offense are up front, where three starters return including left tackle Kelechi Osemele, who was All-Big 12 last year. There is experience and size, but it is inconsistent. In two of the three games, the running game was not very good. The Cylcones managed only 141 yards rushing against I-AA Northern Iowa and only 101 at UConn, but tailback Shontrelle Johnson had 108 against Iowa. Freshman center Tom Farniok is going to have his hands full with the Texas linebackers inside blitz and I think the 347-pound Osemele is going to have trouble with the Texas ends off the edge. I think Texas has an advantage up front, but a mobile quarterback can mask a lot of deficiencies.
Iowa State is going to run their spread: the zone read, bubble screens, swing passes, quarterback draws and all the twists and tweaks that come with it. They saw that all three teams that have played Texas this year had some success early throwing short passes outside and over the middle to the tight end. Expect to see more of that, with inside plays to test the Texas interior run defense and influence plays outside to get Steele Jantz loose on the edge.
The offense is in Steele Jantz’ hands. If he can make enough plays, they win. If not, they don’t. Will he? No, he won’t.
They have a lot of experience on the defense. The bad news is most of it isn’t good experience, but they are getting better. They rank sixth in total defense (364 ypg). They allow 26.7 points per game (eighth in the conference), 158 yards rushing (seventh) and 206 yards per game passing (fourth). Add all that up and you get a defense that ranks in the middle of the Big 12 and considering their first game was against a I-AA team, that should be significantly better.
Look no further than the defensive line to see why those numbers are not better. The starting four have combined for a ½ sack, three tackles for loss and four quarterback pressures. That just isn’t going to get it done. They have some size inside and a little speed outside, but for the most part they have been underwhelming in the first three games.
The one thing they have done is allow the linebackers room to make plays. Weakside linebacker Jake Knott leads the team in tackles with 33 including a team-high three for loss. He also has a two broken up passes, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble. At 6-foot-2, 243 pounds, the junior is a plus-sized will lb, but he is definitely the playmaker on the defense. Inside A.J. Klein is responsible for defending the run and does a good job, totaling 22 tackles on the year, which is third on the team. He’s shorter than Knott at 6-foot-1, but at 244 pounds he’s stout in run defense. They haven’t found a consistent guy at strongside linebacker, but looking at the sizes it seems they use this spot more as rover, bringing in defensive back-sized guys to play coverage as the front six defend the run.
The secondary seems solid, but unspectacular. Leonard Johnson is a vet with 33 career starts and safety Ter’Ran Benton has 23 starts, but again I see some numbers allowed against teams that just shouldn’t put up those kinds of numbers.
I think this defense is in some serious, serious trouble against the HarsinWhite offense. Texas excels at running the ball and I don’t see how they slow them down without bringing the house on every single play. They are going to have to play man-to-man outside to account for Malcolm Brown and the Texas running game and they are going to have to twist, stunt and move around to get pressure. On the season they have only three sacks and they will need to double that to keep Texas from moving the ball. Can they do that? Sure. Will they? No way.
Iowa State is very good on special teams. At least some of it. Punter Kirby Van Der Kamp is excellent, averaging 56.1 yards per kick with five of his 15 punts going over 50 yards and eight landing inside the 20. He has the ability to flip the field and the Iowa State coverage team is outstanding, forcing negative yards on the three punts opponents have returned. They average -1 yard allowed per punt return. See? Outstanding.
Field goal kicking isn’t something they do well, going 2-5 on the season, but Grant Mahoney does have a 54-yarder earlier this year. Obviously he has a huge leg, but it isn’t always accurate. He can hammer the ball on kickoffs and the Cyclones are decent in coverage, allowing 23 yards per return. That isn’t great coverage, but with Mahoney’s leg their opponents average starting at their own 25 yard line.
They are very good at returning kicks with Shontrelle Johnson (26.5 ypr) and Josh Lenz (24 ypr). Both are capable of breaking a long one as Johnson already has a 40-yard return and Lenz a 51-yarder and these two can set up the offense with short fields and quick points.
The Cyclones are going to do whatever they can do spring their kick returners and help the offense. They are going to bring some serious heat on the Texas punt game to try and ignite their crowd and their sideline. They can win the special teams and they absolutely have to in order to win this game.
Own the line of scrimmage. That’s it. This Iowa State defense is not very good. They don’t get sacks, they don’t really produce turnovers and they don’t make very many tackles for loss. The Horns have shown through three games that they can and will run the ball, and this defense isn’t good enough to keep Texas from being able to run the ball for four quarters. I hate to sound like a broken record, but this is the kind of game that the Texas offensive line can take over. The ground game is vital on the road because it controls the clock, keeps the opponent’s offense on the sideline and keeps the crowd sitting down. If Texas can establish Malcolm Brown they win this game, plain and simple.
