October 16, 2008

Big 12: Texas run game begins to find legs

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Chris Ogbonnaya is a perfect example of the blue-collar leadership that has allowed No. 1 Texas to overcome what would appear to be a bunch of shortcomings and rise to the top of college football with Missouri coming to town Saturday.

The Longhorns don't have a stretch-the-field tight end, had three freshmen playing in the secondary against Oklahoma last week and still are searching for a 20-carry running back. But they are 6-0.

Ogbonnaya, a former receiver, came into the season as the team's third-down back. The bulk of the carries were supposed to go to sophomore Vondrell McGee or freshman Foswhitt Whittaker. When McGee struggled and Whittaker got hurt, the focus turned to redshirt freshman Cody Johnson.

While Johnson got the start at Colorado two weeks ago, it was Ogbonnaya who broke out in a 38-14 victory with 71 yards on nine carries and six catches for 116 yards. Against Oklahoma last week Ogbonnaya got his first start and became the Longhorns' first 100-yard rusher this season when he racked up 119 of his 127 rushing yards in the second half of the 45-35 upset of the Sooners.

Although quarterback Colt McCoy still remains Texas' leading rusher (59 carries for 348 yards), Ogbonnaya is gaining fast with 24 carries for 198 yards and a touchdown in the past two games.

"I just want to win," Ogbonnaya said. "Whatever I can do to help. It doesn't matter as long as we win."

Texas' national title team in 2005 was known for Vince Young. This season's team is known for its grinder's mentality, personified by Ogbonnaya, McCoy, wide receiver Quan Cosby, wide receiver Jordan Shipley, defensive end Brian Orakpo and linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy.

Ogbonnaya (pronounced OH-bon-EYE-uh) knows he may never become a household name. It doesn't bother him.

"No one can pronounce my name," he said. "Although people are getting closer."

  • Kansas QB Todd Reesing vs. Oklahoma's defense. If the Sooners want to put this one away early, they will need to get some pressure on Reesing and keep him from beating them with his arm. KU's rush offense (88th nationally, averaging 124 yards per game) won't cut it. But Reesing has been excellent this season with 15 touchdown passes and three interceptions. He's also ranked fifth nationally in total offense (346.8 ypg). KU coach Mark Mangino said before the season the Jayhawks won't have arrived until they can compete with Texas and Oklahoma, so you have to think Mangino will unload the playbook in this one.

    Texas Tech at Texas A&M, noon
    Nebraska at Iowa State, 12:30 p.m.
    Baylor at Oklahoma State, 3:0 p.m.
    Kansas at Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m.
    Kansas State at Colorado, 7:10 p.m.
    Missouri at Texas, 8 p.m.
    Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson. Lost amid Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's now infamous YouTube rant last season was that he was correct in benching Bobby Reid for Robinson. Robinson is third nationally in pass efficiency and also is a dangerous runner. The Cowboys should handle their business this week at home against Baylor. But if they come out flat after knocking off Missouri, it will be up to Robinson to get the energy up.

  • Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman mixed coverages and constantly gave Missouri QB Chase Daniel different looks and pressure as the Cowboys intercepted him three times in a 28-23 upset last week. …Texas' McCoy completed 80 percent of his passes (28-of-35) for 277 yards and a touchdown in the Longhorns' upset of Oklahoma. … Texas' Shipley, who is McCoy's roommate and childhood friend, had a Red River Shootout-record 11 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown, as well as a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown. … Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford threw for 387 yards and five touchdowns (with two interceptions) in the loss to Texas. … Baylor freshman QB Robert Griffin has thrown 128 passes this season without an interception; for the season, he has nine TD passes and no picks. Baylor has not committed a turnover in four consecutive games, the first time that has happened since 1946. … Kansas senior RB Jake Sharp had 118 yards on a career-high 31 carries and scored on runs of 1, 8 and 7 yards in KU's 30-14 victory over Colorado. … Missouri has had at least 454 yards of offense in every game this season. … Kansas State blocked a punt and returned it for a TD in last week's win over Texas A&M. It was the fourth time this season K-State returned a blocked punt for a score. … Texas is the only school in the country not to have allowed a rushing TD this season.

  • Texas Tech freshman K Donnie Carona has missed four PATs and is 3-of-7 on field goal attempts. … Colorado has lost 10 consecutive road games against ranked opponents and is 1-15 in those games since the Big 12 began play in 1996; the one win was at Kansas State on Oct. 6, 2001. … Iowa State lost by 28 last week to Baylor, which tied the Bears' mark for their largest margin of victory in a conference game. … Colorado has committed two turnovers in each game this season. And the Buffs are last in the league in scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense and passing offense. … Kansas is averaging just 12.4 yards per kickoff return. … Kansas State has allowed a league-high 13 TD passes.

