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[2023] Big XII Network Week 2 in Review: Marathon Week, Finish Line

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Friday Night


:cal: California 30, :kstate: Kansas State 27 (2OT)


Zip It Zachary: Between Zachary McFadden at runningback and Zachary Riggins at cornerback, Cal's game was brought to you by the letter Z. The duo were largely responsible for Cal building up their lead over the first three quarters. McFadden had 125 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, along with 29 yards receiving out of the backfield. None of his carries were longer than 17 yards, but Kansas State couldn't often find a way to get to him behind the line of scrimmage. Riggins extended the lead to 21-7 in the middle of the third quarter, picking off a wild Shane Kruse pass and taking it back for a pick-six. It was the only real mistake Kruse made on the night, but combined with a poor run game (51 yards and a fumble on 17 carries) and constant pressure from Jamal Dorsey (5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1.0 sack), the first 45 minutes were bleak in Manhattan.


Sling it Shane: But Shane Kruse kept firing, and he pulled the Wildcats back into it. He threw his second touchdown pass of the game to cut the lead in half, then tied it on a 5-yard quarterback draw with just 3 minutes to play in regulation. He finished with 306 yards through the air, 3 total touchdowns, and 1 interception in his debut. It's the second time a Kansas State quarterback has thrown for 300 or more yards against a Power 5 opponent (Harvey Fagan against Oklahoma State in 2014). It was also the second time Kansas State rallied from a 14-point deficit entering the fourth quarter (a 28-24 win over Illinois in 2017 after trailing 21-7). They were able to force overtime, but stalled out around the 10 both times and opted to kick the field goal. On 3rd and goal, needing one more stop to force a field goal for triple overtime, Nick Ellison lofted a fade into the corner of the endzone that Marcus Hightower came down with. Despite Kruse's performance, despite the rally, Kansas State fell just short this time.


Next Up: The Wildcats will hit the road for the next couple of weeks, as they'll take on Texas Tech in Lubbock and Air Force in Colorado Springs.


Saturday Afternoon


:okst: #6/#8 Oklahoma State 42, :tulsa: Tulsa 10


Business as Usual: The most remarkable facet of this game was how unremarkable Oklahoma State's dominance was over Tulsa (even if they only won by 32 when Oklahoma beat the same team by 34). Ian Baldwin threw for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns, which is the third straight game in which he's hit both of those marks dating back to last year's Alamo Bowl. Amral Brown followed up his 118 yards and 2 touchdowns against Arizona with 128 yards and 2 touchdowns against Tulsa. The defensive side was full of first-time contributors and first-time-in-a-long-time contributors. Sebastian Byrd matched last season's interception total and recorded the first pick-six of his career, fellow cornerback Mario Heard recorded his first career interception, and highly touted freshman Jurrell Jordan recorded his first statsheet (5 tackles, 2 TFL) of what ought to be a great career. The only real glitch was giving up 92 yards and a touchdown on six catches to Leonard Donahue--but given that no one else topped 32 yards receiving or rushing and Tulsa only netted 10 points, it was a more than successful defensive effort.


Wenzel's Hot Start: Perhaps the surprise of the year so far in Stillwater has been slot receiver Albert Wenzel, who led the Cowboys with 78 yards and a touchdown on 5 catches. Even with the duo of Samuel Barfield and Jeremy Bridges out wide, Wenzel on the inside has been as deadly as any receiver in the Big XII so far. His 163 receiving yards so far are third in the Big XII behind Barfield (174) and Oklahoma star Lucas Dykes (180). He's done so on 10 catches (so 16.3 yards per catch), with two touchdowns and no drops. Whether he keeps that pace up is anyone's question, but he's picked up the slack from Jeremy Bridges's slow start.


Next Up: Oklahoma State has a bye before what should be a fun week 4 matchup with Hawaii at home in Stillwater.


:iowa: Iowa 27, :isu: Iowa State 24


Vaughn Throweth: Vaughn Sheppard's role in the offense was massive against Iowa even compared to last week against UAB. It wasn't a perfect performance, but once again there was a lot to like. He throw for 240 yards, which is the second-highest total of his career after last year's game against Iowa. He threw 3 touchdown passes, a career-high. His 24 completions were another career-high. The issue is it took him 40 attempts to get there--a 60% completion percentage isn't bad as long as there's some explosiveness, 10 yards per completion isn't the worst as long as there's efficiency, but both in conjunction make for an offense that would go through quite a few empty stretches. Kofi McCullough had 72 yards on 13 carries, and as Iowa State's deficit grew to 21-10 by halftime the Cyclones had to rely more and more on Sheppard the rest of the way. Between Luka Snell (7 catches for 69 yards, 1 TD) and Demetrius "Two-Way" Clay (3 catches for 67 yards, 1 TD), Sheppard was able to get multiple guys involved. There's still a lot of potential in this offense if it can find the right split of duties between the pass and the run.


