Gator Bowl Preview: Texas Tech Takes On Defensive-Minded Virginia

John BaucumCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2007


In the 2008 Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, Texas Tech and Virginia compete in what is perhaps the most interesting non-BCS matchup. Virginia’s vaunted defense is led by Howie Long’s son, Chris, who won the Hendricks Award, given to the nation’s best defensive end.

Texas Tech’s offensive assault is led by Graham Harrell and Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree. The question is: which team can step up and neutralize the other team’s advantage? 

Virginia Passing:

Offensively, the Cavaliers are led by sophomore QB Jameel Sewell. He has completed 200 of 341 passes for 2,098 yards with 11 TDs and nine INTs. In addition, the left-hander has rushed 115 times for 241 yards and four TDs. 

Virginia Rushing:

Cedric Peerman, UVA’s top RB, was lost for the season October 6th against Middle Tennessee State. In his absence, sophomore Mikell Simpson has filled in admirably. Simpson has 93 carries for 400 yards and seven TDs.

Freshman halfback Keith Payne is built more like a fullback at 6-3 and 234. He has rushed 58 times for 219 yards and two TDs. 

Virginia Receiving:

Simpson leads the Cavs in receiving, with 38 catches for 366 yards and one receiving TD.

TE Jonathan Stupar is next on the team, with 37 grabs for 344 and one score. Another TE, Tom Santi, has caught 33 passes for 402 yards and three TDs.

Maurice Covington and John M. Phillips have each scored two TDs, while Staton Jobe, Cory Koch, and Rashawn Jackson have each scored once.


Texas Tech Passing:

QB Graham Harrell leads Mike Leach’s spread offense. He has completed 468 of 644 passes for 5,298 yards with 45 TDs and 14 INTs. His current completion percentage of 72.7 will be a school record if it stands.

Texas Tech Rushing:

Shannon Woods’ eight TDs still lead Texas Tech’s rushing attack—but don’t expect to see the former starter in action. He has earned himself a prolonged spot in Leach’s dog house.

True freshman Aaron Crawford should get the start. He has 46 carries for 185 yards and three TDs. However, his primary impact on the game may be as a blocker—trying to help keep Chris Long and his friends off of Harrell.

Kobey Lewis has 42 carries for 156 yards and two scores. Elusive WR Edward Britton has nine rushes for 52 yards but no scores. Harrell’s four scores on QB sneaks complete Texas Tech’s rushing TDs. 

Texas Tech Receiving:

History was made when Michael Crabtree became the first freshman to win the Biletnikoff Award. Don’t be fooled, though—the young prodigy definitely transcends the “system” label that has hovered over Tech’s program since Mike Leach arrived with both barrels blazing eight years ago. Crabtree’s 125 receptions, 1,861 yards and 21 TDs all led the nation.

Senior Danny Amendola is next with 103 catches for 1,177 yards and five scores. Eric Morris checks in with 66 grabs for 690 yards and nine TDs.

Edward Britton will start on the opposite side of the field from Michael Crabtree, after former starter L.A. Reed decided to try his hand at safety. Britton has 43 catches for 583 yards and four scores.

RB Crawford has recorded 30 grabs for 218 yards and two TDs. Grant Walker and Detron Lewis each have two trips to pay dirt, while Lyle Leong has one to complete Tech’s receiving scores.



The dichotomy in this game is the old school, smash-mouth style of football that Virginia will play against the innovative, yet somehow underappreciated spread offense that Texas Tech deploys. Virginia comes into this game trying to forget about their season-ending loss to arch-rival Virginia Tech while Texas Tech’s last game was their nationally televised upset of Oklahoma.

It is odd that Texas Tech appears to be getting all of the media attention, since the Red Raiders will enter the game unranked, while Virginia is 20th in the country.

The biggest question mark for Virginia is how well the Cavaliers will match up with Texas Tech’s nontraditional offense and speedy skill position players.

Conversely, the biggest question mark for Texas Tech will be whether or not the offensive line can give Harrell enough time to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers.

With Virginia’s lack of experience defending the spread offense, and the recent announcement that starting CB Chris Cook will miss the game, the edge in this contest must go to Texas Tech  

Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Virginia 24