Harrell's leadership paves way for huge Tech victory

October, 25, 2008
10/25/08
5:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Graham Harrell never believed it would be possible.

Any thought of standing on the sidelines in the fourth quarter, wearing a ball cap and playfully bantering with his teammates for the final quarter was beyond the Texas Tech quarterback's comprehension in his preparations for Kansas earlier this week.

 
  AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
 Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell directs his receivers during the second half against Kansas. Tech defeated Kansas, 63-21.

"No way, not against those guys," Harrell said. "Their offense and defense were too good. You don't think you can do anything like that."

Tech and Harrell might have proven something to everybody else and themselves during their landmark 63-21 beatdown over Kansas.

Playing like the nation's most efficient offense, the Red Raiders blew a good Kansas team out of their own stadium. Tech put the game away by scoring touchdowns on its first five possessions of the game and eight of the 10 drives when he was in charge.

And then after a short possession of only 31 seconds before halftime where they were trying to kill the clock, the Red Raiders went into a feeding frenzy to put away the Jayhawks and send the North Division leaders crashing to their worst home loss in seven seasons.

Harrell directed three scoring drives to start the second half, putting them so far ahead that the senior quarterback could have sauntered into the stands with Tech fans if he had wanted.

By then Memorial Stadium had been emptied of most of the Kansas faithful. And the biggest reason was the play of Harrell, who helped the Tech offense top 550 yards of total offense for the seventh time in nine games this season.

Although he's seldom mentioned in the same breath as players like Colt McCoy of Texas and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, Harrell played Saturday like he deserves to be in New York City for the Heisman presentation in early December.

He made it look easy on Saturday, hitting 21 of his first 23 passes as he finished with 386 passing yards and five touchdowns. Harrell ran for another score and converted nine of their first 12 third-down plays that sparked the offensive tsunami that resulted in Tech's biggest scoring game of the season.

Tech coach Mike Leach said he would have been similarly shocked if somebody had predicted the wide margin of the game. But he said that it's not surprising considering the development of Harrell during his three seasons as a starter.

"I would have been surprised because they are a pretty good team," Leach said. "But I keep telling everybody about how good Graham is. He just keeps getting better and better each week. And he's still improving as well."

Harrell's 55-yard scoring toss to Edward Britton that started the scoring binge enabled Harrell to move into fourth place in the NCAA career passing list past Phillip Rivers of North Carolina State.

When he came out of the game he had added to his total, and now has 13,829 passing yards. He is in line to move past Colt Brennan into third place with a big game next week against Texas.

Ah, yes. Texas. The team that Harrell still has never beaten and that remains in the driver's seat for the South Division title. That challenge will be the biggest test of Harrell's career and the kind of landmark game that could get him mentioned for the national awards at the end of the season.

If Tech plays like it did Saturday, Harrell likes his chances of finally taking down the Longhorns.

"If we play like we did today, we're tough to beat," Harrell said. "And if we do that, we've got a chance to be special and compete against anybody we're playing against."

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