Big 12 Football: Texas Tech Eschews Style Points; Iowa State Gets “Unprofessional”

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Sometimes how you win can be as important as if you win.

Texas Tech’s 17-14 victory over TCU last Thursday in Fort Worth disappointed those who had tuned in expecting a point total that would short-circuit the scoreboard. In seven previous meetings as Big 12 foes, the average score between the Frogs and the Red Raiders was 37-24. Two games finished with both scoring in the 50s and in 2014 TCU pillaged Texas Tech, 82-27.

But instead of relying on its offense to score early, often and always, the Red Raiders won a defensive slobber knocker. It was the Red Raiders’ first victory scoring fewer than 20 points since 2001 when they defeated Texas A&M, 12-0. Texas Tech’s quarterback in that game was current coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Up is now down and defense is winning at Texas Tech. Next phenomenon could be a mountain range sprouting in West Texas.

“We haven’t had many of those type of games around here,” Kingsbury said on this week’s Big 12 coaches’ call. “I think it’s encouraging to our team that we were able to go in there against a very good team and win a game of that type.”

The Red Raiders were without starting quarterback Alan Bowman (collapsed lung) but Kingsbury subbed in another freshman and Jett Duffey managed to produce two touchdown drives. Texas Tech was without its starting center plus lost its starting left tackle and top receiver J.T. Vasher during the game.

Texas Tech is 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 play heading into Saturday’s game at Kansas. With Oklahoma and Texas scheduled to visit Lubbock on back-to-back weeks in early November, the Red Raiders are making noise and getting attention for the first time since they started 7-0 in 2013, Kingsbury’s first season.

For much of Kingsbury’s six seasons, the Red Raiders needed to hang half a hundred on the scoreboard because their defense was likely to give up 40 to 50 a game. Linebacker Dakota Allen, speaking with Shehan Jeyarajah of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, said that it’s “definitely not how we want the 806 defense to be portrayed.” He was referring to the Lubbock area code but the cynics and smart alecks could wonder if he was talking about yards or points allowed.

Defensive coordinator David Gibbs is in his fourth season, surviving years one and two when Texas Tech had the worst defense in the country. His job is particularly difficult because Kingsbury’s offensive schemes produce quick-strike scoring drives and expose the defense to stopping an abnormal number of possessions. Players like Allen, linebacker Jordyn Brooks and safety Jah’Shawn Johnson are speedy defenders capable of showing up around the ball with a bad attitude.

“I was always impressed with how [Gibbs] stuck to his guns through a couple really rough years,” Kingsbury said. “He had a vision and he wanted to recruit to it, develop to it and now we’ve got some grown up players who are making some plays. We have a long way to go but we’re making some plays.”

Going back to the 2017 season finale at Texas, the Red Raiders have won three consecutive conference road games. The old saying that “defense travels” is becoming true for Texas Tech.

“I think they have a road warrior mentality,” Kingsbury said after the TCU game. “It’s us against everybody on the road, and they’ve embraced that and done a nice job having good mental focus on the road.”

Field of fines

The reason why conferences have instituted fines for fans storming fields/courts after dramatic or meaningful victories is the same reason college football has a targeting rule. Conferences are terrified of being sued (and never mind all those legal fees the NCAA is paying trying to hold on to its amateur model.

After Iowa State upset No. 6 and undefeated West Virginia, Cyclones fans left their seats and covered the natural turf at Jack Trice Stadium. It was a scene similar to the mass of humanity scene after Iowa State’s double-overtime upset of Oklahoma State in 2011.

The Big 12 Conference, of course, went to the rule book. Here’s the official stilted statement from the Conference office: “In accordance with the Big 12 Conference Principles and Standards of Sportsmanship, the Conference has issued a public reprimand and $25,000 fine (to) Iowa State University for its handling of post-game protocol at the conclusion of its football contest against West Virginia University on Saturday, October 13.”

LSU was fined $100,000 for its fans storming the field after the Tigers’ victory over Georgia. As we know, in the SEC, it just means more.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was asked about the sea of humanity, which prevented him from a post-game handshake with Iowa State coach Matt Campbell.

“It was very unprofessional,” he said of the lack of crowd control. “Our job is to keep players safe. We didn’t have time to get (players) off the field. That was not good. No one was hurt that I’m aware of. It was dicey for a while.”

Iowa State fans, who in general are a polite and friendly bunch, have an opportunity to celebrate the upset of WVU by trolling Holgorsen’s comment.

Name calling

Texas freshman Cameron Dicker earned a forever place in Red River Rivalry lore with his game-winning kick against Oklahoma. FOX announcer Gus Johnson added to the dramatic moment with “Dicker the kicker.”

There’s another young kicker in the Big 12 making a name for himself. Iowa State redshirt sophomore walk-on Connor Assalley has made all eight of his field goal attempts. He’s one of five kickers in FBS with at least eight attempts without a miss.

And that last name is, fortunately, pronounced UH-Sally. Or maybe unfortunately. How great would it be to have a kicker named Ass-alley.

The Cyclones kicker recently recognized his aptly named counterpart in Texas. “I’m super glad there’s a kicker in the Big 12 named Dicker,” he said.

As noted in this clever commentary by WHO-TV sportscaster Andy Fales, an unusual name can garner attention. And, yes, Fales notes a story Your Veteran Scribe likes to recall about a girls high school basketball player in Iowa with perhaps the most unfortunate name of all.

Quick slants

  • Oklahoma, with two appearances in the College Football Playoff, is one of four teams with multiple bids. The others are Alabama (four), Clemson (three) and Ohio State (two). Since 2015, the Sooners are 28-3 in Big 12 play with an average winning margin of 21.8. Alabama is 29-2 vs. SEC teams with a 24.8 winning margin. Clemson is 28-2 in ACC play with a 20.3 average winning margin while Ohio State is 28-3 vs. Big Ten teams with a 26.5 winning margin.
  • Two teams looking to get their seasons back on track meet Saturday in Fort Worth when Oklahoma plays TCU. The Sooners haven’t lost back-to-back regular-season games since Oct. 2 and Oct. 9, 1999. The Frogs (3-3) haven’t been under .500 in the regular season since Week 3 of 2013. That team finished 4-8.
  • TCU football has scored 17 or fewer points in three straight games for the first time since 1996. In 2015, the Frogs started 6-0 and allowed 165 points in those games. This season through six games, the defense has allowed 121 points.
  • With its victory over No. 6 West Virginia last Saturday, since the start of last season Iowa State has won three games against teams ranked in the top six of the Associated Press rankings. That’s tied with Auburn and Alabama for the most such wins in the FBS. Before 2017, the Cyclones had one victory over a top six team in program history.

Coach speak

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder on the Wildcats being ranked last in the Big 12 in passing:

“We are going to have to improve our passing game. A fourth grader could define that.”

TCU coach Gary Patterson on the Horned Frogs’ 15 turnovers and negative nine turnover margin:

“You can’t be last in the Big 12 in takeaways and think you’re going to win a lot of ballgames.”

Baylor coach Matt Ruhle on his team’s dress code choice after it nearly upset Texas in Austin:

“I told the team they could wear the jogging suits home even though we lost. Which isn’t how we normally do things, but I was proud of that team and their effort. But I went to meet with the media and came back on the bus and they were all in their coats and ties.”