The weekly awards (usually voted on by a media panel) presented by conferences are insignificant achievements. They’re nice to receive but little more than a firm handshake and pat on the back.
Don’t tell that to Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee. Two weeks ago, he was named the Big 12’s defensive player of the week. His reaction?
“I want another one,” he said. “That’s just more motivation because once you get it once, you want to get it again.”
Lee led K-State in tackles last season with 80 and was a second team All-Big 12 selection. He already has 41 tackles this season to lead the Wildcats, and in K-State’s two biggest games thus far, he had a career-high 12 tackles at Stanford and topped that with 14 tackles at West Virginia.
The junior linebacker posts his statistics and achievements on a wall in his room.
“My expectations are just to do better than I did last year,” Lee said.
“I have my stats on my wall and my stats up from last year. They weren’t the best. I try to improve each game and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to do better this week, because this week last year I didn’t do as well.’ Just going into a game and having those expectations that you’re going to do well, and just having that confidence to know you’re doing well will help and carry you a long way.”
Kansas State, which leads the Big 12 in scoring, total and rushing defense, will need an award-winning effort from Lee and his defensive teammates Saturday at Oklahoma. The emergence of wide receiver Dede Westbrook as a big-play threat plus quarterback Baker Mayfield with running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon makes the Sooners’ offense potent and versatile.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lee is one of 19 linebackers in the nation with four or more career interceptions. His ability to play on the edge or in the middle is an asset for the K-State defense.
“We say he is not a middle linebacker, but in all reality with so many spread offenses he is a middle linebacker,” coach Bill Snyder said. “He spends an ample amount of time in there. He has been a good player, and he runs around pretty well. He has a pretty good knack for having an understanding and the experience that he has had allows him to process information quicker.”
Josh Lambert leaves West Virginia
If West Virginia needs a clutch kick the rest of this season, one of the best kickers in school history won’t be the one attempting it.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen confirmed that Josh Lambert is no longer on the team. He was suspended for spring practice and missed the first three games for reportedly violating Big 12 eligibility rules. He returned for the Kansas State game and made one of two field goal tries.
“(Lambert) needs to get back into the swing of things,” Holgorsen said after the game. “He didn’t look like he had that pop he had last year. He was thinking too much. He was too slow. He took a delay of game and then he looked like crap kicking the ball.
“He’s won us games. He’s been a great kicker. He’s just got to get better. I don’t care what position it is … get better or get replaced.”
In three seasons, Lambert made 69-of-91 field-goal attempts and in 2014 was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. The Mountaineers’ kicker will now be Mike Molina, who made 5-of-6 field goals as Lambert’s replacement during the first three games.
- Oklahoma was concerned about replacing last season’s top receiver, Sterling Shepard. In the first five games of 2015, Shepard had 416 yards on 26 receptions with three touchdowns. The Sooners’ top receiver through five games is junior Dede Westbrook, who has 34 catches for 544 yards and five touchdowns.
- Charlie Strong’s 13-17 record is the worst 30-game start for a Texas coach since Dana X. Bible went 11-18-1 in the late 1930s. From 1940-’43, the Longhorns went 32-6-2 under Bible.
- TCU quarterback Kenny Hill is fifth nationally in passing yards per game, but he’s thrown eight interceptions, the most in the Big 12 and twice as many as any other QB. He had three picks against Kansas Saturday. Going back to his last five starts at Texas A&M, Hill has thrown 16 interceptions in 11 games.
- The victories don’t necessarily reflect it, but Kansas has made strides defensively. The Jayhawks rank 39th in the FBS, holding opposing offenses 53 yards under their season average.
- Baylor expects junior wide receiver K.D. Cannon to play when the Bears take on Kansas in Waco Saturday. Cannon missed Baylor’s last game after suffering a groin injury against Oklahoma State. He has 27 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns in his four games.
- When Mike Stoops was defensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 1999-2003, the Sooners’ never allowed 40 points. OU has allowed 40 or more points in its last three games. “In this league it’s chaos every week,” he said.
- Texas might show some new wrinkles against Iowa State. Coach Charlie Strong hinted that the “18 Wheeler” package with Tyrone Swoopes might start featuring passes from the senior quarterback. Defenses have stacked the box to limit Swoopes when he runs. He has attempted eight passes, completing five. Also, with running backs Chris Warren III and Kirk Johnson sidelined by injuries, freshman Lil’Jordan Humphrey has moved from wide receiver to running back, the position he played in high school.
The last word
West Virginia president E. Gordon Gee on the Big 12’s expansion process, which may become reality when the Big 12’s board of directors meet in Dallas Monday:
“Oh, I think it’s been very functional. I think the commissioner has done a good job. I think we’ve been very serious about it. I think those who are criticizing from the outside have a view on what should be done. I think we’ve been very thoughtful and methodical. I’m very satisfied with the process.”