Vaughn Runneth Away: For Iowa, the right split of duties leaned more toward the run, and Kedaveon Vaughn was happy to oblige. His monster 46-yard touchdown run in the second quarter highlighted a 20-carry, 138-yard, 2-touchdown game for the sophomore from Minnesota, and Iowa State didn't have an answer for him. Sure, Ian Johnson had 8 tackles (and an interception), but he was mostly playing cleanup as Vaughn got to the linebacker level rather than playing the aggressor with his defensive linemen sealing gaps and creating chaos upfield. The same was true for Paul Bryant (6 tackles). On the bright side, they were able to keep DeMaurice Slone in front of them, holding him to 53 yards and a touchdown on 6 catches. Ryan Corbin III was no more efficient than Sheppard, finishing with 181 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on 21-of-31 passing. But Vaughn was just too much for the Cyclones to handle, and their second-half rally fell just short in Iowa City.


Next Up: Iowa State has a bye week 3 before their home opener against BYU, which kicks off a rather unforgiving stretch containing Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma State.


:texas: Texas 35, :utsa: UTSA 17


Milnermorphosis: Um. Wow. What a difference a couple of years and a couple of changes of scenery can make. Sam Milner didn't just set new career-highs in basically every passing category known to humankind, he shattered them. He only had one 200-yard game prior to this one (240 against Kansas State in 2020). He had two games where he completed 60% of his passes. He had not thrown for more than two touchdowns in a game, he only had three total interception-free games, and he only had one game with a passer rating exceeding 140 prior to this one. Three years later, he walked back onto that field in a Big XII uniform and threw for 339 yards and 4 touchdowns on 24-of-30 (80%) passing for a 218.9 rating. He threw for more yards to true freshman slot receiver Shaq Dixon (9 for 152 yards, 2 TD) than he did in five different games as a freshman--and, in a bit of irony, those 152 yards also equaled his total in TCU's win over Texas that same year.


Subvert Expectations: Coming into this game, I was not very high on Texas at all. While it's still early, they hit every single thing on my checklist for what I wanted to see from them before I changed my mind. Most of those things were Sam Milner-related or wide receiver-related. I'd still like to see more from Dontae Alford, but that doesn't matter as much if the passing game is anywhere near this good. What was particularly impressive was the defense's effort. They sacked Justin Radford three times and held him to 17-of-32 through the air for 168 yards and a touchdown (plus a touchdown on the ground). They couldn't coax a turnover out of him, but Thomas Sanders stripped runningback Samuel Laws leading to a Ted Stanford fumble recovery. Like Iowa, Texas took control in the second quarter; unlike Iowa, they kept the throttle open the rest of the way and turned an underdog situation into a blowout win.


Next Up: In what should be one of the most intriguing games in the country, Sam Milner takes on his old TCU team--who just so happens to be ranked #1 in the country.


Saturday Evening


:uva: East Virginia 23, :wvu: West Virginia 20


Meet Me Halfway: The first half went about as well as you could have drawn it up for West Virginia. Martin Lake threw a touchdown pass to Corey Easley, Mike Freeman had ripped off a 21-yard gain and scored a touchdown of his own, and the East Virginia offense had yet to find the endzone at all. West Virginia took a 14-6 lead into the break. They didn't give Mike Lucas any daylight at all. For the day, they sacked him twice (one of those was a strip-sack by Dominic Acuna, though an offensive lineman fell on the ball), and Harry Conner had an interception and a pass breakup. Lucas finished 15-of-28 for 152 yards and didn't find the endzone; Lake cooled off to finish 18-of-28 for 206 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 pick. A few issues were starting to crop up: West Virginia was getting flagged a few times (as was East Virginia), and the Mountaineers were starting to string together some three-and-outs. But barring East Virginia figuring out how to break through in the second half, they were in a good spot up 8.


Green, Yellow, Red: Then East Virginia figured out how to break through in the second half, and it was Robert Green who did the honors. The senior from Scranton flipped the game on its head in the third quarter, finding enough space around end to turn the corner upfield and dash 44 yards for a touchdown to close the lead to 17-13, then scoring again on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 to give East Virginia the lead. As effective as West Virginia was in the pass rush and downfield coverage, they weren't able to maintain discipline on the line to keep gaps filled and deny Green a hole to hit. As a result, Green picked up 138 yards and those two touchdowns on 22 carries. The two teams traded field goals early in the fourth quarter, but West Virginia couldn't find enough offense against a stout East Virginia defense to tie the game back up. And between Green's carries, some untimely penalties against West Virginia, and multiple stops on third down, the Cavaliers were able to salt the game away.


Next Up: West Virginia gets another bye week 3 after falling to 0-2 by a total margin of 7 points. It doesn't get much easier, as they'll host Texas next. Then again, they have a very good track record against Texas.


:ou: #3/#2 Oklahoma 35, :vt: East Virginia Tech 10


Second Time's the Charm: Nick Brohm's first game as a Sooner left something to be desired. His effort against East Virginia Tech? Not so much. He finished 20-of-29 for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns without an interception. He wasn't afraid to challenge Trevor McKinney in looking for star receiver Lucas Dykes, and that paid off in a big way. Dykes tore up the Hokie defense to the tune of 8 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Just piling on, Jaiden Douglas and Kenyan Chatman combined for 137 yards and a score on 26 carries, and the Sooners once again scored a non-offensive touchdown thanks to Ladarius McKinnon's bobbing and weaving on a punt return. There's no point at which this game was close; it was 21-0 at the half and 28-3 after three quarters (I can't imagine anyone overcoming a 28-3 third-quarter deficit), and East Virginia Tech only managed a touchdown in garbage time.


