|QB Graham Harrell lifts Texas Tech to new heights|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 10 December 2008 11:36|
The Texas Tech quarterback had produced Heisman-like numbers for two years, just like his predecessors in coach Mike Leach's passer-friendly offense. The numbers were similar his senior year, except in the standings. That's where Harrell set himself apart.
With Harrell leading the way, the Red Raiders had their first 10-0 start in 70 years, beat a No. 1 team for the first time and climbed higher in the polls than ever before, to No. 2.
Along the way, Harrell moved within two touchdown passes of breaking the NCAA career record and set plenty of Big 12 marks - likely earning a spot among the finalists headed to New York for Saturday's Heisman ceremony.
ell a ``no-brainer'' to win the Heisman because of his leadership, poise and courage.
But here's the problem: a late-season 65-21 loss at Oklahoma, where Harrell had one first-half TD while Tech fell behind 35-7 in a showdown with one of the Heisman favorites, Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford. Harrell said his 4,747 yards and 41 touchdowns probably won't be enough to overcome Tech's only loss.
``In the past it didn't matter so much about a team, but now I think that's all it does matter, is how well your team did,'' Harrell said. ``In a program that usually wins about eight games a season, to go 11-1 in the Big 12 this year ... is something that I don't think many people would have given us much of a chance to do.''
Even if he doesn't win the Heisman, Harrell has left his mark at Texas Tech. Quarterbacks are usually noteworthy after they play in Leach's offense, not before. Harrell was the exception - a big-name recruit from a big market (the Dallas-Fort Worth area) - and he matched the hype.
In the Cotton Bowl against Mississippi, Harrell will pad his Big 12 career leads in yards (15,429) and completions (1,367). Sitting at 130 passing TDs, he's likely to break Colt Brennan's NCAA record of 131 set last year at Hawaii.
``I don't know if I've lived up to what everyone hoped I'd be, but hopefully I did,'' Harrell said.
own 33-32 to then-No. 1 Texas, Harrell threw a perfect deep sideline pass to his favorite receiver, Michael Crabtree, who tiptoed a couple of yards along the sideline and danced into the end zone for a 28-yard score with 1 second remaining.
``I think that's the moment that a lot of people will remember this season by,'' Harrell said. ``And that's not a bad moment to be remembered for.''
Although he played much of this season in the shadow of another Texan and Heisman contender - Colt McCoy - Harrell's spectacular, prime-time wins in consecutive weeks over the Longhorns and then-No. 8 Oklahoma State (a 56-20 blowout) made him one of college football's biggest stars.
He's a player with great confidence born of hard work and he knows how to win, said Gil Brandt, a former Dallas Cowboys scout who writes for NFL.com.
``It's something that people are born with,'' he said. ``And it's something that he brings to the table.''
Harrell is quick to laud his teammates in contributing to his success. He has plans to host a pork-chop dinner for his offensive line, though he's not much of a cook.
``I'll probably just have one of them come over and cook them, and we'll all eat them,'' he said.
This season wasn't the first with highlights for Harrell.
31 points down - to beat Minnesota 44-41 in overtime. In last year's Gator Bowl, Harrell threw for two touchdowns as Texas Tech rallied for 17 points in the final four minutes to beat then-No. 21 Virginia 31-28.
Harrell won't let a hand injury keep him from writing his final bowl chapter.
Harrell led a 21-point rally in the second half of his home finale to beat Baylor 35-28, all while dealing with nine broken bones in the pinkie and ring finger of his left (non-throwing) hand. He doesn't know when he got hurt.
X-rays at halftime told the story, and doctors chimed in.
``They didn't tell me I couldn't go,'' Harrell said. ``They just said it didn't look good. But what are you going to do? It's already broken.''
Surgeons placed 17 pins and two plates in the fingers the next day. He expects to be fine for the Cotton Bowl, wearing only light protection for the fingers.
``Besides regrouping and figuring out what he could do without losing any composure, (he) went out there and didn't miss a beat,'' Leach said. ``He went out there and obviously played brilliantly.''
The Red Raiders missed out on a Bowl Championship Series bid because no conference can't have more than two. The Big 12 nods went to the other South Division winners - Oklahoma and Texas. But Harrell is proud of the season, and proud to have a shot at the Heisman.
s Tech,'' Harrell said. ``We did a lot of good things this season so hopefully a lot of people will respect that.''