Big 12 turning into aerial show

Tuesday, October 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ A group of strong-armed quarterbacks is making the Big 12 look more West Coast than Midwest.

Traditionally known for its high-profile running backs, the Big 12 has only one player among the nation's top 10 rushers _ but four in the top seven in passing.

Texas Tech's B.J. Symons has broken the league's passing yardage record twice already this season and in his last game, he set a conference record for touchdown passes.

Oklahoma's Jason White tied a school record with five TD passes against Iowa State. Bill Whittemore has led surprising Kansas to a 4-1 record with his passing and hard-nosed play.

Missouri's Brad Smith had a poor game the last time out but still gives defensive coordinators fits with his ability to run and throw. Ell Roberson, back from a hand injury, brings a similar run-pass threat at Kansas State. Even Nebraska has thrown it around a little bit the last couple of games.

A quarterback league?

``It sure seems like it right now,'' Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said Monday. ``Week after week, it seems to be loaded. So far, this is going to be the best group of quarterbacks I've seen in this league.''

McCarney watched White shred his defense for 384 yards in the top-ranked Sooners' 53-7 victory last Saturday night. Now he's trying to figure out a way to keep Symons in check, something no one has done. The Cyclones play at Tech this Saturday.

Symons has thrown for more than 500 yards in each of his last three games and is averaging 493.4 a game. He ranks second nationally in passing efficiency and his eight touchdown passes in a 59-28 victory over Texas A&M last Saturday hiked his season total to 24 _ in just five games.

``There's no question B.J. is the best player in the country,'' Tech coach Mike Leach said. ``I think B.J. is producing more with what he has than anybody else is.''

Other coaches would argue that point, but Symons' numbers certainly are astounding, more so even than those his predecessor, Kliff Kingsbury, put up last year.

Leach, though, isn't ready to say if Symons has eclipsed Kingsbury.

``That's tough to gauge,'' he said. ``I think there's an overall team quality to it. I think B.J. is impressive, but we're protecting well and we've got some pretty experienced receivers doing good things.''

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops wouldn't hesitate to give an early Heisman Trophy vote to his quarterback. White is third nationally in passing efficiency, only 1.8 rating points behind Symons, and has thrown for 16 touchdowns while completing 67.5 percent of his passes.

Chance Mock of Texas is fifth nationally in passing and he doesn't even play full time, sharing the job with Vince Young. Mock has thrown 95 passes without an interception. Whittemore is seventh nationally and has been intercepted just twice while throwing for 10 touchdowns.

Whittemore missed the final three games last season because of a knee injury but has been healthy this year.

``He plays like he's never been hurt and doesn't expect to get hurt,'' said Colorado coach Gary Barnett, whose team hosts Kansas on Saturday. ``I haven't seen him sit out of the game for a play yet. To me, he's really a tough competitor.''

Barnett was getting strong play at quarterback before Joel Klatt went out with a shoulder injury. His replacement, Erik Greenberg, threw for 346 yards and two TDs in a 42-30 loss to Baylor, though Barnett benched him late in the game.


NEW YEAR, SAME TOPIC: It comes up every year when Oklahoma and Texas are getting ready for their annual game in Dallas: Should the game be moved from a neutral site?

Texas coach Mack Brown said the uniqueness of playing in Dallas makes the game even more special, similar to Georgia and Florida playing in Jacksonville every year.

``This one has so much history, so much tradition, it brings so much money to Dallas,'' Brown said. ``It's pretty much halfway between the two places. The stands are split down the middle and the tickets are so hard to get.

``When we got here and before Bob got to Oklahoma, tickets weren't hard to get. I'm proud that this has become one of the top games in the country.''

But would he consider moving it?

``I've got a lot of issues to deal with this week,'' Brown said. ``That's not one of them. So I'm just going to go where they tell me to.''


BIG STOP, BIGGER DRIVE: They were the type of plays that can turn a season _ or a program.

First Baylor stopped Colorado from inside the 1-yard line on fourth down. Then the Bears marched 97 yards, all on the ground, for the touchdown that secured a 42-30 victory, just their second in the last 39 league games.

``I believe the kids can gain a lot of confidence from those two series alone, let alone all the other stuff we did during the game,'' Baylor coach Guy Morriss said. ``It's just outstanding to see kids rise up and make those kind of plays.

``I'm not sure they're not still in disbelief.''

Baylor, which plays at Texas A&M on Saturday, has a three-game winning streak for the first time since 1996.

``I think anybody who saw the game would tell you this was not a fluke,'' Morriss said. ``We got after them from a physical standpoint, we won the turnover battle and in the end, it was Colorado that cracked.''