Heartbeat of the Heartland: The Dreaded Vote of Confidence

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There’s a chance that by the time next season starts, for the second consecutive season two more Big 12 Conference schools could be under new management in terms of its football programs.

There are two first-year coaches in the league this season – Texas’ Tom Herman, Baylor’s Matt Ruhle. The futures of Kansas’ David Beaty and Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury are in doubt.

Beaty is in his third season and it takes the Hubble Telescope to find signs of progress. Since a “landmark” upset of Texas last season, the Jayhawks have lost nine of 10 with the only victory over FCS school Southeast Missouri State. With two games remaining this season, Beaty’s record is 3-31. If KU can’t beat Oklahoma or Oklahoma State in the last two games, it will be 1-26 in Big 12 play under Beaty

Athletic director Sheahon Zenger hired Beaty to replace Charlie Weis. It’s debatable which ranks as the worst personnel decision. Zenger’s inability to find a football coach might begin to weigh on his tenure. His decision after this season is to give Beaty another season – and it’s difficult to fathom Kansas going from one loss to bowl eligibility – or fire Beaty and start the building process again.

School chancellor Douglas Girod – who has been on the job since July – on Monday sent an open letter to Kansas faculty and alumni to publicly affirm his support for his athletic director and football coach.

 “I want to reiterate my confidence in Sheahon and coach David Beaty,” Girod said. “Nobody denies the challenges we are having on the field, but I maintain my belief that Sheahon and coach Beaty have the right long-term vision and are doing things the right way. Our focus now is empowering them with the tools they need to fulfill their vision.”

So, there it is. The dreaded vote of confidence, doubled.

Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt has not commented on Kingsbury’s future. Luckily for the Red Raiders’ coach, his boss is currently busy with his side gig – Hocutt is chair of the College Football Playoff committee.

With two games remaining, Texas Tech is 5-5. The Red Raiders are at home against No. 11 TCU Saturday and can assert an indirect influence on the Big 12 championship game by upsetting the Horned Frogs. If TCU wins, Texas Tech will head to Austin on Nov. 24 needing a victory over Texas to gain bowl eligibility.

Kingsbury is in his fourth season with an overall record of 29-31. Texas Tech’s 7-0 start in his first season seems like a decade ago. The Red Raiders are 15-29 in Big 12 play under Kingsbury and that lack of competitiveness in league play is particularly galling to fans who are accustomed to finishing higher in the standings. Two of the losses were by seven points and the woeful defense of recent seasons has been improved.

If Hocutt decides to make a coaching change, Kingsbury’s buyout is $6.8 million. A former Red Raider, Kingsbury is popular and is still learning his way as a head coach. The Texas Tech administration will have to decide if it wants to write a big check or stay with the status quo for one more season.

Let’s shake on it

There fever-pitch emotions for Saturday’s TCU-Oklahoma game. Not only was it a pseudo elimination contest College Football Playoff, the teams have a flinty history. Two years ago, Frogs linebacker Ty Summers knocked Sooners QB Baker Mayfield out of the game in the first half with a helmet-to-helmet targeting hit.

On the first play Saturday, TCU’s John Diarse was called for a personal foul. Later in the first, Frogs defensive end Mat Boesen was ejected for kicking an OU player. The Frogs’ frustrations mounted as the Sooners rolled up a 38-10 halftime lead.

At game’s end, when the scoreboard showed a 38-20 Oklahoma victory, there were a few TCU players who headed to the locker room before shaking hands.

Gary Patterson stopped them and made them shake.

“You don’t judge people by how you win, you judge people by how you lose,” the TCU coach said. “You get back out, you shake hands. That’s the way life is. That’s what we do at TCU. We don’t teach about a ballgame, we teach about the rest of your life. And the rest of your life is you handle adversity and you handle when things aren’t going well. And so, we all shook hands.”

Cyclones quarterback carousel

Redshirt freshman Zeb Noland became Iowa State’s fourth quarterback to take significant snaps this season when he replaced an injured Kyle Kempt in the second quarter Saturday. Noland nearly led the Cyclones to an upset of No. 15 Oklahoma State.

Jacob Park started the first four games but left the team to deal with a personal health issue. Kempt, a senior who had thrown two passes in his career, started the next six games and helped Iowa State upset Oklahoma and TCU. Noland missed last season after suffering an ACL injury. Senior Joel Lanning, last season’s starter who moved to middle linebacker this season, has seen spot duty at QB.

Against the Cowboys, Kempt, Noland and Lanning each threw touchdown passes.

“We’ve always recruited guys that fit our system,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “I thought (Zeb) was outstanding (against OSU). Probably not the easiest situation to get your first real extended playing time … with the game on the line. He really did a great job. Pressure-packed situation, that’s what you never know until they get into the heat of the moment.

“We’ve been able to sustain success no matter who’s been in at quarterback because of our receiving core. Those guys have made it easy for whoever has come in to be so productive. It’s great to have a big target. It’s great to have targets like we have. And those guys have really done a great job of, kind of, adapting.”

Short yardage

  • TCU’s path to the Big 12 championship game goes through Lubbock. Unfortunately, that’s a road trip that has become a problem for the Horned Frogs. They’ve lost four of their last five games at Texas Tech. The only victory came in 2015 when TCU won, 55-52, on a deflected touchdown pass.
  • Oklahoma researched via its statistical service (which goes back to 1996) and discovered that sophomore running back Rodney Anderson is the first FBS player with at last 139 yards rushing and 139 yards receiving in a game.
  • Iowa State senior linebacker/quarterback has a sack, interception, fumble recovery, rushing touchdown and passing touchdown. The last FBS player to do that in a single season was Utah’s Eric Weddle in 2006.
  • West Virginia has three receivers with 800 or more yards receiving – Gary Jennings (938 yards), David Sills V (856) and Ka’Raun White (907). The Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences each have one player with 800-plus yards on receptions.
  • Texas hopes that All-American tackle Connor Williams, who suffered a knee injury at USC, will return to action Saturday against West Virginia. The Mountaineers are ninth in the Big 12 and 94th in FBS, allowing 191 yards rushing per game. In the seven games Williams has missed, the Longhorns have rushed for only 2.83 yards per carry (300 attempts for 849 yards),
  • In his second collegiate start, Baylor freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer was 43-of-63 for 415 yards and three touchdowns. His completions and attempts were both school records – impressive considering the level of quarterback play in the program over the past decade.
  • Junior Chris Warren III is still Texas’ leading rusher but he only has four carries in the last three games. Against Kansas Saturday, the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder started at H-back and also lined up at tight end. The Longhorns coaching staff is trying to find the best use of his talents. “Standing him on the sideline is probably not his best role on the team,” coach Tom Herman said. “So we’re still experimenting with it. Obviously, that’s a tough spot to put him in with just a few weeks left.”
  • Texas Tech’s Keke Coutee opened Saturday’s game at AT&T Stadium against Baylor by returning the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time the Red Raiders started a game with a kickoff return TD since Lawrence Williams against New Mexico in 1973. 

And then he said …

Texas coach Tom Herman praising West Virginia quarterback Will Grier as ranking among the best quarterbacks in the Big 12.

 “He’s along the lines of (Oklahoma’s Baker) Mayfield and (TCU’s Kenny) Hill in terms of he’s really, really accurate throwing the football. He’s a tremendous passer. But he can make you pay with his feet too. He’s as good as we’ve played, and we’ve played some really, really, good ones.”