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Texas and Big 12 Capsules: Texas offense in a frustrating funk

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Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010 12:00 am

AUSTIN (AP) —The Texas offense is in trouble.

The running game is going nowhere, sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert is turning the ball over — when he's not on the run from pass rushers — and the receivers are dropping balls.

Texas hasn't looked this shaky under coach Mack Brown since, well, ever.

Brown and offensive coordinator Greg Davis have been at Texas since 1998, a tenure that includes the top nine scoring seasons in school history. Since 2002, Texas' 652 touchdowns are second only to Boise State's 708.

Texas has always been able to put up points — fast. Not this year.

And after a 34-12 loss to UCLA, the No. 21 Longhorns (3-1) are desperately seeking someone to pump some life into a surprisingly punchless attack before they meet No. 8 Oklahoma (4-0) on Saturday in Dallas.

"We're looking for playmakers, quite honestly," Davis said Monday.

The best one so far, freshman flanker Mike Davis, may not even be able to play against the Sooners. He's considered questionable after a getting banged up in the loss to UCLA.

If Davis can't play, that takes yet another weapon away from Gilbert, who has few consistently reliable options when throwing downfield. Long gone are the days of Jordan Shipley shredding defenses with deep routes or short catches he turned into long runs.

Colt McCoy had Shipley running around for many of his career-record 45 victories. Gilbert, in his four games as a starter, has a receiving corps that has more drops than touchdowns.

"In the heat of the game, I'm going to continue to trust those guys," Gilbert said. "It may be they just need to relax, do what they came here to do."

Not that Gilbert has been perfect. He's been responsible for three interceptions and two fumbles in the last two games.

Brown says Gilbert is playing well, but, "he's got to stop turning the ball over ... it's killing us."

Gilbert won't deflect blame for the miscues. He even took responsibility for tailback D.J. Monroe's fumble on a handoff against the Bruins that set up a field goal.

"That's always on the quarterback," Gilbert said. "(I've) got to be better with the ball and not put our defense in positions like that."

The offensive line has struggled to protect Gilbert, too, and a unit that had to replace three longtime starters has allowed five sacks in the last two games. Depth has become a concern. One expected starter, right guard Tray Allen, injured his foot early in training camp was still on crutches last week. Top backup Luke Poehlmann was lost for the season with a knee injury in the second game.

And the running game that Texas spent all offseason working on? It's averaging just 89 yards the last two games. The season average of 135.5 would tie for fifth-worst in school history.

Brown said he won't pay attention to any offensive statistic other than touchdowns scored.

"I'm only concerned about the lack of points," Brown said. "The rest is all talk. How you get it in the end zone is all that matters."

Texas isn't doing much of that, either. Since 2007, Texas has averaged no less than 37.2 points. After the first four games of 2010, the Longhorns are scoring well below that at 26 points.

In three games, Texas hasn't scored a touchdown in the first quarter. Against UCLA, Texas managed just one TD and it didn't come until the fourth when the game was all but over.

"We need to quit shooting ourselves in the foot," Brown said.

Big 12

Power struggle in Big 12 South begins

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The chances that Texas will return to the BCS championship game for a second straight year are greatly diminished, if not gone, after a humiliating rout at home.

That doesn't mean the Longhorns are done in the Big 12.

What better way to shake off a 34-12 loss to UCLA than with a victory over archrival Oklahoma just seven days later?

"The only big games at Texas, (former) coach (Darrell) Royal told me, are the ones that you lose," coach Mack Brown said Monday on the Big 12 coaches' call. "We've lost ones before that got big. Everybody gets mad and everybody gets angry, and all we can do is go back to work."

The annual Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas will be lessened in stature this year after the Longhorns' stunning loss on Saturday highlighted a day of struggles by the Big 12's powerhouses. The Sooners edged Cincinnati 31-29 and No. 6 Nebraska was unimpressive in a 17-3 win against South Dakota State of the Football Championship Subdivision.

