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No. 15 Oklahoma State survives Lubbock gut check

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Fighting to keep its Big 12 and national championship hopes alive, No. 15 Oklahoma State rolled up 32 first downs and 602 yards of total offense but still hung on to outlast Texas Tech, 41-34 in Lubbock.

It appeared early like Oklahoma State was going to run the Red Raiders off their own field. The Cowboys forced a Texas Tech three-and-out to open the game, then moved 68 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 14-yard strike from Mason Rudolph to James Washington. The Cowboys forced another punt on Texas Tech’s next touch, and then advanced the ball to the Texas Tech red zone before Damarcus Fields grabbed a Rudolph overthrow and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown to level the game at 7-7.

Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) again moved to the red zone on its third possession, but Texas Tech forced a field goal try that Matt Ammendola doinked off the right upright from 22 yards out. Given new life, Texas Tech raced 80 yards in eight snaps, taking a 14-7 lead on a 3-yard toss from Nic Shimonek to Dylan Cantrell. The Red Raiders briefly seized complete control of the game when Marcell Ateman was ruled short of the line to gain on a 3rd-and-10 completion at the Texas Tech 10-yard line, but a replay review handed him a first down, and Rudolph tied the game again one play later on a toss to running back Justice Hill.

Texas Tech (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) punted for a third time on its next possession, and Oklahoma State grabbed its second lead of the game when Rudolph closed an 88-yard drive by finding Jalen McCleskey wide open for a 4-yard touchdown toss.

The Red Raiders held serve with a field goal, although Justin Stockton appeared to cross the plane on a run with five seconds left before halftime but was ruled out of bounds.

Shimonek’s pass was batted away with two seconds left, and Michael Barden booted a 22-yard field goal as time expired.

Oklahoma State accepted the ball to open the second half and picked up where it left off, moving 75 yards in eight plays and grabbing a 28-17 lead on an 8-yard Rudolph run. The Cowboys then forced another three-and-out and had a chance to blow the game open, but failed to cash in a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line and settled for a 22-yard Ammendola chip shot.

The teams traded field goals until Texas Tech pulled back within seven on a 1-yard Stockton run, pushing the score to 34-27 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Oklahoma State was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct flag after the score, allowing Texas Tech to kickoff from midfield — and the Red Raiders took advantage by recovering an onside kick. However, Texas Tech immediately gave back that extra possession when Shimonek under-threw a screen pass that Cowboys defensive lineman Jordan Brailford easily intercepted. But the Tech defense forced a three-and-out and the first OSU punt of the night, then tied the game at 34-34 with 9:56 to play on a 1-yard Desmond Nisby plunge.

Oklahoma State rebounded from its one bad possession by putting together another good one, moving 73 yards to the Texas Tech 2-yard line, but Rudolph’s third-and-goal keeper was stuffed, and Ammendola again doinked a chip shot field goal off the same right upright.

The Red Raiders had a chance to take their first lead since 14-7 but advanced only to their own 37 before punting the ball back to Oklahoma State with 3:21 remaining. Aided by a 26-yard completion to Ateman on 3rd-and-5, Rudolph put Oklahoma State back in front with his second rushing touchdown, an untouched 16-yard scamper with 1:12 to play.

Texas Tech moved to midfield on its last-gasp drive, but Shimonek fired four straight incomplete passes to end the game.

Rudolph closed the night hitting 27-of-38 throws for 376 yards with three scores and one interception while adding 50 yards and two scores on the ground. It was Rudolph’s 17th 300-yard passing game, breaking a record previously held by Brandon Weeden. Hill ran 30 times for 164 yards, and Washington caught nine passes for 127 yards and a score.

Shimonek completed 29-of-46 passes for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while the Red Raiders eeked out only 54 yards on 26 carries.

It was Oklahoma State’s ninth straight win over the Red Raiders, and evened the all-time series at 21-21-3.

Utah State hires ex-Washington State assistant Roc Bellantoni

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Utah State is the latest football program to make a late-offseason addition to its coaching staff.  Or an early-fall addition.  Whichever verbiage you prefer.

That being said, Utah State announced this week that Roc Bellantoni has been added to Gary Andersen‘s Utah State football staff. Bellantoni will serve not only as the special teams coordinator for the Aggies but as tight ends coach as well.

Bellantoni spent the 2019 season at Washington State.  After Tracy Claeys stepped down as defensive coordinator in October of last year, Bellantoni, the linebackers coach at the time, and cornerbacks coach Darcel McBath served as interim co-defensive coordinators for the rest of the season.

Bellantoni spent the two seasons prior to his time at Wazzu at Buffalo as defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator.  In 2018, he also served as the Bulls’ special teams coordinator.

Prior to that, Bellantoni was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Florida Atlantic for three years. That marked Bellantoni’s first job at the FBS level.

