Chris Thomsen remembers when he took over as Texas Tech’s interim head football coach last year going into the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl, where he led the Red Raiders to a 34-31 win over Minnesota.
“What I remember most is that we got a win,” Thomsen said. “We won on a walk-off field goal. It was exciting, man.”
Now serving as ASU’s offensive line coach, Thomsen will be facing Texas Tech from the opposite sideline when the No. 14 Sun Devils (10-3, 8-2 Pac-12) duel the Red Raiders (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) at the National University Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Calif., on Monday.
ASU is still hurting from its 38-14 loss to No. 5 Stanford in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game on Dec. 7. A win would have punched the Sun Devils’ ticket to the 100th Rose Bowl Game, but they will instead play 157 miles south down the I-15 freeway at Qualcomm Stadium.
A victory in San Diego will cap off only the sixth 11-win season in ASU history.
“I’m crushed, but that’s life,” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “You get back up and dust yourself and get at it again.”
It wasn’t a happy ending for the Red Raiders’ regular season, either. Texas Tech stormed out to a 7-0 record to start the season and were ranked 10th when the BCS standings were first released on Oct. 20. The Red Raiders dropped their last five games — all Big 12 matches — and took a free fall out of every poll.
ASU knows it has to watch out for Texas Tech’s “Air Raid” offense, as it ranks second in the nation in passing yards per game (392.0) under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.
“They’re as good as any team we have played offensively,” Graham said. “I think in that their deal is when you look at the film they’ve lost games to teams that are playing in the BCS bowls and some of the best teams in the country.
However, the Red Raiders will be without their starting freshman quarterback and Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, Baker Mayfield, who abruptly announced his intent to transfer out of the program on Dec. 11.
Texas Tech will use either sophomore Michael Brewer or freshman Davis Webb in Mayfield’s place.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if both of them end up playing,” Kingsbury said on Saturday.
ASU is likely headed into Monday’s game with a major hole on offense, as senior running back Marion Grice is doubtful to play in his last game as a Sun Devil. Grice hasn’t played since Nov. 23 at UCLA when he injured his left foot.
Sophomore running back D.J. Foster (left knee) should be ready to go for the game, with redshirt junior running back Deantre Lewis and redshirt junior tight end De’Marieya Nelson backing him up.
Non-BCS bowl games are often approached as a consolation rather than a reward to a long season, but Monday’s match is an opportunity for both teams to redeem themselves after a tough end to their respective seasons.
“This is going to be two really good football teams going at it and that 11th win is very, very important to us and to our program,” Graham said.
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