November 6, 2008

Big 12: Raiders must slow Cowboys' Bryant

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Could Sprite be Texas Tech's secret to stopping Oklahoma State big-play receiver Dez Bryant on Saturday?

Seriously.

"I got to have a Sprite on Thursday, one on Friday and one before the game on Saturday," said Bryant, who had four touchdown catches last week against Iowa State, giving him 15 on the season. "I know that sounds crazy, but it's the truth."

Texas Tech might have an easier time denying Bryant his superstitious Sprite than the ball. Bryant, a sophomore from Lufkin, Texas, is second nationally in receiving yards per game (117.1).

"He's going to be a first-round draft pick whenever he comes out," said Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who coached the Miami Dolphins' defense in 2005. "We decided to double-team him and take our chances with the run because he can change the vertical field position so quickly."

Bryant is a big reason Oklahoma State rolls into Lubbock this weekend with maybe the most balanced offense in the country. Quarterback Zac Robinson is second nationally in pass efficiency, behind Tulsa's David Johnson. Running back Kendall Hunter is averaging a Big 12-best 135.6 yards per game rushing and went for 161 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago in a 28-24 loss at Texas. Then, there's NFL prospect Brandon Pettigrew at tight end; he averages 11.2 yards per catch. All but Pettigrew, a senior, return next season.

"I feel like next year we'll be even stronger than this year," Bryant said. "But we're focused on the present. If I was on the opponent's defense, I'd be nervous and have my 'A' game ready because we are some explosive players on the football field."

Bryant was recruited by all the top schools in the Big 12 and SEC. He chose Oklahoma State because he felt comfortable there and saw an opportunity to play from Day One. Now, he sleeps on an 8-foot mattress purchased with some of the $300 million OSU benefactor Boone Pickens has donated to the school.

"Those mattresses are comfortable," said Bryant, who is 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds. "I thank Mr. Pickens for everything, every time I see him."

Bryant said he's not interested in getting into a stats showdown with Texas Tech All-America wide receiver Michael Crabtree on Saturday.

"He plays in a completely different offense than I do," Bryant said. "But as for the game, it's going to be a shootout. We've got two of the best offenses in the country. So hold on tight."

  • Best matchup
  • Texas A&M's offense vs. Oklahoma's defense. For whatever reason, Texas A&M always seems to play the Sooners tough in College Station. Since 1998, OU has played at A&M five times, winning three by an average of four points and losing twice (2002 and 1998). At the start of the year, this one looked like blowout-city. But A&M QB Jerrod Johnson has averaged 361 yards passing with six touchdowns the past three games. And Oklahoma now is without DE Auston English (left leg) in addition to MLB Ryan Reynolds (knee), who is out for the season.

  • Player to watch
  • Baylor QB Robert Griffin. Griffin, a true freshman, set the NCAA record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception to start a career (209) before finally throwing his first pick on his last attempt in a 31-28 loss against Missouri last week. Griffin and RB Jay Finley account for 130.8 of the Bears' 183.3 yards per game rushing. Texas coach Mack Brown said Griffin has transformed the Baylor program in nine games. "Robert Griffin is doing for Baylor what Vince Young did for us," Brown said.

  • Who's hot
  • Crabtree and Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell hooked up with Crabtree for a 28-yard touchdown pass with one second left as the Red Raiders won the biggest game in Tech history by knocking off No. 1 Texas 39-33 last week. It was the 37th touchdown pass involving the two. The play pushed Harrell and Crabtree squarely into the Heisman race. ... Missouri sophomore Jeremy Maclin set the school career all-purpose yardage record with 4,483 yards. He had 161 all-purpose yards with 26 rushing, 31 receiving and 104 on kick returns in a 31-28 victory at Baylor. Kansas junior RB Jake Sharp scored four rushing touchdowns in a blowout victory against Kansas State, matching the school record. He became the sixth Jayhawk to score four TDs in one game. Baylor's Joe Pawelek became the first Bears linebacker to record 100-plus tackles in a season (105) since Dean Jackson in 1996. Against Missouri last week, he recorded his 13th career game with 10-plus tackles.

  • Who's not
  • Kansas State coach Ron Prince, who has a 16-18 record in two-plus seasons, has been told this is his last season in Manhattan. The Wildcats are 4-5 this season, but have lost three games in a row after beating Texas A&M in College Station for their only conference win. K-State suffered a 52-21 blowout loss at Kansas last week. Colorado outgained Texas A&M (392-308), led time of possession (34:22- 25:38) and even went two-for-two on fourth downs. But the Buffaloes turned the ball over three times, including two late Tyler Hansen interceptions, as A&M prevailed 24-17 last week.

  • What they're saying
  • "Our objective in coming to Kansas State in December of 2005 was to establish a program that was built to last, a team that would consistently compete for championships. Today, we ran out of time to accomplish that."
    Prince on Wednesday after being fired as coach, effective at the end of the season.

    "I think unless we wake up, we're going to have a tragedy."
    Texas coach Mack Brown on keeping fans from rushing the field, after Texas Tech students did so at the conclusion of the Red Raiders' 39-33 upset of the top-ranked Longhorns.

    "A big-picture question. You must be new."
    -- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach when asked what the victory over Texas would mean to his program.

  • Etc.
  • Colorado lost leading rusher Rodney Stewart to a broken leg, clearing the way for five-star freshman Darrell Scott this week at home against Iowa State. Missouri TE Chase Coffman, who sprained his left big toe last week against Baylor, said he expects to play Saturday against Kansas State. Coffman set the NCAA career record for receptions by a tight end this season. Texas has gone to the "rugby punt" the past two weeks with freshman Justin Tucker, who is averaging 53.4 yards on five punts, including four against Texas Tech that went for an average of 56.8 yards (with a long of 67 yards). All four punts were downed inside Tech's 20. The Longhorns most likely will be without DE Brian Orakpo (knee) and WR Quan Cosby (back) against Baylor on Saturday. Nebraska senior FS Larry Asante made a career-high 13 tackles in a 62-28 loss to Oklahoma. OU RB DeMarco Murray had 201 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns against Nebraska. Murray has tied Adrian Peterson for the most TDs scored in the first two seasons of an OU career (29). Texas Tech's 9-0 start is its best since 1938, and the team is 5-0 in conference play for the first time since 1953 - when it was a member of the Border Conference. Tech's victory against Texas was its first-ever win over a No. 1 team.

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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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