All told, Bellantoni has spent 25 seasons as an assistant at the collegiate level.  The Iona graduate also spent time on coaching staffs at Villanova, Eastern Illinois and Drake.  At Villanova, Bellantoni was special teams coordinator as well as defensive line coach.

Oklahoma beats out LSU, Maryland for Caleb Williams, the highest-rated quarterback in the Class of 2021

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LSU handed it to Oklahoma in the 2019 College Football Playoff.  On the Fourth of July a few months later, the Sooners returned the favor on the recruiting trail.

Last month, Caleb Williams, one of the top prospects in the Class of 2021, announced that he had whittled his recruiting to-do list down to three schools: LSU, Maryland and Oklahoma.  As expected, Williams announced his verbal commitment on the holiday weekend.  And, as expected, the quarterback gave that verbal to Oklahoma football.  Or, the new QBU if you will.

Lincoln Riley acknowledged the commitment on Twitter.

Williams is a five-star 2021 prospect.  The Washington D.C. high schooler is rated as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country — and the No. 1 quarterback overall.  On the 247Sports.com composite, Williams is rated as the No. 4 recruit in the country.

Suffice to say, recruiting observers are high on Williams’ future.  Very high.

“There’s nothing this kid can’t do,” former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said last month. “I’ve been doing this a long time, he has very few limitations if any. He’s uber-competitive. Very focused when he walked in. He’s really clean, he’s consistent, clean usually means consistent.

“Every throw was good to great. I think he takes it that serious. I’m interpreting what his mind is telling him and it’s as if every throw is the most important throw of the day.

Texas Tech WR Caden Leggett arrested for racing on a highway

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Yes, Texas Tech football fan.  You read that headline correctly.

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Caden Leggett was arrested over the weekend in Lubbock County.  The charge?  Racing on a highway.  It’s believed that another Texas Tech football player was involved in the race, although that player has not yet been identified by the police.

Leggett was driving a Ford Mustang and admitted to police that a teammate was one of the individuals with which he was racing.  From the Avalanche-Journal‘s report:

A Lubbock police patrol officer saw three vehicles speeding northbound about 2:40 a.m. in the 10000 block of Indiana Avenue and began chasing the vehicles.

“I had to travel at a high rate of speed in order to attempt to catch up to the vehicles,” the officer wrote in his report.

The officer caught up to the three vehicles — a dark colored Dodge Challenger, a white Ford Mustang and another white vehicle — at a red light in the intersection of 82nd Street and Indiana Avenue. However, the vehicles sped away again when the light turned green, the report states.

The officer activated his lights and sirens to get the three vehicles to stop.

The officer pulled along side the Challenger and motioned and yelled at the driver to pull over. The officer believed the driver of the Challenger saw him and pulled behind the Mustang to stop the driver.

The driver of the Mustang pulled over in the 3300 block of 76th Street. However, the driver of the Challenger and third vehicle continued driving, the report states.

The Texas Tech football program is aware of the off-field situation involving members of the Red Raiders team.

Leggett joined the Tech football team in 2018 as a walk-on.  In 2019, the wide receiver was placed on scholarship.

In two seasons, Leggett appeared in 15 games.  Of those appearances, 11 came in 2019.  The Georgetown, Texas, product has caught two passes for 16 yards.

Family of the first Black football player in University of Texas history suing the NCAA

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A racial pioneer in the Texas football program is back in the news.

As we have noted previously, dozens of Texas student-athletes, including football players, are demanding change at the university.  One of those demands is naming a part of Royal-Memorial Stadium in honor of Julius Whittier, the first-ever Black player in University of Texas football history.

Coincidentally or not, the family of Whittier this week filed a lawsuit against NCAA.  In the suit, which is seeking damages in excess of a million dollars, the Whittier family is accusing the NCAA of negligence and wrongful death in connection to the pioneer’s passing in September of 2018.  Whittier had been battling Alzheimer’s for several years prior to his death.

According to the Houston Chronicle, “[p]ostmortem examination of his brain at Boston University… revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma.” The suit, filed by Whittier’s sister on behalf of her brother’s estate and three surviving children, alleges the Whittier’s death at the age of 68 was the direct result of football-related head trauma.

“Julius Whittier was a pioneer who became a lawyer and a member of the district attorney’s staff in Dallas County, and his life was about justice,” the family’s attorney told the Chronicle. “His family wants to carry on in his name and hope that we can make changes.

“We don’t want to end football. We just want to make it as safe as possible and make sure that everybody is informed about what can happen. That has not been the case historically, and we want to change that.”

The sister, Mildred Whittier, had previously filed a lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of college players who suffered brain injuries from 1960 to 2014.

In 1970, Whittier became the first black player to letter in football at Texas.  He first joined the Longhorns in 1969.  At the time, though, the NCAA did not allow freshmen to play.  Whittier lettered every year from 1970-72, first as an offensive guard and then as a tight end his senior season.