That leaves serious questions about whether the Big 12 has a legitimate national title contender while two other conferences will have their best teams playing at center stage Saturday night: No. 1 Alabama hosts No. 7 Florida in the SEC, and No. 9 Stanford visits No. 4 Oregon in the Pac-10.

In these parts, it still doesn't get much bigger than No. 8 Oklahoma vs. No. 21 Texas. The teams have combined to win the last six Big 12 championships, escalating tensions between rivals that have been playing for over a century.

"That just made it more intense, I think, and the fact that we've been in the national hunt — both of us over the years — also intensified it or at least brought it more attention nationally," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "In the end, being in the same division has really made it even more important."

And this week, it's one of two big games in the division. Texas A&M (3-0) will visit Oklahoma State (3-0) on Thursday night in the only game featuring two of the conference's six remaining undefeated teams. All three of the North's unbeaten teams — Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas State — are off this weekend, leaving the spotlight to shine on the South.

The winner of Thursday night's game emerges as the top challenger in the South to the Red River rivalry victor.

"There's no question that you want to get going in conference play, and you're playing good football teams," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "You want to keep momentum going. Our guys have performed pretty well up to this point, so we want them to continue on and keep some momentum as we roll through conference."

For now, the Cowboys and Aggies have flown under the radar, with each team posting two blowouts and barely scraping by once. With a national TV audience looking on, both unranked teams have a chance to make a statement in their Big 12 opener.

"We look at every week as a big test and this week certainly because they're a team that has had some good success here as of late with coach Gundy. He's done a great job," A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "They're moving the ball on offense, they're playing good defense and they have very good special teams units.

"It'll be a good test for us, no doubt about it. The kids are anxious to play the game."

Texas already has a leg up on the rest of the South with its Week 3 win at Texas Tech, but last week's loss did nothing but raise concerns.

"This isn't my first fan panic," Brown said. "The only thing we can do to get fans to calm down is win."

Brown knows that well. After losing to Oklahoma five straight times to start the 2000s, the Longhorns have won four of the last five and at least have that momentum on their side in a series filled with streaks.

"When you start losing it, the fans get on you so hard that it puts so much pressure on you as a coach and your kids that it's hard to get it turned back," Brown said. "That's all you hear because you've got great respect between the two universities and the game is big, and it's really important. It's a midseason game, so it's really a hard game for everybody.

"I think that that's probably what's happened is that one group feels so much pressure because their fan base feels that pressure."

Stoops, however, is quick to point out that the Sooners have won three of the last four Big 12 championships — with two of them coming in seasons when Oklahoma lost to Texas in Dallas.

"This game matters because it's right now. Then after that, you've got to win them all to have the chance to be the Big 12 champion," he said. "This game doesn't do it.

"Sometimes I think the media, 'Oh, this is the only game that counts.' Well, if you win this game and lose a bunch of others, it doesn't amount to much."

-- Jeff Latzke

Candy a lure for Oklahoma State to force turnovers

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Andrew McGee's black T-shirt with "Ball Hawk" printed on the front is a symbol of accomplishment in Oklahoma State's defense. And if he's caught munching on a candy bar, he might just be celebrating a job well done.

Defensive coordinator Bill Young believes takeaways are so important to the Cowboys (3-0) that he'll hand out rewards to those who create turnovers in games and in practice.

"We're all about turnovers," said McGee, who earned his T-shirt with a pick in Oklahoma State's 65-28 rout of Tulsa. "We want to get turnovers. It's a good thing. If you ever see one of us with this shirt on, it means we did something good."

McGee has also earned Butterfinger and Snickers bars for coming up with the ball in practice, as part of the bonus system put in place by Young after he took charge of OSU's defense before last season.

So far, the gifts are readily doled out. The Cowboys have forced six fumbles and intercepted three passes, an average of three takeaways per game, heading into their Big 12 opener Thursday night against Texas A&M (3-0).

