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Biletnikoff Award semifinalists are heavy on Big 12 receivers

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College football’s award season is coming soon, which means various individual awards are trimming down their massive watch lists to much smaller lists of semifinalists, and soon finalists. The Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s best receiver regardless of position, released its list of 11 semifinalists for its award this season. As expected, some of the nation’s leading receivers managed to make the cut midway through November.

The list of semifinalists includes some of the top receivers from the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, West Virginia’s David Sills V, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley are among the 11 semifinalists for the award. Wesley leads the nation in average receiving yards per game with 134.7 ypg. Wallace is not far behind with 128.2 ypg. Those two are among the seven receivers who have already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.

UMass receiver Andy Isabella, who leads the nation with 1,479 receiving yards was also named a semifinalist for the award. Hawaii’s John Ursua, the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns (15) also made the cut.

The SEC’s top two receivers, A.J. Brown of Ole Miss (SEC-leading 1,047 receiving yards) and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (SEC-leading 10 touchdowns and second-most receiving yards, 925 yards). Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry, among the Pac-12 leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns, is joined by Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the Pac-12’s semifinalists.

Freshman star Rondale Moore of Purdue is the only player from a Big Ten school named a semifinalist for the award. Among the power conferences, the Big Ten has the longest drought of Biletnikoff Award winners with Braylon Edwards of Michigan being the last Big Ten player to win the award in 2004. The Big 12 has dominated the award over the past decade with seven Biletnikoff Award winners since 2007 including the last three years (Corey Coleman of Baylor in 2015, Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma in 2016, and James Washington of Oklahoma State in 2017) and two back-to-back winners (Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech in 2007-2008 and Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State in 2010 and 2011).

This list of 11 semifinalists will be trimmed down to three finalists on Nov. 19. The 2018 Biletnikoff Award will be presented on Dec. 6 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Presentation on ESPN.

No. 19 Texas stays in Big 12 race with win over Texas Tech

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Even despite heartbreaking back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and No. 9 West Virginia, No. 19 Texas entered Saturday with a path to reach the Big 12 Championship. That path required three straight wins to close the year and a WVU win over No. 6 Oklahoma on Black Friday.

It wasn’t easy, but Step 1 of the plan is completed when the Longhorns pulled off a 41-34 win at Texas Tech.

When Sam Ehlinger hit Devin Duvernay for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter, Texas seemingly had the game in hand, taking a 34-17 lead.

But Texas Tech (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) lodged a Clayton Hatfield field goal to make it a two-score game, then stole a possession by pegging Texas safety PJ Locke with an onside kick, recovered by Texas Tech. A pass interference penalty helped the Red Raiders convert a 4th-and-10, and Texas Tech pulled within 34-27 with 4:47 to play on a 2-yard pass from Jett Duffey to TJ Vasher.

Trailing 34-27 now, the Red Raider defense forced a three-and-out to give the ball back to a white-hot Duffey, who tied the game with 1:45 remaining on a 9-yard strike to Antoine Wesley.

In a similar position as the Oklahoma win, Texas (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat-by-epic collapse, moving 75 yards in seven plays. Ehlinger hit his favorite target, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, for a 29-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left to seal the win. Humphrey finished the game eight catches, seemingly all of them clutch, for 159 yards and two touchdowns, while Ehlinger was 22-of-34 for 312 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, in the process breaking Geno Smith‘s Big 12 record with 274 passes (and counting) without an interception.

Though he threw for a career-high 442 yards, Duffey helped Texas built its 17-point lead thanks to three red zone turnovers. Leading 7-0 in the first quarter, Duffey threw away a potential 14-0 lead when, rather than eat the ball after an errant snap, Duffey attempted to allude Texas safety Caden Sterns and fire a pass, which was intercepted by Davante Davis.

Given new life, Texas mounted its first drive, aided by two third down completions from Sam Ehlinger to Humphrey, first for 15 yards, then for 40. The second gained pushed the ball to the Red Raider 24, but consecutive sacks forced a career-long 52-yard Cameron Dicker field goal.

