SAN DIEGO — More than once this season, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said he admired the way Davis Webb kept applying himself and working even when he wasn’t the starting quarterback.
When he’s applying himself, working hard and is the starting quarterback, just look what can happen.
Webb tied a Holiday Bowl record Monday night with four touchdown passes, all in the game’s first 20 minutes, and Tech rode the hot start to a 37-23 upset of No. 16 Arizona State at Qualcomm Stadium.
“I think I pride myself on being prepared every day,” Webb said, “and I watched a lot of film and I knew what they were going to give me before they did anything. With that preparation, I knew who to get the ball to.”
Webb hardly missed a throw early, steering Tech to a 27-3 lead — enough, as it turned out, to vanquish a 14-point favorite. He finished with 403 yards on 28-for-41 passing, helping Tech (8-5) avoid its first six-game losing streak since 1981.
The since-departed Baker Mayfield started the first five games of the season, and Webb started the next five. But the lanky freshman from Prosper was pulled after an erratic performance in week 10 against Kansas State and didn’t see the field again until Monday.
“To be a great quarterback, you have to go through adversity,” he said. “Tom Brady, Peyton Manning went through adversity, and if you overcome it, you never know what’s going to happen. You have to keep your head down and keep working.
“I pride myself on my work ethic, from my dad teaching me to be the hardest worker on the team and keep my head down and keep moving.”
Webb’s touchdown passes were for 18 and 21 yards to Jakeem Grant, 1 yard to backup fullback Rodney Hall and 23 yards to Bradley Marquez. Just as important as the TD passes were the several throws that converted long-yardage situations.
During the first four drives for touchdowns, Webb completed four passes that converted third-and-10 or longer and others that converted second-and-20 and fourth-and-goal.
On some of those, Tech’s line either picked up a blitz, Webb stood in and delivered against good pressure or a combination of both.
“He stepped up big on third downs, especially in the first half,” Kingsbury said.
Arizona State came in with 40 sacks, ranking top-10 in the nation, and failed to add to that total. On the flip side, the Sun Devils gave up three sacks and four other tackles behind the line.
“We didn’t protect our quarterback,” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “We took too many negative-yardage plays. We just didn’t play very well, and I think that had a lot to do with Texas Tech and the energy they were playing with.
“This game is meant to be played with a great passion, and you’ve got to bring it every single game. They brought it. They were the more passionate team, and I’m disappointed for our fans. We should have had our team better prepared.”
Arizona State was an obvious favorite, having finished the regular season on a seven-game winning streak, a run interrupted only by their dropping the Pac-12 championship game to Stanford.
“I’d say everybody was picking them, and rightfully so,” Kingsbury said. “We knew that sentiment going in, and our kids responded well. They felt it all week. It was a celebration of Arizona State and we understand; it should have been. But we wanted to let them know we’re here, too.”
ASU did rush for 287 yards, getting career bests of 135 yards from junior quarterback Taylor Kelly and 132 yards from sophomore running back D.J. Foster.
But the Tech defense forced the Sun Devils to punt six times and settle for field goals on four series. The Red Raiders got an interception and a turnover on downs in the last four minutes, protecting the lead.
It was a dream ending for Will Smith. Tech’s senior inside linebacker made 14 tackles and was named the game’s defensive MVP while playing in front of family and friends a short drive from his hometown.
“It’s real cool, a humbling experience,” Smith said. “I had a great line in front of me and great play-calling, and it allowed me to run around and make plays.”
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