And they will establish Malcolm Brown and the running game. The Texas offensive line is going to control the line of scrimmage and The Franchise is going to have a field day, especially in the second half, as the Bennie Wylie-made boys up front start taking over. I see Texas using Brown up the middle and working the new superstar D.J. Grant and h-back Blaine Irby over the middle in play-action. Case McCoy will take his shots to Shipley and Davis and the running game is going to set up some deep passes and scoring opportunities for Texas as Iowa State has to put everyone up front to slow it down … I guess. Who knows? That’s what I would do, but there is no telling what Brian Harsin is going to cook up.
No fumbles, Malcolm. If Texas can protect the ball I think they’ll be fine.
Get after Steele Jantz. I am a fan, but he’s still adjusting to the speed of the D-I college game from junior college and I’ve seen mistakes. He gets risky with the ball at times and, while he will make a play, he’ll also throw it up for grabs. Texas proved at UCLA that if you get risky with the ball you will pay. The Horns need to make him and Iowa State pay. They need to tackle in the open field and not give Steele Jantz the time or the room to ad-lib.
I expect the spread to get some yards early on for Iowa State with the short, controlled passing game and some outside runs by Steel Jantz, but Manny Diaz is the mad scientist and will adjust to the nuances and exotics that Iowa State will run. I think the Texas defensive line is going to control the line of scrimmage, keep the running backs in check and get pressure on Steele Jantz from different places and force him into some bad reads and poor throws. The Texas defensive ends need to show up: They will need to contain the zone read and force the running back to the outside to the sideline and they will need to maintain pursuit on the backside and expect the cutback. They will also need to keep their lanes rushing the passer, keeping Steele Jantz bottled up inside, because he as the ability to break contain and make plays if he gets outside.
The Texas front seven owns the line of scrimmage and the secondary makes more plays in the passing game. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, time to break out.
Enough of this nonsense. The same personnel are here that was here in 2009 when Texas was outstanding on special teams. Enough. Texas has the better athletes and it’s time they showed that.
The Horns must win the specials. Period.
IN CONCLUSION …
Like I said last week, I think the coaching staff would probably go very hard on this team because they don’t want success going to the head of a group so young. An undefeated September is nice, but at the end of the day it doesn’t mean anything if you fall apart later; remember, Texas was 3-0 last year, too. The staff wants to keep this team grounded and focused, because they aren’t good enough to assume anything.
They won’t take this game for granted like last year. The staff and team leaders will not let them. I think they come out a bit rusty on offense, but they shake it off quickly and take control of the game on the ground and the defense will do what they do, which is lock the opposition down in the fourth quarter. Texas heads to Dallas undefeated.
LAST WEEK IN THE BIG 12
IOWA STATE (3-0) IDLE
KANSAS (2-1) IDLE
Rice Owls 31 No.19 BAYLOR 56
The Bears kept on rolling, all over Rice’s head. RGIII had 338 yards passing and five td passes and added 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He’s going to jump to the top of the Heisman poll this week. That’s right; a Baylor player is going to be the leading Heisman candidate.
KANSAS STATE 28 Miami Hurricanes 24
I told you Miami was on upset alert. They were flat after winning that Ohio State game and the Wildcats took advantage, jumping out to a 21-10 third quarter lead. After falling behind, 24-21, they rallied to score with 10 minutes left and then mounted an epic goal line stand to win the game. With 49 seconds left and facing a 4th & Goal, Miami ran quarterback Jacory Harris. He got to the goal line and extended his arm, and the referee signaled touchdown. Miami was up, 30-28, and the ESPN ticker ran the score. But on further review Harris’ knee was down before he crossed the goal and he turned it over. The Wildcats ran out the clock and won the game, moving to 3-0. Well done, Purple. Big win for you and for the Big 12.
No.6 OKLAHOMA STATE 30 No.8 TEXAS A&M 29
I said I’ll take the Big 12 over the SEC. I’ll do that almost every time. The 2012 SEC Champs (not really) jumped all over the Cowboys, racing out to a 20-3 lead, but in the second half the 2013 Defending SEC Champs (not really) turned the ball over four times and seemed tired and a little lost against the high-octane Oklahoma State offense. There is something about this OSU team I just don’t trust: the defense is inconsistent and Brandon Weeden will lock on a guy and throw it regardless of whether or not he’s covered. Still, the defense shut down A&M in the second half until the final minutes of the game and forced four game-changing turnovers. Maybe I’m wrong about this Oklahoma State team? I heard Oklahoma State fans were chanting “Big 12!” at the Ags after the game. Brilliant. Why did A&M stop running the ball? Not sure I understand the strategies and tactics of the elite SEC teams, I guess.
