Time to start taking West Virginia seriously in the Big 12

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West Virginia has an awful defense and its special teams, while not under the same degree of verbal scrutiny, is almost as bad. But, the Mountaineer offense is so good that for the second straight week, it didn’t make a difference in the final outcome of the game.

As far as game plans go, Texas had it drawn up as well as any team that’s faced WVU this season: cater to your offensive strengths (running the ball) and keep the ball out of Geno Smith‘s hands. On defense, get pressure on Smith, don’t allow the big plays and force a couple turnovers if you can.

The Longhorns did all of the above for the most part, but as is normally the case in close games, one mistake gets magnified when it becomes the difference in the game. That was a missed 41-yard field goal by Penn State transfer Anthony Fera. Of course, that miss was preceded by a botched snap for which UT quarterback David Ash apparently wasn’t ready. That resulted in a loss of 16 yards.

When Texas was able to drive the field in one minute to score one final touchdown, that missed field goal loomed.

It was an even, well-played game between two very good football teams. It came down to the last second and a failed onside kick gave the No. 8 Mountaineers a 48-45 win over the No. 11 Longhorns.

Smith wasn’t even the star. He didn’t do much to hurt his Heisman stock, going 25-of-35 for 268 yards, four touchdowns, and again, no interceptions — although he had the ball stripped a couple of times — but it wasn’t the video game numbers he’s been putting up. That’s to be expected; Texas is by far the best defense WVU has played all season.

No, it was running back Andrew Buie (pictured) who gets the game ball. The sophomore ran 31 times for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His most important carries came at the end when Dana Holgorsen went out of his comfort zone and — gasp! — bled the clock (Nick Saban would have been proud). Buie carried the ball seven times on the team’s final offensive drive and scored a touchdown.

And that is the scariest thing about WVU’s offense: that it’s not just Smith. It’s Tavon Austin (who had 10 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown). It’s Stedman Bailey (who had three touchdown grabs). It’s Buie. That makes it difficult to slow and nearly impossible to stop.

The defense and special teams? They’re bad enough that they might cost WVU a couple games this season, but through two Big 12 matches, the offense has been able to get it done.

The next month holds some crucial games for WVU. The Mountaineers have to go on the road again to Texas Tech before a pair of home games against Kansas State and TCU. Then, there’s another road game at Oklahoma State before the big Nov. 3 game against Oklahoma. That’s a decently tough stretch, but one of the biggest questions WVU had heading into the season was whether it could play on the big stage after years in the Big East.

Considering its first Big 12 road game was in front of 100,000 people, I’d say yes.

Oregon LB arrested for removing parking boot dismissed by Ducks

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In April, Fotu Leiato was arrested on a couple of charges related to the illegal removal of a parking boot from his vehicle.  A month later, we’ve learned Leiato was given the boot from his current football program for good measure.

247Sports.com was the first to report that Leiato has been dismissed by first-year Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.  Further to the point, the linebacker’s dismissal came a day after his April arrest but the news didn’t surface until Thursday.

In the April incident, Leiato was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree theft and criminal trespassing.  That was actually his second arrest this year as he was charged with misdemeanor trespassing in January.

The combination of the two arrests led Cristobal to pull the trigger on a dismissal.

Coming to Eugene as a three-star safety, Leiato played in 37 of 38 games the past three seasons.  The Washington native earned the first start of his collegiate playing career during the 2017 season.

The senior had been in line to earn a starting job exiting spring and heading into the summer phase of the offseason.

LB Darrin Kirkland announces transfer from Tennessee

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Darren Kirkland‘s injury-plagued time on Rocky Top has come to an end.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Kirkland announced that he has decided to transfer out of first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt‘s Tennessee football program.  The linebacker gave no specific reason for his decision to move on from the Volunteers.

“Tennessee will always hold a special place in my heart,” Kirkland wrote. “These moments have been priceless and I’m a better player and man from this experience.”

As a graduate transfer, Kirkland would be eligible to play for another FBS program in 2018.  Not only that, but he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining counting this year.

A four-star 2015 signee, Kirkland started 10 games as a true freshman and then another six in a sophomore campaign marred by a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss four games.  In summer camp last year, he suffered a knee injury severe enough to sideline him for the entire 2017 season.

The rehab from that injury kept Kirkland from being a full participant in Pruitt’s first spring practice this year.

North Texas dropping $625,000 to install new turf that naturally includes new design

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Seth Littrell has done a great job turning around the program at North Texas but fans getting a look at the 2018 edition of his team will notice something right away that’s different when they take the field for the home opener: new turf. The Denton Record Chronicle reports that UNT is ponying up $625,245 for the latest “FieldTurf CoolPlay” turf at Apogee Stadium.

“We are excited about the turf,” Littrell said recently, according to the paper. “It was much needed. That turf has been used a lot and has gotten worn down. The new field will improve safety and will be a great resource for our kids.”

The old turf had a good run at the stadium after being installed back in 2011 but obviously the summer heat and 300+ pound bodies playing football will cause a little wear and tear. The Record Chronicle says that “North Texas” and “Mean Green” will be the end zones text while the midfield school logo will include a “dark green outline of the state of Texas.”

Completion of the project is expected to be done well in time for the first game against SMU in September. The school has released some shots of Apogee Stadium without the old turf and it certainly looks kind of wild to see a stadium sans a playing field:

Kansas State AD open to scheduling Nebraska in the future

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Conference realignment ended a bunch of big rivalries, from the major (Texas-Texas A&M) to the mundane. Former Big 8 and Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Nebraska were somewhere on the middle of that scale after playing each other in football for decades. While nobody is clamoring for the two to get together quite like they are the Longhorns and Aggies, there’s plenty who would still love to see them schedule a non-conference series given how close Lincoln and the Little Apple are to each other (135 miles across the border).

Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor has been in the job just over a year and it seems like he’s very aware of the scheduling situation between the two schools and is open to getting something done eventually. He was asked about adding the Cornhuskers to the slate in a Q&A on the school’s website and had this to say:

“That is a school that makes a lot of sense,” said Taylor. “We are pretty well-scheduled out in football with our one Power Five opponent, but we do play them in baseball and have had conversations in men’s basketball. If the opportunity were to arise, they are someone we would certainly entertain if it made sense for us.”

KSU is fully booked on the scheduling front through 2022 but have been open to adding home-and-homes with former Big 12 opponents with Missouri on tap for 2022/23 and Colorado on 2027/28. They’ve got a Power Five opponent on the docket until 2031 so it seems like the team wouldn’t be able to get something done with Nebraska until after then. That is, to say the least, a long ways away.

Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to meet in a bowl game at some point over the next few years. The Cornhuskers and Wildcats last met in 2010 in a series that is heavily weighted to Big Red. At least Taylor is leaving the door open and leaving a chance of the two programs hooking back up on the gridiron.