"Obviously, we'd like to have more," Young said. "Our goal is three per game. It's something that I can't imagine anybody emphasizing more than what we do on every single play in practice."

Coaches won't blow the whistle until defenders have exhausted every last opportunity to jar the ball loose from the scout team. Turnovers are charted, and a certain number will allow players to avoid some running at the end of practice.

The numbers also go up on a meeting room door, and then there are the prizes that serve as a badge of honor for those who made the takeaway happen.

Young awards T-shirts in defensive meetings after a game.

"He's made a point of that ever since he's come in here, and I think the players have bought into that," coach Mike Gundy said. "I think there's some carry-over into games."

On the front of the shirt is the "Ball Hawk" imagery. And on the back, a message: "RIP. STRIP. PICK." Then the second line: "SCORE!"

So far, that's about all that hasn't happened for the Oklahoma State defense. McGee returned his interception 79 yards out of the end zone, but couldn't make it all the way for the touchdown. He's still wondering if he'd have earned something beyond the T-shirt for scoring, too.

"I don't know," he said. "I will find out hopefully."

A former offensive coordinator, Gundy had been largely uninvolved with the defense in his first few years in charge at OSU. When the opposing offense had the ball during a game, he'd walk away from the sideline and find a spot where he could work with his offensive coordinator on what to run the next time the Cowboys had the ball.

This year, he has turned the offensive reins over to first-year coordinator Dana Holgorsen and finds himself spending more time working with the defense. Players say he's frequently hollering, "Strip the ball! Strip the ball!"

"Last year, we're used to him being down there on offense and not really dealing with us," defensive tackle Nigel Nicholas said. "But now, he's really involved with us and he's doing a good job."

"It's paid off on our intensity in practice," he added. "He's down there hyping everything up, hyping practice up. When the head coach hypes practice up, you've got to get hyped."

-- Jeff Latzke

Pelini: Neb. lucked out on timing for bad outing

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska coach Bo Pelini figures the only good thing about his team's lackluster performance against South Dakota State was the timing of it.

The sixth-ranked Huskers won 17-3, surprisingly close considering their winless opponent Saturday was from the Football Championship Subdivision.

The effort probably wouldn't have been good enough to win if it had come against a Big 12 opponent or a week earlier at Washington.

"It's obvious it came at the perfect time for our football team as a wake-up call," Pelini said Monday. "To a certain extent, our guys bought into the hype. All the things that were being said about them, they started believing them instead of taking a good hard look at what we talk about each and every day. I said you have to respect the game or you'll get humbled."

Nebraska (4-0) joined the national championship conversation after the 56-21 win at Washington, and Taylor Martinez was hailed as one of the top young quarterbacks in the land.

The Jackrabbits did what no Football Bowl Championship Subdivision opponent had done — hold Martinez under 100 yards rushing. He finished with 75 yards, with 33 coming on one scramble.

The more South Dakota State contained the redshirt freshman, the more he tried to force plays. He was 6 of 14 passing, missing badly on some of his attempts, and throwing two interceptions. Cody Green replaced him early in the fourth quarter.

"I think he's going to get better from what happened," Pelini said. "The lack of execution was all across the board. Everyone's going to be focused on the quarterback, but it went well beyond that."

Nebraska has an open date Saturday before starting Big 12 play at Kansas State on Oct. 7.

Receiver Mike McNeill, linebacker Eric Martin and safeties Rickey Thenarse and P.J. Smith would practice this week after leaving the SDSU game with injuries.

Pelini said he would emphasize fundamentals at practice and begin installing the game plan for Kansas State.

"Our players don't need me to tell them, they know right now how they played and what happened and why it happened," he said. "I told them that it happened at a good time. This week we need to make progress. They understand that."

-- Eric Olson

ISU QB Arnaud expected to start against Texas Tech

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads acknowledged Monday that he expects senior quarterback Austen Arnaud to start the Big 12 home opener against Texas Tech this weekend.

