There Are No Gimmies in the Big 12

  • By John Antonik
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  • October 14, 2012 08:50 PM
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When you first looked at West Virginia’s football schedule the dates October 6 and October 13 immediately jumped out.

That is because those were the dates when West Virginia had to make cross-country trips to Austin and Lubbock, Texas in back-to-back weeks. It is one thing to play in a conference where you know you have some automatic wins – no matter what the travel circumstances are – but in the Big 12, there are no such things as automatic wins.

The Mountaineers found that out the hard way last Saturday afternoon in Lubbock when a fired-up and determined Texas Tech team took it to the Mountaineers right from the opening kickoff.

Some of the West Virginia players admitted that they didn’t play with quite the same energy and enthusiasm that they possessed the week prior against Texas.

And it showed.

“We needed to bring our own energy and we didn’t from the start to finish,” admitted linebacker Isaiah Bruce. “That’s just something that we have to improve on … just to keep our own energy.”

The Red Raiders were certainly full of pep. Offensively, Seth Doege looked like the quarterback who led the country in passing efficiency last year, and the Tech defense played just as it did in its five previous games – rushing four, dropping seven, keeping everything in front of them and TACKLING West Virginia’s playmakers whenever they got the ball in space.

“They did a great job of keeping everything in front of them,” said quarterback Geno Smith. “They forced us into some third-and-long situations. We had some tough situations, but I should have done a better job of putting the ball in play and keeping us above the chains. I wasn’t hitting my targets and I wasn’t hitting my reads.”

If you studied the Oklahoma game you saw that Tech played right with the Sooners until unraveling midway through the third quarter – and we all saw what Oklahoma did to Texas last Saturday in Dallas.

Yes, Texas Tech is a good football team - one that is going to win some more games this year - and that’s why Dana Holgorsen had such a puzzled look on his face earlier in the week when someone asked him during his Tuesday afternoon news conference how he was going to prepare his team for what was being perceived as a trap game.

It turns out Texas Tech wasn’t a trap but instead a good, old-fashioned Texas ambush.

“We are the offense that everyone is gunning for,” admitted Smith. “We get all of the media attention and everyone wants to say we are the best offense since sliced bread, but the thing about us is we work hard from week to week and we’re not going to let this affect us. In fact, we are going to move on from it and get better.”

What West Virginia experienced in Lubbock last Saturday happens quite frequently in the Big 12. Texas clearly had one of those days against Oklahoma. Oklahoma had theirs a few weeks ago against Kansas State. Texas Tech had theirs against Oklahoma. TCU had theirs against Iowa State. Baylor had theirs against TCU. Oklahoma State had theirs against Texas … And there will be more of these during the remainder of the season.

What is important now is that West Virginia doesn’t turn one loss into two - or three - and that won’t be easy with fourth-ranked Kansas State coming to town this Saturday. Two weeks after that TCU will arrive.

The 6-0 Wildcats are one of the hottest teams in the country and they have one of the hottest quarterbacks around in Collin Klein. He can beat you with his arm and he can beat you with his feet. Plus, the K-State defense is just as stout as Texas Tech’s.

“We’ve just got to stick together,” said center Joe Madsen. “It’s so hard to go undefeated in the Big 12 and we knew that coming in here. We knew what we needed to do and we didn’t accomplish that goal.”

“We just need to focus on overcoming adversity – as a wide receiver group, as an offensive line and as an entire offensive unit,” added senior wide receiver J.D. Woods. “I don’t have a magic book, but I guarantee next week we will be up to par.”

“The one thing I do know is we will bounce back,” said Smith. “That is all there is to it. We are going to put this game behind us just like we do with a win and let’s move on and get better each week. We’ve got six games to go. This one is going to sting, but it’s going to be my motivation coming into next week.”

Yes, it will be another extremely difficult test for the Mountaineers this Saturday against a very good Kansas State team – the fourth-straight difficult mission they will have faced in consecutive weeks. But then again, there are no easy assignments in the Big 12.

That was painfully obvious last weekend in Lubbock, Texas.

Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History now available in bookstores. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.