After forcing a Texas Tech punt, Texas again mounted a methodical, 18-play, 8-minute drive down the field until two more consecutive sacks backed the ‘Horns up from the Texas Tech 11 to the 34. However, during a 7-yard completion to Humphrey on 3rd-and-33, Texas Tech was flagged for a face mask on the complete opposite side of the field. Rather than kick a 44-yard field goal, Texas was given a 1st-and-10 at the Texas Tech 13. The Longhorns converted this time, as Ehlinger again found Humphrey on another third down, securing a 9-yard touchdown to put Texas up 10-7 with 3:46 left in the first half.

Facing his first deficit, Kliff Kingsbury decided to roll the dice deep inside his own territory. After Ward was corralled for a 1-yard gain on 3rd-and-2, Kingsbury put Duffey under center at his own 34 and called for a sneak — which was stuffed.

Texas took advantage of the short field, needing three plays to set up a 1-yard Keaontay Ingram touchdown run with 1:16 left in the first half.

Texas Tech halted UT’s 17 straight points when Clayton Hatfield snuck in a 41-yard field goal with seven seconds left before halftime.

Texas opened the second half with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a fourth-and-goal 1-yard pass from Ehlinger to Duvernay.

Duffey then committed the second of his three turnovers when, going out of bounds at the Texas 19, he was stripped by Davis, who immediately recovered the ball. Texas turned the opportunity into another Dicker field goal. Trailing 27-10 in the third quarter, Duffey again was stripped inside the Texas red zone, this time by Texas cornerback Kris Boyd.

Texas punted after that turnover, and Duffey made up for his latest turnover by hitting Wesley over Boyd for a 57-yard touchdown pass, pulling the Red Raiders within 27-17 with 13:26 remaining. The Longhorns answered that score with a 5-play, 92-yard drive capped by the throw to Duvernay, seemingly putting the game away with 10:26 to play.

No. 19 Texas leading Texas Tech in Lubbock

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Despite staring a 14-0 deficit in the face, No. 19 Texas recovered to take a 17-10 lead to the locker room over Texas Tech in Lubbock.

Texas Tech accepted the ball to open the game and rolled 66 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a 5-yard pass from Jett Duffey to T.J. Vasher.

After a Texas punt, Texas Tech threatened to push its lead to 14-0 when Duffey found Mason Reed for an 8-yard gain on third down, setting up a 1st-and-goal at the Texas 1-yard line. But Texas stuffed Red Raiders running back Da’Leon Ward on first down and Duffey had to corral a bad snap on second down. Rather than eat the ball or throw it into the stands, Duffey attempted to allude Texas safety Caden Sterns and fire a pass, which was intercepted by Davante Davis.

Given new life, Texas mounted its first drive, aided by two third down completions from Sam Ehlinger to Lil'Jordan Humphrey, first for 15 yards, then for 40. The second gained pushed the ball to the Red Raider 24, but consecutive sacks forced a career-long 52-yard Cameron Dicker field goal.

After forcing a Texas Tech punt, Texas again mounted a methodical, 18-play, 8-minute drive down the field until two more consecutive sacks backed the ‘Horns up from the Texas Tech 11 to the 34. However, during a 7-yard completion to Humphrey on 3rd-and-33, Texas Tech was flagged for a face mask on the complete opposite side of the field. Rather than kick a 44-yard field goal, Texas was given a 1st-and-10 at the Texas Tech 13. The Longhorns converted this time, as Ehlinger again found Humphrey on another third down, securing a 9-yard touchdown to put Texas up 10-7 with 3:46 left in the first half. With Collin Johnson out due to a knee injury suffered during practice this week, Humphrey has carried the Texas offense, catching six passes for 109 yards and the score. He accounted for 109 of Ehlinger’s 132 passing yards.

Facing his first deficit, Kliff Kingsbury decided to roll the dice deep inside his own territory. After Ward was corralled for a 1-yard gain on 3rd-and-2, Kingsbury put Duffey under center at his own 34 and called for a sneak — which was stuffed.

Texas took advantage of the short field, needing three plays to set up a 1-yard Keaontay Ingram touchdown run with 1:16 left in the first half.

Texas Tech halted UT’s 17 straight points when Clayton Hatfield snuck in a 41-yard field goal with seven seconds left before halftime.

Texas will receive to open the second half.

