Thursday, November 30, 2006

Taylor takes Big 12 honor

NU quarterback offensive player of year


— Zac Taylor has been instrumental in infusing a throwing mentality into a Nebraska program with a long tradition of running the football - bringing the Huskers from a losing record in 2004 to within one win of a BCS bowl this season.

On Wednesday, the senior quarterback was selected as The Associated Press Big 12 offensive player of the year.

Oklahoma linebacker Rufus Alexander was selected as the conference's defensive player of the year.

Texas freshman quarterback Colt McCoy was picked as the offensive newcomer of the year and finished runner-up to Taylor for top offensive honors.

Baylor freshman linebacker Joe Pawelek was voted defensive newcomer of the year, narrowly beating Iowa State's Ty McKenzie.

The selections were made in voting by 20 reporters who regularly cover the conference for newspapers in the seven states with Big 12 teams.

The AP all-conference teams will be released today.

When promoting Taylor for All-Big 12 honors, NU coach Bill Callahan said the quarterback single-handedly made the West Coast offense the norm at Nebraska, which won or shared three national championships in the 1990s with a bruising, run-oriented offense.

"He's flourished. On top of everything else, he just competes like crazy," Callahan said. "He's a tough competitor; he is relentless. He's a guy you want behind the controls."

Taylor is the first Nebraska player to win offensive player of the year honors since quarterback Eric Crouch in 2001.

Taylor joined the Huskers (9-3, 6-2 Big 12) after Nebraska went 5-6 in 2004. The next spring, he beat out 2004 starter Joe Dailey, who soon transferred to North Carolina.

Taylor has completed 62 percent of his passes this season, throwing 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions during this record-setting season, where he's passed for 2,789 yards - more than 232 yards a game.

When Taylor steers No. 19 Nebraska's offense against eighth-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday for the league title, he'll try to pick apart a defense led by Alexander - the top tackler on the Big 12's best defense.

Alexander has 95 tackles this season and could become the first player to lead the Sooners (10-2, 7-1) in tackling in back-to-back seasons since Rocky Calmus, who played 1999-2001.


Fiesta, Cotton get OU, NU

Lincoln, Neb. - Nebraska and Oklahoma will represent the Big 12 Conference in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and the AT&T; Cotton Bowl, bowl officials and the Big 12 Conference announced Wednesday. Which team goes to what bowl will be determined after Saturday's Big 12 championship game.

The team that wins the game will play in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 1. The Big 12 runner-up will play in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day in Dallas.

Opponents for the Cotton Bowl will also depend on the outcome of the SEC championship. Boise State likely will play in the Fiesta Bowl.

A&M; accepts Holiday bid

College Station, Texas - No. 22 Texas A&M; will represent the Big 12 against No. 21 California in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28.

The Aggies finished their regular season Friday with a 12-7 win over Texas. This will be the 29th bowl appearance for Texas A&M; (9-3, 5-3 Big 12).

It will be the second trip to the Holiday Bowl for the Aggies. They won the 1990 game against Brigham Young 65-14, the biggest margin of victory in Holiday Bowl history.

California (8-3) is playing in the bowl for the second time in the last three years. They will finish their regular season against Stanford on Saturday.

The 29th Holiday Bowl will be played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

Bo's book to be published

New York - Former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler had completed a book on leadership at the time of his death, and Warner Books will release it next fall, the publisher announced Wednesday.

"Bo's Lasting Lessons: A Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership" was finished a week before Schembechler died of heart failure, on Nov. 17, at age 77.

Miami headed to Boise

Coral Gables, Fla. - Larry Coker's difficult and final year at Miami will end on the blue turf of Boise. The Hurricanes accepted an invitation Wednesday to the MPC Computers Bowl, where they'll meet Nevada (8-4) of the Western Athletic Conference on Dec. 31 in Idaho's capital city. It will be Coker's 75th and final game at Miami; he was fired last week after a 6-6 regular season.


Counsell back with Brewers

Milwaukee - Craig Counsell returned to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday, agreeing to a $6 million, two-year contract. Counsell played for Milwaukee in 2004. The 36-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Counsell gets $2.8 million in each of the next two seasons, and the Brewers get a $3.4 million option for 2009 with a $400,000 buyout. If Counsell is traded, he also gets a $2.8 million player option for 2009.

Pujols disputes MVP vote

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Albert Pujols thinks he was snubbed. The St. Louis Cardinals' slugger is upset he lost out to Philadelphia's Ryan Howard for the National League MVP award, saying Wednesday the honor should go to someone on a playoff team.

"I see it this way: Someone who doesn't take his team to the playoffs doesn't deserve to win the MVP," Pujols said in Spanish at a news conference organized by the Dominican Republic's sports ministry.

Jays: Barajas backed out

Toronto - Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi claimed Wednesday that catcher Rod Barajas backed out of a deal with Toronto after signing a terms sheet with the team.


Lakers' coach fined $25,000

New York - Phil Jackson was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Wednesday for criticizing referees Friday night after the Lakers' 114-108 loss to Utah. Jackson was quoted in several newspapers about the way the officials - Derrick Stafford, Derek Richardson and Leroy Richardson - handled second-year center Andrew Bynum.


World Cup races called off

Beaver Creek, Colo. - In a surprise announcement Wednesday night, Guenther Hujara, director of the men's World Cup, said there wasn't enough sponsorship dollars for Colorado resorts to hold some of the ski races that have been scrapped by warm weather and a lack of snow in Europe.


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