2009 Cotton Bowl: No. 7 Texas Tech and No. 25 Ole Miss Look For Another Key Win

Andrew GloverCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2008

The No. 7 Texas Tech Red Raiders and the No. 25 Ole Miss Rebels battle each other in the 2009 Cotton Bowl after giving Texasand Florida their only loss of the season.


The Red Raiders (11-1) beat then-No. 1 Texas 39-33 in Lubbock last November. Tech also beat then-No. 23 Kansas 63-21 and then-No. 9 Oklahoma State 56-20. The only loss of the season for Tech was a 65-21 loss at then-No. 5 Oklahoma. The Red Raiders finished with a share of the Big XII South title with No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 3 Texas.


Graham Harrell enters his final game needing just two touchdowns to break former Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan’s record for most touchdown passes in a career at 131. In three seasons as Tech’s starting quarterback, Harrell had 15,429 yards passing and 130 touchdowns. Harrell finished fourth in the Heisman vote and won the Johnny Unitas award.


Harrell finished the season second in yards passing with 4,747, third in completion percentage at 71.5, fifth in touchdown passes with 41 and ninth in quarterback rating with 163.03.


Baron Batch led the Red Raiders in rushing with 742 yards on 111 carries, and seven touchdowns. Batch was tied for 12th in yards per carry with 6.7. Shannon Woods enters his final game with 670 yards on 135 carries, and 12 touchdowns. Woods is tied for 30th in touchdowns. From 2005-2008, Woods gained 2,203 yards on 395 yards, and 33 touchdowns.


This could be Michael Crabtree’s final game if he decides to go pro. Even with gaining more attention, Crabtree was tied for seventh in receptions with 93, 11th in yards with 1135, and third in touchdowns with 18. Crabtree needs only two touchdowns to tie for the season lead with Rice’s Jarett Dillard. In his sophomore season, Crabtree won his second Biletnikoff award for best wide receiver.


Harrell has plenty of other options at receiver besides Crabtree. Detron Lewis caught 71 passes for 869 yards, and three touchdowns. Eric Morris caught 64 passes for 682 yards and eight touchdowns in his final season. Morris also had six carries for 34 yards and two touchdowns. Batch had 43 receptions for 442 yards and one touchdown. Tramain Swindall had 42 receptions for 528 yards and two touchdowns.


The Red Raiders made more improvements under defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil. Tech is 72nd in yards per game with 371.6, 43rd in rushing yards per game with 133.5, 92 in passing yards per game with 238.1 and 65th in points per game at 26.3.


Brandon Williams led the Big XII in sacks with 11. Daniel Charbonnet and Darcel McBath set the school record for interceptions in a game with three. Charbonnet intercepted three against SMU and McBath intercepted three against Kansas.


The Rebels (8-4) finished the season with a five-game winning streak. Their last loss was 28-24 to then-No. 2 Alabama in October. Ole Miss beat now No. 2 Florida 31-30 at Gainesville in September. In addition, Ole Miss beat then-No. 18 LSU 31-13 at Baton Rouge. The Rebels will be considered the visiting team in the Cotton Bowl.


Sophomore Jevan Snead passed for 2,470 yards threw for 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Snead was fourth in the SEC in passing yards, second in touchdown passes behind Tim Tebow, and third in quarterback rating behind Tebow and Georgia’s Matthew Stafford.


Junior Cordera Eason led the team in rushing with 137 carries for 644 yards which is ninth in the SEC and three touchdowns. Junior Dexter McCluster is 15th in the conference in yards with 558 on 95 carries and five touchdowns. Freshman Brandon Bolden is 18th with 441 yards on 87 carries and four touchdowns.


Junior Shay Hodge leads the Rebels in receptions with 42 for 676 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Mike Wallace leads the team in yards with 704 on 35 receptions and six touchdowns in his final season. McCluster has 38 receptions for 542 yards and one touchdown.


Hodge is eighth in the conference in receptions, seventh in yards, and tied for first in touchdowns. Wallace is fifth in the conference in yards, tied for 11 in receptions and tied for six in touchdowns. McCluster is ninth in the conference in receptions, and 12th in yards.


The Rebels boast one of the best defensive lines in the country. Ole Miss has 36 sacks on the season with Greg Hardy leading the team with 8.5. Peria Jerry has six and Kentrell Lockett has two.


The Rebels are 15th in the nation in yards per game allowing 294.8, fifth in rushing yards per game with 85, 59th in passing yards per game with 209.8 and 14th in points per game with 17.8.


They key match up will be the Red Raiders’ offensive line vs. the Rebels’ defensive line. Tech has only given up eleven sacks this season and will have to play like they did in every game except Oklahoma to keep Harrell on his feet and allow him to find open receivers.


The Rebels offense will have to control the ball and keep Tech’s defense on the field. If they can wear out the Red Raiders’ defense and limit the offenses chances they have a good chance at winning the game.


The Red Raiders need to establish the running game. Batch and Woods need to pick up yards and make Ole Miss have to defend both the run and the pass. The only game Tech was not able to run the ball was in their loss to Oklahoma. If Tech can keep the Rebels off the guard they have a chance to win and end up in the top five.


This year’s Cotton Bowl will be the last played in the Cotton Bowl Stadium. The game will move to the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington.