When Army plays North Texas later this season, it will take on another first-time offensive coordinator

One of the central figures of the 2008 college football season -- no, not as a coach, but as a player -- will try to outmaneuver Army's defense this season. Send a tele-Graham to North Texas's newest offensive coordinator.

It was the game that defined the 2008 college football regular season.

Yes, Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field in Dallas, but that game didn't hold sway in the controversy which was to come.

Yes, Oklahoma crushed Texas Tech to bring about the three-way tie in the Big 12 South which caused quite a commotion in the college football world.

Yet, the wild-card event - the plot twist most people didn't anticipate - was that little ol' Texas Tech inserted itself firmly into a national championship conversation by beating its nemesis and Big Brother, the University of Texas, in a high-stakes game played on national television.

It was preposterous, really. Texas had acquired "reload and re-aim" status in college football in 2008. Mack Brown hadn't yet lost the mustard on his fastball. The Longhorns were an annual force in the sport, just a few years removed from their national championship season in the Brown era. Colt McCoy had succeeded Vince Young. Sans the speed, McCoy displayed so many of the winning instincts and intangible qualities which made Young a great leader and a highly galvanizing presence in Austin. McCoy had already survived so many tests that one more wasn't going to hurt him. Texas knew how to handle big moments.

The same could not be said for Texas Tech. Led by the ever-eccentric Mike Leach, the Red Raiders were always a thorny opponent to play, but in the mold of a spoiler. Tech could ruin an elite team's season, but the idea of going from killjoy to in-season centerpiece represented a substantial cultural and situational shift for the Red Raiders. Texas Tech's road game at Oklahoma in late November never set up well for that team, so the home game against Texas in October was going to tell the tale of the Red Raiders in 2008. Could this program, so often left off the stage by Texas in the days of the old Southwest Conference, capture a unique slice of glory in the Big 12 era? Could the Red Raiders forge a double-digit-win season for the fifth time in program history, and the first time since 1973?

In the final 10 seconds of regulation, Texas Tech merely needed a field goal to win. It was easy to think that the Red Raiders merely needed to trust their kicker, but as we've seen so often in college football, short field goals aren't attempted just for kicks. They can become very tricky. Tech wanted a touchdown to avoid sweating out the situation. The Red Raiders would need cool-as-a-cucumber composure from their quarterback, and inspired energy from wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

The folks in Lubbock, Texas, got everything they asked for and more.

Crabtree made a significant catch near the right sideline, but rather than leisurely stroll out of bounds to set up what would have been a severe-angle field goal from the wide hashmark (long a bugaboo with college kickers, even more before the hashmarks were narrowed), Crabtree powered straight ahead. He successfully danced inside the boundary and into the end zone, barely beating the final gun. Texas had been taken down. Texas Tech gained its rare moment in the sun.

Crabtree carried the ball into the end zone for a piece of college football history, but someone had to deliver him the ball.

That man was Graham Harrell. 

Someone had to learn the Air Raid passing offense from Mike Leach. Someone had to withstand the pressures a starting quarterback must face in that situation. 

Someone -- when his college career was over -- had to try his hand at coaching. He had to learn how to teach quarterbacks under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State. He had to figure out how to teach wide receivers at Washington State under Leach. Harrell could have stuck with what he knew -- Gundy, Holtz, Saban, and Mark May contain a lot of football knowledge -- but the former signal caller was in search of a newer and better culture. Harrell arrived at the point where he wanted to make something on his own... and not be laughed at.

Graham Harrell gave it a whirl in the pros with the Green Bay Packers, and never really went anywhere. Coaching was calling his name. After two brief stints as an assistant, he's ready to be an FBS offensive coordinator for the first time in his career... at age 31. Harrell was convinced by new North Texas Mean Green coach Seth Littrell that he's up for the job. Now he has to prove his worth.

Army can expect Harrell to be extremely aggressive when the Black Knights face the Mean Green. Harrell didn't hold back as a player, and as a coach, he figures to be similarly bold. Harrell might be new as a coordinator, but the simple awareness of having played in -- and won -- huge games enables him to sleep more peacefully at night.

Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman will have his work cut out for him.

This is yet another way in which an Army opponent in 2016 has changed. Army should prepare to be bombarded with forward passes when it hosts the Mean Green.


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