All the news media hype leading up to yesterday's (Monday, Dec. 30) Holiday Bowl game was that Arizona State was favored to beat Texas Tech by 22 points or more, the Sun Devils should be playing in the Rose Bowl and the Red Raiders were sliding into oblivion because their best quarterback had left the team after losing five straight games. Oh, yes, and Arizona State was ranked 14th in the nation in the BCS poll but was actually maybe the sixth best team in the country and Tech was unranked.
Which led all the sports "experts" to forecast a three or four touchdown shellacking by the Devils against Kliff Kingsbury's deteriorating team. Where was former coach and pirate loving Mike Leach? Many of the Red Raider faithful have been remorseful ever since the school fired Leach, despite the fact he'd led Tech to a victory against the University of Texas and the number two ranking in the whole country before an unfortunate loss to Oklahoma at Norman. Where was the man who would lead them to the promised land after they'd wandered the last few years in the wilderness following Leach's banishment for allegedly mistreating one of the players?
There was powerful evidence first-year coach Kingsbury, 34, might just be that man as he called a brilliant offensive game plan which resulted in freshman quarterback Davis Webb throwing four touchdown passes and for 403 yards as the Red Raider air raid bombed ASU, 37-23. And the game wasn't even as close as the score indicated as the men of Lubbock dominated the line of scrimmage and the tempo of the game most of the way.
Only a bad call by the referees in the second quarter inspired ASU to drive for their first touchdown. Officials ruled a Tech player muffed a punt, ruling it was ASU's ball deep in Tech territory. Replays showed that while the Tech player extended his left hand toward the ball he never actually touched it, therefore, it should've been Tech's ball.
However, Reginald Davis stopped any comeback ASU may have mounted at the start of the second half when he returned a kickoff 90 yards for the touchdown which restored the Raiders two-touchdown lead.
Webb was poised under pressure as he completed passes to 10 different receivers including All-America tight end Jace Amaro, who caught eight passes. Receiver Jakeem Grant also came up big as he scored two touchdowns after catching passes from the poised freshman.
What is the significance of this victory besides the fact it improved Tech's final record to 8-5 this year?
"Next year looks promising, depending on who comes back. We grew up tonight. I think Tech will do well next year," said alumnus Gary Southard, an attorney in Wichita Falls, Tex.
Southard, an avid Tech fan for many years, said, "It looks like we'll lose our All-American tight end to the pros and also receiver Eric Ward from Wichita Falls who has been such a key player for us, so that will hurt some. But overall, after this Holiday Bowl victory, I am greatly encouraged about our prospects for next season."
Ward will be missed. He finished his career with 255 receptions for 2, 863 yards and 31 touchdowns. His receptions totals and touchdown catches mean that he finishes third in those categories in Tech football history. He was also only the second Red Raider in history to achieve three 800-yard receptions seasons.
"We didn't get any respect all weekend long. It was all about Arizona State........So we used that to fuel the fire," Ward said, according to an article in the Jan. 1 Wichita Falls Times Record News newspaper.
Another encouraging sign for the Lubbock faithful should be the fact Kingsbury called the plays on offense while the ASU head coach called all the defensive alignments. And every time ASU blitzed on defense, Kingsbury and his young quarterback had the answer with completed passes which frequently went the distance for touchdowns.
Kingsbury was offensive co-ordinator for Texas A&M last year and mentored Heisman Trophy winner Johnny "Football" Manziel. When Kingsbury played quarterback at Tech he had the benefit of playing for then Tech assistant coach Art Briles, who now coaches Baylor.
ESPN commentator Matt Millen said it looked to him like Kingsbury had his team ready to play, but ASU looked like they thought all they had to do "was roll their helmets out on the field and win." Whether disappointment over not making the Rose Bowl left the Devils with an emotional hangover over not, Kingsbury looks like the real deal for the Red Raiders if fans will be patient long enough for him to recruit his type of players and install his offense. It looks like he may have already found a quarterback for the next three years.
Those who predict the outcome of games based on mascots knew along that on a theological basis, the masked man would prevail over the spawn of Satan.
Kingsbury might just be the coach to make Red Raider fans get over their disappointment at losing their buccaneer Mike Leach, who is now calling plays at Washington State. While Kingsbury doesn't have a parrot he talks about like Leach, he certainly knows how to talk with his quarterbacks about offense.
Texas Tech looks to be a factor in the Big 12 race next year. As long as somebody doesn't hire their coach.
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