Goal becomes reality
SAN DIEGO – The Holiday Bowl will match a former Texas high school coach with the son of a Texas high school coach. Arizona State coach Todd Graham, the former head coach at Allen, said he always pictured working his way up to the level he’s reached now.
“I made a goal when I was 23 years old,” Graham said Saturday. “I wrote on my mirror I wanted to be a Division I head football coach by the time I was 40, and 28 days after I turned 41 I became a head football coach. So it’s always been a goal of mine and I’m very competitive. You can’t be successful doing this if you’re not an intense competitor.”
Graham, 49, just missed another goal when Arizona State lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game.
“We were within one game of playing in the granddaddy of them all,” Graham said, referring to the Rose Bowl. “I used to watch that on a 13-inch black-and-white television growing up, so that’s always been a goal of mine.”
Graham was head coach at Rice, Tulsa and Pittsburgh before getting the Arizona State job two years ago. Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury faced Graham when Kingsbury was at Houston and Graham at Tulsa.
“I was always impressed with his schemes offensively and defensively, and he’s done a great job,” Kingsbury said. “Everywhere he’s been, he’s won and I can’t say enough about that.”
Graham grew up in the Metroplex, was an all-state defensive back at North Mesquite and started his career as a junior-high coach in his hometown. His springboard to the college ranks was taking Allen to five playoff appearances from 1995 to 2000.
But the dream started long before then.
“When I was in seventh grade, there was a guy named Buddy Copeland that coached me at McDonald Middle School in Mesquite, Texas,” Graham said. “I didn’t have a dad. And he could chew you out and hug your neck all in the same sentence. He was a pretty hard-core guy. The way I felt about him, I knew I was going to be a football coach one day.”
Good month for Marquez
Texas Tech flanker Bradley Marquez’s pass-catching numbers dropped off in the second half of the season, but Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury singled out Marquez when asked Saturday who’d impressed him during December Holiday Bowl practices.
“We’ve moved him around a little bit from the slot to the outside, and he’s had a great December,” Kingsbury said. “I expect him to have a really good game, and I expect Jakeem (Grant) to play a bigger role than he did in our last game.”
Marquez started in Grant’s place at inside receiver for the regular-season finale against Texas, and Grant played as a backup but didn’t catch a pass. That was odd for a guy who caught 59 passes for 707 yards and five touchdowns.
Kingsbury said Grant “just needed to grow up a little bit and needed to practice better and make sure that he showed up focused and ready to go every day.”
Marquez has moved back to flanker during practices for Monday’s game against Arizona State.
Help for lines
Offensive guard Beau Carpenter will be back in the starting lineup Monday, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Saturday, after he missed the last three games because of a concussion.
True freshman Baylen Brown started the last two games at Carpenter’s spot and left guard Alfredo Morales slid over to that position the game before with James Polk in the lineup at left guard.
Tech’s defensive line also will be supplemented with the presence of noseguard Dennell Wesley, back from the sprained ankle that cost him the last two games.
“He’s probably had his best month of practice since we’ve been here,” Kingsbury said. “He got back in the mix and has been looking the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
The 6-foot-1, 310-pound senior has 11 tackles with 21/2 tackles for loss.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham said he once tried to hire Tech defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt at ASU and recruited Red Raiders receivers Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant.
“I love Ward,” Graham said. “That guy competes like heck for the football. I recruited him out of high school, so I know what kind of character the guy has.”
Graham and Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury also have faced each other three times when Graham was head coach at Tulsa and Kingsbury was an offensive assistant at Houston. The Cougars beat the Golden Hurricane in 2008 and 2009 and lost in 2010.
Those games and what’s happened since have helped Graham form plenty of opinions about Kingsbury.
“When Kevin (Sumlin) was at Houston, that was our archrival,” Graham said. “(Kingsbury has) just a tremendous offensive mind. I can tell you, he is unique. It’s not like he runs what Mike (Leach) runs. I don’t think there’s as much similarity as what people think there is.
“A lot of the stuff they did back in the day, he does really well. But he has his own unique twist on it. I think what he does, he does a great job of adapting to his personnel.”
Compiled by Don Williams