Arnaud aggravated an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in the first quarter of last week's 27-0 win over Northern Iowa and was replaced by sophomore backup Jerome Tiller.

Arnaud went through a full practice on Sunday, according to Rhoads, and was listed as the starter on a depth chart released Monday.

"I anticipate that Austen will be out there with the first team when we take the field. Jerome did a nice job leading of leading our team to victory, and I don't look past that," Rhoads said. "Does that mean both will play? Does that mean I'll split time? That's what I don't know."

Arnaud fell hard on his shoulder during the third quarter of a 27-20 loss to Kansas State on Sept. 18. The three-year starter returned after missing just one series against the Wildcats, and he insisted during the week before the Northern Iowa game that he'd be fine.

On the first series against the Panthers, though, Arnaud got popped on his injured shoulder and couldn't continue. Tiller, a sophomore, was 11 of 22 passing in relief and could play against Texas Tech (2-1, 0-1 Big 12).

"Whoever is taking the center snaps needs to be making accurate throws and good decisions on the field," Rhoads said.

That's been a problem for both of Iowa State's quarterbacks.

Iowa State (2-2, 0-1) ranks 97th in the nation with just 169.3 passing yards a game, which is a major reason why the Cyclones are last in the Big 12 with just over 20 points a game.

Arnaud got off to a shaky start, which included five interceptions and just two TD passes in three games. But even though Tiller was behind center for the win over the Panthers, he didn't exactly light up the scoreboard.

Tiller, who got into seven games as a freshman in 2009 and completed 56.2 percent of his passes, had just 87 yards passing against Northern Iowa and was sacked four times. The Cyclones offense managed just one touchdown and a pair of field goals, and many of the 11 balls Tiller managed to complete were a lot tougher than they needed to be.

"Health is what put us in this situation," Rhoads said. "It's not like Jerome went out there and looked like Terry Bradshaw and completed every pass and led us to 50 points."

Instead, it was Iowa State's defense that led the way, forcing five Northern Iowa turnovers and returning two interceptions for scores in registering its first shutout since 2004. Sophomore linebacker Jake Knott had 11 tackles and his third pick of the season, earning Big 12 defensive player of the week honors.

Still, Iowa State was outgained 320-210 by the FCS Panthers.

Arnaud wasn't made available to reporters Monday because of an academic conflict, according to Iowa State spokesman Tom Kroeschell. But even though Arnaud hasn't played that well this season, he still looks like the best option as long as he's healthy.

According to Rhoads, Arnaud's shoulder isn't limiting him as much as it did a week ago.

"Austen's been out there, he's played a lot of games in this conference," running back Alexander Robinson said. "That experience, what you're going to see on game night, the speed of it, I think that's big. That really helps you out a lot. That's something that you can't replace."

-- Luke Meredith

Iowa State drops Utah from 2011 schedule

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State has canceled its road game at Utah next season as the Big 12 moves to a nine-game schedule.

Iowa State was set to complete a home-and-home series with the Utes on Sept. 1, 2011. But Utah is joining the Pac-10 next season, and since that league is also planning a nine-game conference schedule the Cyclones agreed to drop the contest.

Iowa State says Monday that it's moved its 2011 home game with Northern Iowa from Sept. 24 to Sept. 3 in response to losing the game with Utah.

The Cyclones will host Iowa on Sept. 10, 2011, and play at Connecticut the following week.

Iowa State plays the 13th-ranked Utes in Ames on Oct. 9.

ABC to broadcast Arkansas-Texas A&M game on Oct. 9

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Razorback athletic officials say Arkansas' game with Texas A&M on Oct. 9 will be on national television.

The game, to be played at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will be broadcast by the ABC network. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.

The Razorbacks are 3-1, while the Aggies are 3-0 at this point. Texas A&M plays this week at Oklahoma State, while Arkansas has an off week.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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