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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Texas Tech season review

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The greatest season in Texas Tech's modern football history ultimately will be remembered as much for what the Red Raiders weren't able to accomplish on their run to the first shared South Division title in Big 12 history.

Despite an 11-1 record, the Red Raiders dropped out of the conversation for a shot at the Big 12 championship game because their Bowl Championship Series ranking was not high enough. Their free fall started after a 65-21 blowout loss at Oklahoma that dropped them into a tie with the Sooners and Texas for the South title.

It made most Tech fans angry about how the season finished up. But their strong season will still resonate for many accomplishments.

Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell both earned mention on All-America teams after another season as the most potent offensive duo to ever play in coach Mike Leach's offense.

But the Red Raiders' ultimate success this season was created by an improved running game and a feisty defense that played well except in the blowout loss to Oklahoma.

Tech is headed to the Cotton Bowl against Mississippi after having the conference's third-highest BCS ranking. It wasn't enough to catapult the Red Raiders into their first BCS bowl, despite their record.

Most Valuable Offensive Player: QB Graham Harrell. Harrell wrapped up his career as the most productive quarterback in Big 12 history, finishing second on the NCAA's career passing yardage list with 15,429 yards. And he saved his best for last, leading the Red Raiders to a dramatic season-ending victory over Baylor despite nine separate breaks on two shattered fingers of his non-throwing hand.

Most Valuable Defensive Player: S Darcel McBath. The most consistent defender for the Red Raiders, McBath produced 70 tackles, a team-leading six interceptions and seven passes broken up. Included in his haul was a three-interception effort against Kansas where the picks were produced on successive possessions in a span of less than six minutes.

Turning point: The Red Raiders were expected to struggle at Kansas -- the kind of game they traditionally have struggled with -- but not this year. Harrell orchestrated eight touchdown drives in Tech's first nine possessions, helped by a defense that produced five turnovers in a 63-21 beatdown. It was an indication that Texas Tech could win on the road and would be ready for the Big 12 South powers later in the season.

What's ahead: A Cotton Bowl victory would cap perhaps the most memorable season in school history and result in the Red Raiders' first top-10 finish ever. But Leach's contract impasse with school officials has overshadowed bowl preparations in recent weeks and still hangs over the program. Harrell will graduate and Crabtree is expected to declare for the NFL draft. It means that backup quarterback Taylor Potts will likely head into the spring directing an offense that will have to be rebuilt.