No. 7 Oklahoma survives another bonkers shootout with Texas Tech

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No. 7 Oklahoma travelled to Lubbock on Saturday night in what was essentially the two-year anniversary of their historic 2016 meeting. As college football aficionados would tell you, that contest between Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes — who coincidentally play each other on Sunday in the NFL — was perhaps the epitome of Big 12 football in recent years and has only grown in legend thanks to the incredible box score and numerous NCAA records it produced.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the Sooners and Red Raiders combined for yet another wild shootout late into the West Texas night that Lincoln Riley’s crew barely escaped from with a 51-46 win that kept the visitors in the thick of the Big 12 and College Football Playoff races.

It appeared that Oklahoma would be in for a fight right from the get-go as Kyler Murray tossed interceptions on the first two drives of the game (both to Vaughnte Dorsey). Tech turned both of those turnovers into touchdowns the other way and then things started ping-ponging back and forth as the two combined for scores on eight of the next nine drives.

Murray did eventually settle down and was his usual self after the early bad throws, winding up with 360 yards and three touchdowns — many on some absolute bombs down the field or off a scramble or two. Though he didn’t do enough to gain any ground on Tua Tagovailoa in the Heisman Trophy race, the first round MLB draft pick was still dazzling with the ball in his hands and added a further 100 yards rushing and one more score on the ground.

He was far from the only one to put up numbers however. Tailback Trey Sermon rushed for a career high 206 yard and three touchdowns, bullying just about every level of the Red Raiders defense. Lee Morris was a 101 yard receiver on just four catches (two of them TD’s) while five others managed at least 30 yards through the air. It was that kind of night as the offense hit 683 total yards and nearly averaged double-digits with each play they ran.

It was also a game filled with some utterly only-in-college-football-moments for Texas Tech.

Starting quarterback Alan Bowman was 21/27 in the first half for 227 yards and two touchdowns but remarkably was hit in the head by a football during halftime warmups (really) and failed to return to the game. That turned things over to backup Jett Duffey, who added another two touchdowns to go with 139 yards.

Wideout Antoine Wesley somehow didn’t find the end zone (four others did, obviously) but did haul in 12 catches for 199 yards. While it’s hard to fathom, the team only converted 3-of-13 third downs despite all that firepower.

Tech did have a chance to make things even more interesting late when they were going for two to tie things up at 42-all. In a trick play on the conversion try, former Oregon State WR (now a receiver in Lubbock) Seth Collins floated up an interception that Robert Barnes came down with, eventually weaving his way over 100 yards for two points the other way. That proved to be the deciding score even though both teams scored one more time before things were all said and done.

The victory by Oklahoma may do them no favors when it comes to the Playoff Selection Committee but Riley and company probably won’t complain about moving to 8-1 overall and remaining in first place in the Big 12. That’s not a bad spot to be in with Bedlam next week against rival Oklahoma State and a looming trip to West Virginia still out there at the end of the month.

If nothing else though, be sure to break out your calendar and circle every time the Sooners head to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech. At this point, it’s become appointment viewing for all fans.

Will Grier and West Virginia lighting up Texas Tech

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Will Grier and the No. 12 West Virginia Mountaineers came ready for a track meet at No. 25 Texas Tech. Perhaps Texas Tech was still waking up at the time the game started because the visiting Mountaineers got off to a fast start and took a 21-0 lead before Texas Tech got on the board. At halftime in Lubbock, West Virginia leads Texas Tech by a score of 35-10 in a Big 12 matchup of ranked opponents.

Grier capped the game’s opening drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings Jr. After Alan Bowman was intercepted on Texas Tech’s first offensive series by Kenny Robinson Jr., Leddie Brown scored a short touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. The lead was extended to 21-0 on a Grier 45-yard pass to Marcus Simms later in the first quarter. Sims has been the big playmaker of the game, with nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.

Bowman got the Red Raiders on the board with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Antoine Wesley, but the Mountaineers responded on the ensuing possession with a 38-yard touchdown run by Kennedy McKoy.

After one half, Grier has won the quarterback showdown with Bowman by passing for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Bowman has had a rough afternoon, completing 9 of 20 passes for 123 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He was also knocked out of the game in the first half, going to the locker room before halftime. It is being reported he will not return to the game.