MISSOURI 28 No. 1 oklahoma 38
I love tangelos. Ever had one?
A tangelo is a citrus fruit that is a hybrid of a tangerine and either a pomelo or a grapefruit. The fruits are the size of an adult fist and have a tangerine taste, but are very juicy, to the point of not providing much flesh but producing excellent and plentiful juice. Tangelos generally have loose skin and are easier to peel than oranges. They are easily distinguished from oranges by a characteristic “nose” at the top of the fruit.
Nevada Wolfpack 34 TEXAS TECH 35
I think they will struggle with the Pistol. I think Tech wins, but its close.
Look at that, nailed it! Tech struggled with a bad Nevada team but Seth Doege found Eric Ward on 4th & 3 for a touchdown with 44 seconds left, capping a second half comeback to keep from embarrassing themselves at home. The Wolfpack rushed for 312 yards with a pair of backs rushing for 139 yards each. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win and now Tech knows what they need to work on: rush defense.
THIS WEEK IN THE BIG 12
No. 6 OKLAHOMA STATE (3-0/1-0) IDLE
MISSOURI (2-2/0-1) IDLE
No. 16 BAYLOR (3-0) @ KANSAS STATE (3-0) 2:30 pm ABC
Another primetime game for RGIII and this Baylor offense. K-State is terrific at home in their sunken pit of a stadium with the smell of livestock everywhere. I wonder what the video will be in the pre-game? Something about how hick-y we all are down here, no doubt. Enjoy that walk down the aisle from the locker room, Bears. It’s through the stands if you didn’t know. The atmosphere keeps this close for a while, but Baylor pulls away.
TEXAS TECH (3-0) @ KANSAS (2-1) 11 am FSN
Beat down coming. Kansas is bad and Tech is going to take advantage. Tuberville won’t put 90 on them like Mike Leach would, but I bet they get into the 50s with ease. Hoops is right around the corner, Jayhawks.
Ball State Cardinals (3-1/1-0) @ No.1 oklahoma (4-0/1-0) 6 pm PPV
Who actually invented the chicken sandwich?
The bread-enclosed convenience food known as the “sandwich” is attributed to John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), a British statesman and notorious profligate and gambler, who is said to be the inventor of this type of food so that he would not have to leave his gaming table to take supper. In fact, Montague was not the inventor of the sandwich; rather, during his excursions in the Eastern Mediterranean, he saw grilled pita breads and small canapes and sandwiches served by the Greeks and Turks during their mezes, and copied the concept for its obvious convenience. There is no doubt, however, that the Earl of Sandwich made this type of light repast popular among England’s gentry, and in this way, his title has been associated with the sandwich ever since. The concept is supremely simple: delicate finger food is served between two slices of bread in a culinary practice of ancient origins among the Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples. Literary references to sandwiches begin to appear in English during the 1760s, but also under the assumption that they are a food consumed primarily by the masculine sex during late night drinking parties … Charlotte Mason was one of the first English cookbook authors to provide a recipe for sandwiches … During the nineteenth century, as midday dinner moved later and later into the day, the need for hot supper declined, only to be replaced with light dishes made of cold leftovers, ingredients for which the sandwich proved preeminently suitable. Thus the sandwich became a fixture of intimate evening suppers, teas, and picnics, and popular fare for taverns and inns.
Take that, Chick-Fil-A.
No. Arkansas Razorbacks (3-1/0-1) vs. No. TEXAS A&M (2-1/0-1) 11 am ESPN
This game will come down to who can get over their ugly loss first. Arkansas was in their game with Alabama until close to half, but the Tide blew them out at the end of the second quarter and poured it on in the second half. The Ags jumped out big before completely falling apart in the second half and turning it over four times. I think Arkansas gets over it faster, and here’s why: Their loss was on the road and they never had the lead. They were the decided underdogs going in and a lot of things had to go right for them to win. The 2014 two-time defending SEC Champs (again, not really) on the other hand were favored over Oklahoma State and were playing at home. They had a big lead and there will be a ton of “what if” moments for A&M this week, where as there are very few for Arkansas. Maybe I have this all wrong, but I think Arkansas moves on faster than A&M and wins a shootout in Jerry World, and I’ll be there to see it. I wonder if A&M fans will start chanting SEC when they are losing at the end of this? I’ll let you know.