Down In Front: Meanwhile, Oklahoma's defense went to war at the line of scrimmage. Specifically, Jeremiah Melvin and David Kaiser were fantastic. Melvin had 1.5 sacks, and Kaiser added 2 tackles for loss and a strip-sack that Lorenzo Croft recovered. Throw in middle linebacker Jeremiah Holmes's interception and pass breakup, and East Virginia Tech just couldn't find a way to avoid the Sooner front. They held Victor Ross and Marquise Swain to just 43 yards on 14 carries. Beckett Morrison was always on the run, finishing 17-of-31 for 175 yards, a touchdown, and two turnovers. East Virginia Tech was constantly facing 3rd-and-long, and converted just 2-of-10 third-down opportunities. It's hard to draw up a better game for the Sooners.


Next Up: Oklahoma has one more game before their bye: they'll head to Lawrence to take on Kansas, where they will be heavy favorites to secure back-to-back wins over the Jayhawks for the first time ever.


Saturday Night


:baylor: Baylor 38, :boise: Boise State 24


Ladds It's Boise: Many of Baylor's contributors to their win over Boise State were familiar. But among the long-time listeners and first-time callers, linebacker Elias Ladd made his first statsheet in about as big of a way as one could ask for: 6 tackles, a pass breakup, and a third-quarter pick-six that essentially put the game out of reach. Baylor's defense created havoc all over the place. Alexander Talbert and Samuel McGee combined for three sacks and three tackles for loss against the run, and Zachary McHale did more Zachary McHale things (6 tackles with 1 for loss, and a forced fumble against CeeCee Henderson). They held Henderson to just 39 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, well under his production in the Broncos' win over Kansas. While they gave up 265 yards and 2 scores through the air, it took Ian Hansen 23 completions on 42 attempts to get there--and, as mentioned, Elias Ladd took one of those 42 attempts the other way for a touchdown.


Light It Up: Baylor's offense has been clicking to start the season, and (albeit with a pick-six) they recorded their first-ever back-to-back 38-point performances in games 1 and 2 of the year. Simply put: everything's working so far. Caleb Olmsted was 20-of-27 for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Curtis Sheppard shook off a quiet-ish first game by putting up 108 yards and a touchdown on 7 catches. And they ran the ball effectively as well, nabbing a career-high 148 yards and 2 scores on 23 carries from Miles Street. Its the 12th time a Baylor player has rushed for at least 100 yards in a game on at least 6.0 yards per carry. Sean Bell was responsible for the other 11, so that's good company to be in. 


Next Up: Baylor will complete their non-conference schedule next week with their home opener against Troy.


:ttu: Texas Tech 20, :marshall: Marshall 6


Stuffed: Stingy defense and Texas Tech, name a more iconic duo in the nation's most exciting conference. They didn't give any ground to Marshall, be it on the actual ground or through the air. Griffin Ames rushed for 16 yards on 8 carries, and Francesco Griffiths threw for 172 yards and 2 interceptions on 16-of-38 passing. Between an interception apiece from Josh Poe Jr. and Zachary Shipp, 2 more sacks and two tackles for loss from Curtis Jones, and a sack by Zac Huntley, and the defense was taking every opportunity it could get to make a havoc play. They gave up a field goal early set up by a deep ball to Devon McCoy, and they gave up a field goal late after the game was firmly out of reach, but Marshall rarely if ever looked like a threat to score a touchdown.


Microburst: Texas Tech's offense needed time to warm up, though, failing to register a point in the first quarter and trailing 3-0. But before the half was out, that changed. Grayson Gillette found Tyson Moss in the endzone, Hayden Dyer broke off a 40-yard run and scored on the play afterward, and those 14 points were all Texas Tech would need to put the game away. Gillette finished 18-of-25 for 206 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception; it's the first time since Christian Barkley in 2018 that a Texas Tech quarterback has thrown for three scores in a two-game span. (There will be a lot of "since Christian Barkley in 2018" stats this season.) Dyer had 129 yards and a score on 24 carries, marking the 41st consecutive game in which Texas Tech has had a 100-yard rusher. After the half, though, the offense cooled right back down. They weren't able to extend the lead by much, and a 2-of-9 third-down performance contributed significantly. A couple of field goals brought them to the final margin of 20-6. While the offense was relatively efficient, it left plenty to improve on in this one.


Next Up: After two non-conference home wins, Texas Tech remains at home for their conference opener against Kansas State week 4.


Byes: :kansas: Kansas (0-1), :tcu: #1/#1 TCU (1-0)

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7 minutes ago, stormstopper said:

(There will be a lot of "since Christian Barkley in 2018" stats this season.)

There's also going to be a lot of individual single season receiving records broken this year.


Which is exciting and sad.

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Defense seems to play well for a bulk of the game and then give up back-breaking big plays.....  I think we've hit on something though and feel good about the Texas game.  

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