By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rarely does a team go into a bowl game having lost five games, each by more than 20 points. But that's the situation that Texas Tech faces when it takes on Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.
The hiring of young gun Kliff Kingsbury a year ago created plenty of excitement in Lubbock and the buzz intensified as the Red Raiders won their first seven games and climbed to a No. 10 ranking. The fall was sudden and dramatic, though, as Texas Tech lost its last five games – all to Big 12 Conference teams that are in bowl games.
Kingsbury, though, believes that closing out his first season with a victory is a realistic goal.
"It's a resilient group," he said of his players. "A lot of these guys have been through coaching changes and things of that nature. They're excited to be in such a big time bowl and playing such a big time opponent in Arizona State. It really perked up their spirits and we've had some really good practices this month."
The Red Raiders (7-5) have just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster after freshman walk on Baker Mayfield left the team to transfer to another school. He started seven games. Freshman Davis Webb was the starter in the other five games while sophomore Michael Brewer appears to have recovered from a back injury that limited him until late in the season.
Kingsbury has not announced a starting quarterbacking for the bowl game. No matter who plays quarterback for the Red Raiders, he will have plenty of choices in receivers. Texas Tech has three of the top five receivers in the Big 12 led by junior tight end Jace Amaro and senior wide receiver Eric Ward. Amaro is a consensus All-American.
"They've got an offense that's putting up over 500 yards a game, play makers all over the field, as good of a tight end as there is in the country," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "I'm expecting an explosive game and a game that will be fun for fans to watch. Going to be a lot of great athletes on the field and I think it will it be exciting."
Marion Grice, the Sun Devils' top running back, missed the last two games of the season and has not been practicing. He gained 1,028 yards rushing and caught 50 passes for 438 yards rushing but is unlikely to play in the bowl.
Arizona State (10-3) is 29th in total offense, averaging 460.8 yards per game. Quarterback Taylor Kelly threw for 3,510 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions. Wide receiver Jalen Strong is the top receiver, averaging 15.4 yards per catch.
"They're a great team," Kingsbury said. "I've known coach Graham since I was at Houston and he was at Tulsa. I've always been really impressed by his teams. Everywhere he's been, he's won. He's a great defensive mind, and now they're playing great offense over there with a bunch of really good skill players, so it'll be a huge challenge for us."
National University Holiday Bowl
Texas Tech vs. Arizona State
Need to know: 9:15 p.m. Monday, Qualcomm Stadium, ESPN.
Team records: Texas Tech 7-5 overall, 4-5 in Big 12; Arizona State 10-3 overall, 8-1 in Pac-12 South Division.
Scouting Arizona State: The Sun Devils have a balanced offense that spreads the field and likes to play at a fast pace. Quarterback Taylor Kelly completed 62 percent of his passes and was named to the second team Pac-12 team. Arizona State, led by cornerback Osahon Irabor and safety Damarious Randall, is third nationally with 21 interceptions and also is among the nation's best in sacking quarterbacks. Freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez has converted 22 of 26 field goals.
Scouting Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are second in the nation in passing offense with 392 yards per game and are ninth in total offense. … Quarterback Davis Webb broke seven school and Big 12 freshman records, including passing yards (462) and attempts (71). … Junior kicker Ryan Bustin set a school record with 22 field goals. … Texas Tech had three of the top five players in receptions in the Big 12: Jace Amaro was first, Eric Ward was second and Jakeem Grant was fifth. … During its five-game losing streak, Texas Tech has allowed nearly 49 points per game.
Short yardage: A Big 12 team has defeated a Pac-10/12 team in three of the last four Holiday Bowl games. … The Red Raiders and Sun Devils have met once previously, the 1999 season opener which Arizona State won, 31-13, in Tempe. … The Sun Devils will try to win 11 games in a season for just the sixth time and the first time in 1996. … Texas Tech has won its only Holiday Bowl appearance, defeating Cal, 45-31, in 2004. … Arizona State's Todd Graham, a former Texas high school coach at Mesquite Poteet and Allen who also coached at Rice, Tulsa and Pittsburgh, was named the Pac-12 coach of the year.