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Texas Tech's TD machine

Raiders' Crabtree is catching passes at a record rate

Posted: Thursday October 11, 2007 11:06AM; Updated: Thursday October 11, 2007 7:24PM
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Saying Texas Tech's offense enjoys throwing the ball is like saying Lubbock, Texas, is a little proud of native son Buddy Holly, who is honored with a statue, a park bearing his name and a walk of fame.

In eight seasons under coach Mike Leach, the Red Raiders have thrown the ball an average of 53 times a game and have set or tied 27 NCAA team and individual records. But never has anyone broken a season record in this high-octane offense quite as quickly as Michael Crabtree.

While Florida's Jabar Gaffney needed 12 games to set the NCAA record for touchdown receptions by a freshman (14) in 2000, it took Mike Williams 13 games in '02 and Hawaii's Davone Bess 11 games in '05 to tie it. But Crabtree, who hauled in his 15th TD of the season last Saturday -- a 32-yarder against Iowa State - needed just six games to break the record.

"He's really special, there's no question about it," said Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell. "He's putting up huge numbers and making lots of plays. I knew since the first time he came on campus that this kid was different and he was really going to be a good player for us and couldn't wait to throw him the ball."

It may not be the only mark the redshirt freshman rewrites. With 17 touchdowns, he's already on pace to break Jerry Rice and Troy Edwards' Division I TD record (27). Crabtree also leads the nation in receptions (70), receiving yards (1,074) and yards per game (179). He could challenge the records of 215.7 yards per game and 2,157 receiving yards set by Westminster's Scott Pingle and the 142-catch mark set by Houston's Manny Hazard.

Not bad for a guy who had never played wide receiver in a game before this season.

The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder was a high school quarterback, throwing for 11 touchdowns and running for five more as a senior at Dallas Carter. It's an experience that has proved helpful in Crabtree putting himself in position to make plays.

If not for a delay in Crabtree being ruled eligible to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse, Harrell would have been throwing to him last season. Crabtree was forced to redshirt and he and Harrell worked together privately and have become close on and off the field. "We call each other 'brothers,' " Crabtree said.

During that redshirt season he also picked the brains of all-Big 12 receivers Joel Filani and Jarrett Hicks, who along with Robert Johnson, combined for 205 receptions in 2006, and the confident Crabtree saw what it took to be effective in Leach's offense.

"I seen 'em, I talked to 'em every day," Crabtree said. "Basically, I just put them all together and just made one person."

Crabtree opened his Red Raiders career with 12 catches for a season-low 106 yards and three touchdowns against SMU and had a season-best 244 yards to go along with three scores against Rice in Week 3. He finished his milestone day against Iowa State last Saturday with 10 receptions for 154 yards and three TDs, marking his fifth three-touchdown game of the season.

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