Three is a magic number
You know that old children’s rhyme about first being the worst? Two quarterbacks in the Big 12 have proven it to be true in recent weeks.
For Oklahoma State and Iowa State, it turns out third is the best.
Both teams seemed to be in real trouble when injuries and ineffective play forced their top two quarterbacks off the field and their third-stringers onto it. Instead, both teams have thrived.
The Cowboys have won back-to-back games with Clint Chelf as the starter. And the Cyclones crushed Kansas and became eligible for a bowl game behind Sam Richardson.
Just like that, they are third-stringers no more.
“I don’t think there’s any question that Clint deserves to play and start in our next football game,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said following a win over Texas Tech on Saturday. “He’s earned that. Our coaching staff believes in him. The team believes in him.”
Chelf has given them reasons to. Since coming off the bench in the second half against Kansas State, he has put up big numbers three straight weeks. In his last 10 quarters, he has thrown for 754 yards and eight touchdowns. All while OSU’s opponents knew he was going to play.
"I just tried to spread the ball to those guys and let them make plays," a humble Chelf told reporters Saturday.
Richardson benefited from the element of surprise against Kansas, but that doesn’t take away anything from his performance. The freshman hadn’t attempted a college pass before Saturday, but torched the Jayhawks for 250 yards and four touchdowns. He was 23 of 27 and added a rushing touchdown in the blowout victory.
He entered the game midway through the first quarter after Steele Jantz was forced out of the game. Kansas coaches didn’t know who he was, and Richardson didn’t know what to expect.
“It’s a pretty nervous feeling walking into an away stadium,” Richardson told reporters afterward. “But you’ve got to put it in the back of your head. You’ve got to be the guy who will do your job.”
He did. So did Chelf.
The former third-string quarterbacks have Oklahoma State and Iowa State playing well and on their way to the postseason.
K-State coach Bill Snyder sounded as if he was ready to move on from the stunning defeat at Baylor during his time on the Big 12 teleconference Monday.
When asked if mounting injuries, which limited Tyler Lockett and kept Ty Zimmerman, Tre Walker and Curry Sexton from playing against Baylor, were a factor in the loss, he said there were no excuses.
“The impact it had this particular ballgame was not an issue,” Snyder said. “There were far greater things than that that impacted our performance.”
Those things included a disastrous day defending the run, a sub-par outing from the offensive line and three interceptions from Collin Klein.
Snyder hopes the Wildcats can address those issues during their week off and play better against Texas on Dec. 1. He isn’t sure how his team will respond from its first loss, but he will encourage players to look forward to a possible Big 12 championship instead of back on a frustrating defeat.
“Feeling sorry for yourself is not an option,” Snyder said.
The Big 12 will feature three games this week that have a familiar feel.
First comes Texas’ annual Thanksgiving Day game. With former Thanksgiving rival Texas A&M in the SEC, the Longhorns will play host to TCU instead. The future of the series could depend on how exciting the game is. Texas wants to host a Thanksgiving game every year, but it might be difficult to convince other Big 12 teams to visit Austin every year. Texas and TCU could also rotate the home-and-home series on the holiday, but it won’t attract many viewers unless both teams are playing well.
After that comes West Virginia at Iowa State on Friday. TV executives thought enough of the Cyclones’ Friday night upset over Oklahoma State last year to give them another shot at a primetime weekday game this season. The Mountaineers have lost five straight, though. The game might not be compelling.
Saturday, Baylor and Texas Tech will meet at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Though the game hasn’t attracted sellout crowds since it moved off campus, both sides like the neutral-field arrangement. Expect it to stay where it is for the near future.
What to watch