October 30, 2008

Big 12: Texas Tech set for biggest game ever

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Walk into Texas Tech guard Brandon Carter's apartment and it's like walking into the World Wrestling Federation Hall of Fame.

At 6 feet 7 and 374 pounds, Carter seriously thought of going to wrestling school before accepting a football scholarship.

"After football, you never know," he said. "You could see me on (WWE) Monday nights making a couple moves."

He's not kidding.

"He didn't even watch football growing up," Texas Tech offensive line coach Matt Moore said. "He watched wrestling. He collects all the stuff. When his TV is on, it's on pay-per-view or WWE."

Carter's teammates have nicknamed him "Mankind" because of Carter's affinity for pro wrestler Mick Foley, who goes by that name. But while the WWE is all an act, Carter and his Texas Tech linemates appear to be the real deal.

Heading into Saturday's possibly program-defining home game against top-ranked Texas, the Red Raiders have attempted 391 pass attempts and given up just three sacks this season. Two of those came in garbage time in a 63-21 win at Kansas last week.

"We kind of got a little lackadaisical and didn't mind our technique," Moore said.

On a team with Heisman candidates Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree and coach Mike Leach, it's easy to get overshadowed. But it's getting harder and harder to miss Tech's O-linemen. The only things bigger than their bodies are their personalities. Even if they don't all paint their faces like Carter, they all have nicknames and a let-it-all-hang-out attitude.

In addition to Carter, there's:

LT Rylan Reed a.k.a. "The Incredible Hulk." The nickname becomes obvious when you consider Reed shattered Texas Tech's bench-press record of 550 pounds (set by Manny Ramirez last year) by lifting 565 pounds over the summer.

LG Louis Vazquez a.k.a. "The Chief." "His teammates say he looks like a big, super-hero Indian," Moore said.

C Ryan Hamby a.k.a. "Mr. Incredible." That's because Hamby is a ringer for the dad in the animated movie "The Incredibles."

RT Marlon Winn a.k.a. "Fat Albert." The nickname comes because he's constantly wearing a team-issue half shirt that shows off his belly.

Even backup center Shawn Byrnes has a nickname "Mr. Kool-Aid" because he's happy and round, like the Kool-Aid pitcher mascot.

But don't confuse the highjinks for a lack of work ethic.

"These guys are really hard workers," Moore said. "They know what we want to do and they execute it really well. They are technicians. But when it's not football, they have a good time. They cut up. They mess with each other and have fun when they are together.

"They are together all the time, so they might as well have fun."

Moore said his linemen will be on the ultimate stage against Texas. The Longhorns have pass rushers Brian Orakpo (nine sacks) and Sergio Kindle (5.5 sacks) and disruptive tackles Roy Miller and Lamarr Houston.

"(Texas defensive coordinator Will) Muschamp has come in and done a great job of getting the most speed on the field," Moore said. "They were bigger last year, but not as fast. And you can see how hard they play.

"They want to wreak as much havoc as they can in the backfield. We've got to play our 'A' game to hold those guys off."

  • Best matchup
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini vs. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Pelini was the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach under Stoops at Oklahoma in 2004. He has been called the "fourth Stoops brother" because he, like Stoops, is from Youngstown, Ohio, and graduated from the same high school (Cardinal Mooney). Pelini's team has dominated time of possession the past three games, averaging more than 38 minutes per game with the ball. But that was against Texas Tech (40:12), Iowa State (38:37) and Baylor (37:11). That's the good news. The bad news is Pelini's defense has struggled, giving up an average of 358.7 yards and 24.3 points per game.

  • Player to watch
  • Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson. He has come on strong of late. In a narrow loss to Texas Tech, home setback against Kansas State and a win over Iowa State, Johnson is 86-of-119 (72.3 percent) with six touchdowns and no interceptions while also rushing for two scores. Johnson finished 31-of-39 with four touchdowns last week against Iowa State, completing passes to eight receivers. His 31 completions were the most by an A&M quarterback in 12 years. Johnson and the Aggies may be catching a faltering Colorado team at just the right time. The Buffaloes lost 58-0 at Missouri last week and have lost three of their past four.

