Kingsbury Schooled Graham

It's no secret Texas Tech's receiving corps is a talented bunch; it's been among the best in the country for years. Todd Graham may have missed the memo as he elected to single cover them all for most of the night. Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders made the Sun Devils pay.

Arizona State head coach and defensive play caller Todd Graham's decision to play straight-up single man coverage against one of the top receiving corps in the country is one of the more puzzling strategies of the college football season.

It cost him mightily as first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury schooled him in Texas Tech's 37-23 upset of heavily favored No. 14 Arizona State Monday night in the Holiday Bowl.

"I'm very embarrassed for our program," Graham said. "As coaches we didn't have our guys prepared to play. They came to play. We didn't. Give them credit. I was embarrassed for the fans that showed up today. We didn't have our players prepared. Zero excuses, but we didn't have our players prepared to play. It was an ugly game offensively and defensively. We just didn't play very well. They were the more passionate team today."

The Sun Devils are a blitzing, high-risk defense by nature, but at some point you have to admit when the game plan is not working. Graham's dogged stubbornness to stay with it for most of the game after failing over and over again with no significant adjustments, just blitz and everyone pick a man, was befuddling.

It's obvious Graham thought his defensive backs were superior to the Red Raiders receivers and/or the blitzes he kept dialing up would overwhelm Tech's offensive line, leading to sacks and turnovers.

He was wrong on both counts.

Kingsbury had quarterback Davis Webb prepared as the true freshman picked the Sun Devils' defense apart for 403 yards and a Holiday Bowl record tying four touchdowns en route to being named Offensive MVP. Webb spread the ball around to 10 different Texas Tech receivers.

"I think I pride myself on being prepared every day and I watched a lot of film and I knew what they were going to give me before they did anything. With that preparation I knew who to get the ball to," Webb said.

Unanimous All-American (and NFL bound) Jace Amaro led the way with eight catches for 112 yards and set a new FBS standard for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end with 1,352.

Jakeem Grant flashed his trademark speed with six grabs for 89 yards and a pair of scores, Bradley Marquez hauled in three passes for 67 yards and a touchdown and Eric Ward made three receptions for 43 yards to wrap his stellar career.

Reginald Davis hauled in a 38-yard pass to go along with his 90-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Running backs Kenny Williams and Deandre Washington also got in on the action with a combined three receptions for 41 yards.

The Texas Tech offensive line gave up ZERO sacks to a Sun Devils squad who was No. 7 in the country with 40 this season. What's more, the Red Raiders' offense did not turn the ball over (though the special teams did twice) against an Arizona State team ranked No. 5 in the country with 31.

Texas Tech converted 9 of 16 third downs Monday night, often taking advantage of single coverage on the outside after recognizing and then picking up predictable Arizona State blitzes. The Red Raiders converted on four third downs of 10 or more yards, including a third-and-20 and had a third-and-18 called back on a penalty in the second half.

All of this success stemmed from the Tech receivers absolutely dominating man coverage after solid blocking and accurate throws from Webb.

"He stepped up big on third downs, and Jace ran fearless, making plays, just proud of Davis' mental toughness, he continued to work and never blinked an eye and when he had his moment he made the most of it," Kingsbury said.

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