Filling in for Warden on this for this week - I hope I can do at least half as well as he does!
Another week is in the books, a rather light week in terms of Big 12 play, with only four teams in action across three games. Of course, one of those games was ours, so really there were only two games we need to delve into. Kansas State hung with Auburn on a Thursday night in Manhattan, and Oklahoma ran away from West Virginia in the second half in Morgantown. Let's take a closer look.
Auburn 20, Kansas State 14
The story of the game was defense defense defense. Auburn's ground game was grounded, and they had to go to the passing game to get anything done against Kansas State. Despite missing open receivers (admittedly pretty deep downfield) or just outright having dropped passes, Auburn was able to overcome a tenacious effort by K-State and prevailed in the end, despite season lows in yardage. Auburn's defense was able to match K-State's all night long, however. Tyler Locket was mostly kept in check, although this allowed Curry Sexton to run rampant most of the night. After a late KSU touchdown, the game was effectively ended when Auburn converted a third-and-nine with 2:06 remaining and K-State out of timeouts - on a 39 yard pass play, of course.
Over at Bring on the Cats, they were proud of the defensive effort:
The defense bears no blame for the result. Auburn's vaunted rushing attack was held to 128 yards, and held Auburn to 359 yards in all. The first quarter was the first quarter of the year in which Auburn was held without an offensive touchdown, a feat the Wildcat defense accomplished twice in 45 minutes. Twice in the first quarter, Auburn was forced three-and-out. No, the defense did all that was asked of them and -- based on most people's pre-game projections, including mine -- about 100% more in holding Auburn to 20. If there could be any more stirring endorsement, die-hard SEC MANBALL fans responded post-game with repeated comments about K-State's defense being legit.
Not "legit for a Big 12 team." Legit, full stop.
While they lament the points left on the field, they realize Auburn left some of their own out there as well:
Forget about the interceptions. Forget about the fumbles. Those things happen against a team like Auburn. Focus on what happened when K-State put itself in position to succeed. Just by simple probability, K-State left 13 points on the board. In other words, if K-State plays not even a perfect game, but a statistically probable game, the Wildcats win, 27-20.**We would do well to note that Auburn did not play a perfect game, either. Duke Williams dropped what probably would have been a touchdown pass, for one.
Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 33
Pretty much the opposite of the Auburn - Kansas State game, this game was all offense offense offense. Each team had over 500 yards of offense in this one. The first half was played to a 24-24 tie, but after halftime, it was pretty much all Oklahoma behind as-of-yet unknown RB Samaje Perine, who went for 242 yards rushing and 4 TDs - 3 TDs in the second half. Clint Tricket went 25 of 41 for 376 yards and two TDs, but also had two INTs and a fumble. WVU had two receivers go over 100 yards, but just couldn't keep up with OU in the second half.
Fans were rightfully frustrated with Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel for not running the ball more often in the first quarter. However, Heupel is due some credit for adjusting the game plan to what was working. The Sooners attempted 12 passes in the first fifteen minutes and ran the ball ten times. From that point on the offensive game plan was slanted in favor of the run by a two-to-one margin of 36-18.
There are certainly enough things to be critical about from this game -lack of pressure on Clint Trickett, Zack Sanchez playing with one arm, and the initial offensive game plan - and we'll certainly get to them. However, for now let's just celebrate Bob Stoops' 100 Big XII Conference victory.
As for Smoking Musket, they never really expected to win the game, and are optimistic about what performances like this - and earlier in the year, against Alabama - mean for the program.
Having said all that, this game was certainly not one WVU expected to win. It represented a great opportunity to make a splash on the national stage and start whispers of competing for a conference championship, but really it was a measuring stick. Well, we learned was that Oklahoma is very, very, very good and WVU just isn't quite there yet and has to play near flawless ball to compete at that level.
But tonight was a setback for sure, albeit a slight one. As it's done so many times this team will need to pick itself up and prepare for the next challenge. There are plenty left to meet and opportunity awaits.
Baylor hasn't really been tested yet, but both the Bears and the Sooners have rolled so far. They seem to be on a collision course for November 8 in Norman. Will either team pick up a loss before then?