  • "I think our players have handled themselves very well. I think they understand that you're only as good as your next game. Part of our job as coaches is to bring them back to earth." – Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy on upsetting Missouri and preparing for this week's game against Baylor

    "That's just the way it is here. You play against 330 guys a week who didn't come here who are from this state who are all playing in the Big 12 and all of 'em are mad at you." – Texas coach Mack Brown on his failure to recruit Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel of Southlake, Texas, until it was too late

    "We're not about moral victories. Nebraska never will be as long as I'm head coach. If we start being about moral victories, you need to get a new coach." – Nebraska coach Bo Pelini after losing at Texas Tech in overtime.

  • ETC.
  • Nebraska won the time-of-possession battle against Texas Tech last week 40:12 to 19:48 and ran 80 plays compared to Texas Tech's 48. But the Huskers still lost the game. … Iowa State tied a season-high with three sacks, all coming in the first half against Baylor. … Kerry Meier, KU's backup quarterback who has turned into a receiver, had nine catches for 94 yards against Colorado. … Kansas State snapped its five-game losing streak to Texas A&M with a 44-30 win Saturday. A&M QB Jerrod Johnson threw for a school-record 419 yards. … Baylor QB Robert Griffin has scored at least one rushing TD in six consecutive games, the longest such streak since RB Jerod Douglas did it in 1995. … Oklahoma middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds was lost for the season to a knee injury against Texas. … The Sooner have attempted just one field goal this season; it was good. … The league has six teams ranked in the top 16 in the polls for the third consecutive week. And Oklahoma State is in the top 10 for the first time since 1988, which was Barry Sanders' last season at the school.

  • BEST GAME: Texas 45, Oklahoma 35, Oct. 11. What's this – a big game that actually lived up to the hype? It was the highest-scoring game in series history. Oklahoma would score and Texas would answer – until the fourth quarter, when the Longhorns finally took the lead and OU couldn't rally.

    BEST REMAINING GAME: Texas at Texas Tech, Nov. 1. There are a lot to choose from, including Saturday's game in Austin between Missouri and Texas. But we'll go with the Longhorns-Red Raiders, which has the potential to be the biggest game in Tech history.

    BEST PLAYER: Texas QB Colt McCoy. This league is loaded with players – especially quarterbacks – who have been superb thus far. But none have been better than McCoy, who has cut down on his turnovers, completed almost 80 percent of his passes and has guided the Longhorns to the No. 1 ranking.

    BEST FRESHMAN: Baylor QB Robert Griffin. He beat out two more experienced players for the starting job, and he and new coach Art Briles seemingly have the Bears headed in the right direction. Griffin is a great athlete; folks figured he would hurt opponents with his legs – and he has – but it's his surprisingly good passing ability that makes the Bears tough to defend.

    BEST COACHING JOB: Texas' Mack Brown. Most observers felt this would be a transitional season for the Longhorns and that 2009 was when they would be really good. But it's funny what a victory over Oklahoma will do for you. This is not a complete team by any means – there is no feature back, the secondary is young, there's a lack of depth at tight end – but it also is No. 1 in the nation at the midway point of the season.

    MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Nebraska RB Marlon Lucky. He hasn't been bad by any means; he just hasn't been as productive or as explosive as expected. He has rushed for 298 yards and has 15 receptions. That's on the heels of a 2006 season in which he rushed for 1,019 yards and had 75 receptions.

    MOST SURPRISING UNIT: Oklahoma State's running backs. The Cowboys averaged 243.3 rushing yards per game last season, the school's best mark since Barry Sanders was running wild in 1988. But Dantrell Savage, who ran for 1,272 yards and had 10 100-yard games, graduated. No problem. Kendall Hunter has more than taken up the slack, averaging 143.7 yards per game to lead the league. And backup Keith Toston is fifth in the league at 71.8 yards per game. Those two have combined for 14 rushing touchdowns.

    MOST DISAPPOINTING UNIT: Colorado's offense. The Buffs are last in the league in every major offensive category. Coach Dan Hawkins had built his reputation on high-powered offenses, but it is taking a while to get to that level for Colorado.

    COACH ON THE HOTTEST SEAT: Kansas State's Ron Prince. It's weird to say a coach whose team is 4-2 is under some heat, but Prince is under some heat. K-State has a nice record, yes, but they've beaten no one of note. Thing is, the Wildcats have a good chance to go to a bowl, which would lower the flames.

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    Chip Brown is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at cbrown@rivals.com.
    Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.


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