Tech players told me this week that they didn't care to pull off another comeback, the likes of which they used to beat Minnesota and Virginia the last two years. They're not that far behind, 24-21at halftime, but the Red Raiders still have their work cut out for them.
There are several sources of concern: Most notably, the Raiders are without two starting DBs -- S Darcel McBath and CB Jamar Wall -- at halftime. Plus, CB L.A. Reed, though not a regular starter, isn't suited up today, as expected. So all that depth that the Raiders have in the secondary? Good thing.
--Before the invocation and national anthem, the Cotton Bowl honored three titans who passed away in the last year: Former Southwest Conference commissioner Fred Jacoby, longtime Cotton Bowl ambassador Hoss Brock and Sammy Baugh, whose team won the first Cotton Bowl.
--Four U.S. Navy fighter jets just conducted a pre-game stadium flyover. The F-5N Tiger and F/A-18 Hornet aircraft came from four locations: Fallon, Nev., Virginia Beach, Va., New Orleans, La., and Key West, Fla.
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach and Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix both talked this week about the challenges such a long layoff present in preparing for bowl games. In a lot of instances, whichever team handles it the best is the one that wins.
I'm not sure what to expect today from Ole Miss. Houston Nutt and the Rebels both talked before and after they got to Dallas about the novelty and fun of the bowl experience for the players. Nutt said his players enjoyed every minute, and I got that same vibe from Rebels players I talked to as well.
I've just been informed that the Draddy Trophy -- sort of the Heisman for academics -- is being presented to California center Alex Mack during the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame dinner tonight at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. The Draddy goes to the player who is deemed the best all-around at academics, community service and on-field performance.
Tech's Graham Harrell was a finalist for the award. However, Harrell's awards tour is just getting started.
Partly to satisfy my own curiosity and partly because the subject seemed to generate much discussion Sunday among fans, I went back and checked to determine the last time Mike Leach appeared for a news conference or conference call the day bowl invitations were extended.
The answer: 2002.
That's the last time Leach appeared in person to discuss his team's bowl bid the day it happened -- when Tech got a Tangerine Bowl invitation in '02.
Before Texas Tech fans start reading too much into Mike Leach's absence from Sunday's Cotton Bowl conference call to announce the teams, they should know this: I can't remember the last time Leach took part in the day-of announcement about where his team was headed.
For the last several years, Leach has traveled to New York on this day to attend the annual National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame awards dinner that comes up early this week. For all I know, he might take the same flights each year.
It's been confirmed today what the A-J first reported after Saturday's game against Baylor. Graham Harrell had the surgery as scheduled on his left (non-throwing) hand and is expected to be ready when the Red Raiders play their bowl game. If Tech winds up in the Cotton Bowl, as most expect, Harrell has about a month to heal.
ESPN.com's Pat Forde, citing an unnamed source, reported details of Sunday's surgery.
Tech finally forced the first punt of the day by either side. Though backed up to their own 5-yard line, the Raiders went 95 yards in 12 plays for the tying touchdown. Detron Lewis caught four passes on the drive and Baron Batch got the payoff with a 3-yard run.
Tech pulled within 28-21 on a Shannon Woods touchdown at the 5:52 mark of the third quarter. During the drive, Mike Crabtree emerged from the locker room in street clothes and the aforementioned protective boot. He's walking the home sideline, reduced for the rest of this one to providing moral support.
Graham Harrell was late coming out of the locker room after halftime. He's playing in the third quarter with the little finger and the ring finger on his left hand bandaged together.
Harrell had a costly fumble and an interception in the first half, and he just took one of the hardest hits he's taken all season. LB Antonio Johnson got a clean shot on Harrell from the blind side, nailing him square in the back. The ball flew out and, fortuately for Tech, Baron Batch grabbed it.