Texas Tech's Alan Bowman leads Big 12's emerging young stars
By JOHN RABY
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Sure, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury is gushing about quarterback Alan Bowman's fast start. What surprises him most is the freshman's ability so far to limit his mistakes.
Bowman threw for 605 yards and five touchdowns last week in a 63-49 win over Houston, giving the pass-happy Big 12 a peek at its future following the departures of stars such as Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and Mason Rudolph at Oklahoma State.
Bowman is among a crop of young stars emerging in the league. He has eight TD tosses and has yet to throw an interception.
"He's done a nice job of protecting the football and still cutting it loose and pulling the trigger when things are there," Kingsbury said. "There's a fine line you walk there. You don't want to be hesitant, but you don't want to be reckless with the ball. He's kind of walked that line really well the first two starts he's had. Hopefully that continues."
The Red Raiders entered the season with uncertainty after the graduation of 3,000-yard passer Nic Shimonek. When sophomore McLane Carter got hurt in the first quarter of the opener, in came Bowman.
"I think more than anything, I knew he could operate our system," Kingsbury said. "He's a bright young man. When we install, he picks things up quick. For him to play turnover-free football like he has that's been really nice."
Bowman graduated high school early in Grapevine, Texas, and participated in spring practice at Texas Tech, where freshmen quarterbacks tend to blossom early.
Mayfield was a walk-on who threw for 413 yards and accounted for five touchdowns in the 2012 season opener for the Red Raiders before eventually transferring to Oklahoma. After Mayfield got hurt that year, Davis Webb became the first Texas Tech freshman to surpass 400 yards passing in his first two starts. In 2014, Patrick Mahomes set a Big 12 freshman record with 598 yards against Baylor.
Bowman then outdid Mahomes .
"He developed really quickly," said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. "Sometimes young guys do that. Others it takes a little bit of time. It's certainly one I'm guessing we all wish we would have had."
Bowman and freshman running back Ta'Zhawn Henry will feel the pressure of a Big 12 opener on the road Saturday at No. 15 Oklahoma State. Henry has six rushing TDs already, including four against Houston.
Like Bowman, most starting quarterbacks in the Big 12 are underclassmen. With Iowa State's Kyle Kempt out with a knee injury, backup sophomore Zeb Noland threw for a career-high 360 yards and two TDs last week in a 37-27 loss to No. 5 Oklahoma. Coach Matt Campbell said Nolan will get his third career start Saturday against Akron.
Among the league's receivers, Oklahoma State sophomore Tylan Wallace has doubled the number of catches he had a year ago and is averaging 106 receiving yards per game.
"He's tough," Gundy said. "Contact doesn't affect him. That's so important with the wide receivers is that they're fearless."
Oklahoma sophomore CeeDee Lamb, who had 807 receiving yards last year, is off to another good start and is one of the league's top punt returners.
Among running backs, Pooka Williams became the first freshman in Kansas history to start a career with back-to-back 100-yard efforts . He's the league's rushing leader with 288 yards.
"He does have a gear that has been extremely impressive," said Kansas coach David Beaty. "I think the challenge for our staff is not to put too much on a young guy. That way he can have the success and experience that he needs as a freshman."
West Virginia freshman Leddie Brown came off the bench to rush for 115 yards two weeks ago against Youngstown State.
On special teams, Oklahoma State sophomore Amen Ogbongbemiga and freshman Jarrick Bernard each blocked punts that led to touchdowns in a 44-21 win over Boise State . TCU freshman Derius Davis, who ran a sub-48 second 400 meters in high school, scored on a 73-yard punt return and a 12-yard TD catch in his Sept. 1 college debut against Southern.
On defense, four Big 12 underclassmen have made interceptions, led by Texas Tech sophomore Adrian Frye with two, including one for a touchdown.
Texas Tech freshman Tony Jones and TCU sophomore Corey Bethley each have three sacks. Iowa State freshman Mike Rose has a huge task in trying to fill the shoes of departed all-Big 12 middle linebacker Joel Lanning. In two games, Rose is averaging seven tackles.
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Updated September 20, 2018