After two weeks of action - albeit last week was as abbreviated as we'll see all season long with only a handful of games scheduled - the Big 12 Conference is off to a tremendous 14-1 start against nonconference competition and could very easily have been undefeated for a second straight week had things gone a little differently for Missouri in the late going in a disappointing overtime loss to Arizona State.
Missouri was an underdog in its game last Friday night under the lights in the desert against the Sun Devils of Arizona State, this week ranked 18th in the USA Today weekly coaches' poll. So, too, however, were Kansas against Northern Illinois and Iowa State in its annual rivalry game with Iowa.
Kansas scored the winning touchdown with nine seconds left on the game clock to come out on top in a back-and-forth, wild-and-wooly affair with Northern Illinois that produced a combined 996 yards of total offense. The 44-42 win was a big one for coach Turner Gill's Jayhawks, their second straight to open the 2011 season. Northern Illinois was the runner-up in the 2010 Mid-American Conference championship and a team expected to be a strong contender for the conference championship again this year. Kansas is now just one win shy of its season total a year ago.
Iowa State first-year quarterback Steele Jantz put the Cyclones on his back down the stretch and all but willed his team to victory in a thrilling 44-41 three-overtime win over in-state rival Iowa. Jantz threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns, but it was a four-yard TD scamper by James White in the third overtime that sealed the victory and secured the Cy-Hawk Trophy for the Cyclones. The Iowa State fans stormed the field at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames afterward in celebration. It was the first overtime contest in the 59-yard history of this rivalry series, as well as the highest scoring game in the series.
Getting back to the Missouri game, the Tigers played catch-up most of the night against the Sun Devils, and actually had a chance to win the game in regulation. After tying the score at 30 all with just under three minutes to go in the game, Mizzou had one more chance with the clock running down in regulation, but Grant Ressel missed a 48-yard field-goal try, sending the game into OT. In an apparent attempt to relax his kicker, MU coach Gary Pinkel called a couple of time outs just prior to the Ressel's long-range attempt. In most cases, this is more commonly done by the coach on the opposite sideline to try to freeze or rattle the kicker. Who knows what Pinkel was thinking.
Arizona State scored in its first overtime possession, but Missouri's attempt to match it fell short when a fourth-down pass from quarterback James Franklin fell harmlessly to the turf in the Sun Devils' end zone.
Even in the loss, Missouri's first in 23 games against nonconference opponents, there was a big positive takeaway from the game. Franklin showed why Pinkel and others are so high on him and his ability to fit the mold of the great Tiger quarterbacks that immediately preceded him. Franklin had a breakout game, accounting for 428 yards of offense and three touchdowns.
The performance by the young Missouri signal-caller prompted this response from his coach: "I think the guy is going to be pretty special," Pinkel said. "I said that last week. Are you kidding me? To make some of the plays he did in that game (vs. Arizona State)."
In the two other conference games over the weekend, Texas rallied late, with Colt McCoy's younger brother, Chase, coming off the bench to breathe some life into stagnant offense, and the Longhorns avoided another home loss, edging BYU 17-16. Seventh-ranked Oklahoma State got things rolling for the Big 12 in Week 2 with a Thursday night win over Arizona, 37-14.
Five Things We Learned From Last Week's Big 12 Games
- This may not yet be your grandfather's Kansas team of the late 1960s - or even from four seasons ago - but the Jayhawks are clearly progressing from where they have been the past couple of seasons. Kansas won only three games all of last season. They already are two-for-two in the win column this year.
- Staying on Kansas, opponents better be mindful of all-purpose-player D.J. Breshears' whereabouts when they play the Jayhawks this season. All the sophomore speedster did against Northern Illinois was haul in a career-high seven receptions for 70 yards, reel off 192 yards in kickoff returns, the second highest total in school history, and rush for 110 yards on 26 running plays. And, oh yeah, he also caught the game-winning touchdown pass with nine seconds to go in the game.
- The 44 points scored by Iowa State against their biggest rival, Iowa, was the most ever by a Cyclones team in the 59-year history of the rivalry series.
- Against Arizona State, Missouri had eight plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more. By contrast, the week before, in the Tigers' season opener against Miami of Ohio, MU managed just one play of 20 yards or more.
- Oklahoma State sophomore running back Joseph Randle had the game of his life last week against Arizona. Randle had 121 yards rushing and caught nine passes for 99 yards. Had he gained just one more yard after the catch, Randle would have become the first player in OSU program history with 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game.