Texas Tech will be Navy's opponent in Houston

Mids' vaunted run pitted vs. Red Raiders' passing

College Football

December 08, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Houston Bowl was guaranteed a classic run vs. pass matchup yesterday when Texas Tech accepted an invitation to play Navy on Dec. 30 at Reliant Stadium.

In an intriguing pairing, the Midshipmen will match their old-school, No. 1-ranked rushing attack against Texas Tech's new-wave, No. 1-ranked passing game triggered by quarterback B.J. Symons.

"It will be a tremendous challenge to play Texas Tech," said Navy coach Paul Johnson, the day after his team methodically romped past rival Army, 34-6, to finish the regular season at 8-4. "They traditionally have one of the best offenses in the country, and they have a ton of great athletes."

"It will be a great honor to play a Big 12 opponent, especially one as explosive as Texas Tech," quarterback Craig Candeto said. "It will be a big challenge for us to play a team from a BCS conference."

Texas Tech (7-5) won five of its first six games but finished with losses to Big 12 powers Texas, 43-40, and Oklahoma, 56-25.

Red Raiders quarterback Symons has broken the single-season NCAA passing record - held by Brigham Young's Ty Detmer - this year with 5,336 yards and was awarded the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation's top college passer.

Five different receivers have caught at least 68 passes for Texas Tech, with Wes Welker the leader with 90 receptions. Taurean Henderson has paced the Red Raiders' ground game with 693 yards rushing.

Defense has been the Achilles' heel for Texas Tech, but there is a legitimate star on that side of the ball in lineman Adell Duckett, whose 23 tackles for losses include 14 sacks.

"Tech was our first choice for the Big 12 representative," said Jerry Ippoliti, president and chief executive officer of the bowl. "This could be our most exciting game ever."

The game will be played at the home of the NFL's Houston Texans and site of Super Bowl XXXVIII in February.

Navy features Candeto and the bruising running of fullback Kyle Eckel, both of whom have rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season. Johnson is a candidate for national Coach of the Year after taking a program that went 3-30 the past three seasons to a winning record and a bowl game.

The Midshipmen are averaging 31.8 points a game while Texas Tech - which has lost its past four bowl appearances - is at 42.8, third nationally.

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