Let’s hand out some awards for Week 4 in the Big 12.
Best offensive performance: Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas. Gray logged a career-high 141 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Longhorns to a 31-21 win over Kansas State. The sophomore is a balanced back, but showcased enough power behind him on Saturday to remind me a little bit of another famous No. 32 in burnt orange: Cedric Benson. What a game for Gray. Second-best offensive performance: Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State. I couldn’t simply give Lockett honorable mention. K-State didn’t get it done against Texas, but Lockett burned a solid Longhorns secondary for 237 yards on 13 catches. That broke Jordy Nelson’s school record and Lockett now leads the Big 12 in receiving yards and receptions. Best defensive performance: Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech. The Fresh Prince of West Texas was all over the place against Texas State, and was instrumental in a goal line stand for the Red Raiders. He finished with eight tackles, a tackle for loss and returned a fumble nine yards for Tech’s first touchdown in the Red Raiders’ 33-7 win over Texas State. Best play: Matthew Wyman, K, Kansas. KU didn’t want to risk trying to earn a few more yards late, but Wyman made sure it didn’t matter. He boomed a 52-yard kick to beat Louisiana Tech, 13-10. That gave Kansas its first win over an FBS team in 23 games and its first win on the final play of the game since 2005. Wyman, however, provided one of the best stories of the season. He tried out for the team last year, but didn’t make it after being cut. He returned this year, and now he’s the Jayhawks’ starter. “It’s weird, knowing I was up in the student section last year cheering.”
Best quote: Charlie Weis, Kansas. The Jayhawks coach weighed in on Kansas’ heart-stopping comeback win after trailing 10-3 for much of the game. “I’m too old. I’m in crummy shape. I don’t need games like that.” Read more here.
Worst play: Ford Childress, QB, West Virginia. On a day full of awful plays, the Mountaineers’ saved the worst for last. Childress tried to elude the pass rush, but as he was being brought down, inexplicably tried to shovel the ball to Charles Sims, who understandably wasn’t prepared for it. Mind you, this was at the end of a game that had been played mostly in a downpour. The ball bounced off Sims and into the chest of a Maryland defender for one final indignity in the 37-0 loss, the sixth turnover of the day.
Best team performance: Texas. Baylor had the flash, but Texas’ 31-21 win over Kansas State had loads of substance. The Longhorns had tons of pressure, but played well early and weathered losses to starting QB David Ash and LB Jordan Hicks. The Longhorns leaned on their running game, but what impressed me most is how much the Longhorns looked like they’d learned defensively. They locked down K-State’s running game and limited the QB run game especially from Jake Waters and Daniel Sams.
Worst team performance: West Virginia. Dana Holgorsen had never coached an FBS team that had been shutout before Saturday, and West Virginia had as many turnovers (6) as it did first downs. The Mountaineers completed just one pass to a true receiver, and left Holgorsen saying his offense was as “inept” as it could possibly be. I’d agree, but to me, it looked like West Virginia really looked uninterested in the second half. A 30-0 halftime deficit is never encouraging, but erasing it isn’t impossible. The Mountaineers played like they believed it was.
Best fortunes: Kansas. KU played with a lot of guts, and showed that effort and fortune are often bedfellows. Louisiana Tech got inside the Jayhawks’ 10-yard line twice with a 10-3 lead, and the first time, Bulldogs quarterback Ryan Higgins got careless with the ball and fumbled it out of the end zone for a touchback. Two drives later, the Bulldogs had KU on the ropes again, but running back Anthony Dixon coughed up a fumble at the 7-yard line to set up KU’s game-winning drive. This is what happens when you don’t give up.