SAN DIEGO — The Texas Tech-Arizona State game isn’t the only show in town this week, thanks to an uncommon scheduling twist.
Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch leads No. 24 Northern Illinois against Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl at 8:30 p.m. CST today at Qualcomm Stadium, the facility that will stage the Holiday Bowl between Tech and ASU on Monday night.
Most years, the Poinsettia Bowl is before Christmas and the Holiday Bowl after Christmas, but their closer proximity this year has those who put on the games bustling to host four teams at once.
“It stretches them thin, but it’s a pretty loyal, dedicated and hard-working group,” said Mark Neville, associate executive director for both bowls. “Everyone working together will be able to pull it off seamlessly.”
Northern Illinois and Utah State players visited SeaWorld on Tuesday and toured the San Diego Zoo on Wednesday. Later Wednesday, Tech and Arizona State arrived in town.
Neville said there usually is a day or two between the Poinsettia Bowl’s conclusion and the arrival of the Holiday Bowl teams.
“This year, with the way things timed out with ESPN and such, they both had to be after Christmas,” Neville said.
The Holiday Bowl is a homecoming for Tech safety Dorian Crawford, who went to San Diego Scripps Ranch High School. Crawford, signed by the Red Raiders out of Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College, said he expects to see “a good 40” friends and family in the next few days.
Tech coaches had high hopes for Crawford this summer, but a high-ankle sprain wrecked his season. He played briefly against Kansas and again against Baylor in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
“Next year, I’ll be ready,” Crawford said. “I’m going to be bigger, stronger, faster.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Crawford has been practicing at strong safety.
“He’s a guy who has a great future with us,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “This year, he’s kind of learning the ropes, but we see a big role for him moving forward next year.”
Adjusting their schedule
Texas Tech’s practices Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be in the evening, by design.
“We decided to push it back,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “just to get adjusted to this time zone and practicing since our game’s going to be a little bit later in the day.”
The Holiday Bowl kicks off at 9:15 p.m. CST Monday. The Red Raiders will work out at 8:45 p.m. CST Thursday and Friday and 8 p.m. CST Saturday.
Holiday Bowl officials are expecting a crowd in the mid-50,000s, associate executive director Mark Neville said. About 52,000 tickets have been sold so far, and the game is helped by a solid base of season-ticket holders.
“We have about 30,000 people that come year in and year out, regardless who’s playing,” Neville said. “In addition to having a great football game, it’s also the fact that our pre-game show is pretty spectacular with the Navy Leap Frogs (parachute team) flying in, our giant American flag and then the halftime pageantry is amazing.”