Big 12 North put back in its place

Sunday, October 14, 2007 | 9:50 p.m. CDT; updated 4:38 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

DES MOINES, Iowa — So much for the rise of the Big 12 North.

Wins by Kansas State and Colorado over Oklahoma and Texas had fueled thoughts that the North, long the kid brother of the conference, had finally caught up to the South. It certainly didn’t look that way on Saturday.

Oklahoma State and Texas picked up road wins over North division opponents by a combined total of 84 points, and Oklahoma knocked off previously unbeaten Missouri in a potential Big 12 title game preview.

When the dust settled, only one team, Kansas, remained unbeaten in Big 12 play. The surprising Jayhawks pounded cellar-dwelling Baylor 58-10, improving to 6-0 for the first time under coach Mark Mangino.

But Kansas was the only North team to beat a South opponent, as the division went 2-4 on the day. Kansas State was the other winner, thumping Colorado 47-20.

The North’s perceived rise was, in many ways, tied to the belief that Nebraska was poised for a breakout season under coach Bill Callahan. Instead, the Huskers dismal performance against Oklahoma St. had folks wondering if Callahan is the right man for the job.

The Cowboys jumped out to a 38-0 halftime lead and blasted Nebraska, 45-14, handing the Cornhuskers their worst home loss since 1958. With former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne and members of the 1997 national title team in attendance, the Cowboys scored on their first six possessions and snapped a 20-game losing streak in Lincoln.

Coach Bill Callahan, whose contract was extended just last month, was at a loss to explain how the Huskers (4-3, 1-2) could come out so flat against Oklahoma State.

“I’m just coaching for these kids, and that’s why I got into this. I just feel terrible for these players. It just hurts to watch these kids hurt,” Callahan said. “I’m not worried about my job. I’m just going to do the best I can.”

The Longhorns (5-2, 1-2) snapped their four-game losing streak in the Big 12 with a 56-3 blowout over former co-defensive coordinator Gene Chizik and Iowa State (1-6, 0-3). Texas handed the Cyclones their worst home loss since 1987.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy entered the game with as many touchdowns, 10, as interceptions, but he bounced back with four TD passes and no picks. Texas had committed six turnovers and had no takeaways in its two losses, to Kansas State and Oklahoma.

“That was important for us. Last week we felt like we played well and had some bad breaks,” McCoy said. “To come out this week and not turn the ball over and get turnovers that was big for us. That’s a step we needed to take and we did that today.”

Texas Tech freshman wide receiver Michael Crabtree didn’t get a touchdown for the first time this season, but he recorded his seventh-straight 100-plus yard game. Crabtree finished with eight catches for 170 yards and the Red Raiders, behind yet another inspired effort from their revamped defense, pounded Texas A&M, 35-7.

Before interim defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill took over, Texas Tech was allowing 404.5 yards of total offense and 28.3 points per game. Those numbers have been cut to 257 yards and 10.3 points under McNeill.

The animated McNeill ripped into his players after Texas A&M scored midway through the first quarter. Whatever he said must have sunk in, because the Aggies didn’t score again.

“I just asked them to not let that happen anymore,” McNeill said. “They were doing their job, but I think they were trying too hard. I yelled at them a little, but they know me and know that I love them.”

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