  • Who's hot
  • Missouri senior Chase Coffman became the NCAA's career receptions leader among tight ends with 220 and became Mizzou's career receptions leader with seven catches for 50 yards in a 58-0 victory over Colorado. Texas QB Colt McCoy completed 84.4 percent of his passes (38-of-45) and set the school record for pass completions (38) and improved the school record he set last week for consecutive completions in a game by one (18) in a win over Oklahoma State. Texas Tech S Darcel McBath intercepted Kansas' Todd Reesing three times in a 63-21 victory by the Red Raiders, tying the school single-game record set earlier this year by Daniel Charbonnet, who had three picks in a victory against SMU. Nebraska QB Joe Ganz has completed 74.8 percent of his passes (95-of-127) in the past three games, with six touchdowns and one interception. Oklahoma had three scoring drives of a minute or less in its win against Kansas State drives of 23, 31 and 60 seconds in the first half. On the season, OU has 11 drives of 60 seconds or less. Texas A&M's 49 points in a win at Iowa State were the most by the Aggies in a road game since scoring 51 against Missouri in 1999. Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter, the Big 12's rushing leader, became the first back to rush for more than 100 yards (161) against Texas this season and went over the 1,000-yard mark (1,116). It's just the second time an OSU sophomore rusher has reached 1,000 yards in a season; Thurman Thomas was the first to do it with 1,553 yards in 1985.

  • Who's not
  • After allowing five sacks through the first seven games of the season, Oklahoma State allowed Texas to sack Zac Robinson five times in the Longhorns' 28-24 victory. After erasing a 28-7 deficit against Oklahoma, Kansas State allowed the Sooners to score four times in eight minutes before halftime and take a 55-28 lead in the highest-scoring half in OU history. Sooners QB Sam Bradford, who came in completing 71 percent of his passes, went only 13-of-32 for 255 yards against K-State. The 40 percent completion rate was the lowest of his career and only the second time more than half of his passes were incomplete. Texas' McCoy suffered an interception (his first at home this season) and a fumble in the fourth quarter as the Longhorns failed to score in the final 21:50 of their victory against Oklahoma State. Kansas' Reesing had his worst game as a collegian in a 63-21 loss at home to Texas Tech, finishing 16-of-26 for 154 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions. It was Kansas' most-lopsided home loss since a 64-0 shutout by Kansas State in 2002.

  • What they're saying
  • "A couple people I heard this week were talking about the Orange Bowl, and I said, 'You're absolute fools.' Others said this would be a blowout. It's an advantage when you don't watch film because you can be stupid."
    Texas coach Mack Brown after his team defeated Oklahoma State 28-24 with two defensive stands to end the game.

    "Our back is so far against the wall, we have splinters in our butts."
    Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman to his team before a 49-35 victory at Iowa State, snapping a three-game losing streak in conference play.

    "Our players played well enough to win the game today. The offensive play-calling in the last drive we had the ball was poor. It was my fault. The players deserved the opportunity to win, and we didn't have very good playcalling on the drive previous to the one at the end of the game."
    Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, criticizing his own playcalling on the final two drives of his team's loss at Texas.

  • Etc.
  • Kansas State blocked its eighth kick of the season against Oklahoma and leads the nation in the category. The mark also ties the school single-season record set in 2003. Baylor quarterbacks haven't thrown an interception in seven games, establishing a modern-day program record (since 1946). The previous mark of six consecutive games was set in 1990. Colorado's Tyler Hansen was 12-of-16 for 72 yards and rushed 16 times for 30 yards in becoming only the fifth true freshman quarterback to start a game for the Buffs. But the Buffs saw their 242-game scoring streak (third-longest in the nation, spanning nearly 20 years, since 1988 vs. Nebraska) come to an end in the 58-0 loss. Over the past three games, Nebraska has had 241 offensive snaps, compared to 155 for their opponents (Texas Tech, Iowa State and Baylor). Mizzou QB Chase Daniel set a school record for completion percentage (83.8) by connecting on 31-of-37 passes against Colorado and matched his school record of five TD passes. Iowa State sophomore QB Austen Arnaud had 371 yards passing against Texas A&M, a career-high and the fifth-best passing effort in school history. Missouri's Jeremy Maclin had 192 all-purpose yards against Colorado and now ranks No. 1 nationally in that category with a per-game average of 193.3.

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    Chip Brown is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at cbrown@rivals.com.

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