Houston, TX – Ryan Bustin buried a 28-yard field goal as time expired, lifting Texas Tech to a 34-31 triumph over Minnesota on Friday in the Meineke Car Care Bowl at Reliant Stadium.
Seth Doege finished 31-of-45 for 271 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, while also rushing for 20 yards and a score on five carries for the Red Raiders (8-5), who were coached by offensive line coach Chris Thomsen after former head coach Tommy Tuberville decided to leave the school earlier this month to become the new head coach at Cincinnati.
"Seth Doege is one of those guys," Thomsen remarked of his senior quarterback. "He struggled at times tonight, but just like he has his whole career, he just kept battling back and got us back in the game."
Darrin Moore caught 11 passes for 84 yards, while Eric Ward added seven catches for 79 yards and a score in the victory.
Donnell Kirkwood rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and Rodrick Williams Jr. added 60 yards and a score on 12 carries for the Golden Gophers (6-7), who wrapped up their season with three straight losses.
Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson finished 7-of-18 passing for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but threw a game-changing interception with less than a minute left to set up Bustin's game-winning kick.
Nelson's 1-yard touchdown toss to Drew Goodger early in the fourth gave the Gophers a 31-24 edge less than two minutes into the frame.
Texas Tech went three-and-out on its ensuing touch before Doege was picked off on consecutive possessions to keep the Red Raiders behind by seven.
Minnesota, though, couldn't capitalize on either turnover, giving Texas Tech one final possession with 3:24 on the clock.
Starting from his own 18-yard line, Doege completed four straight passes, including a 15-yard toss to Moore down to the Minnesota 41.
Facing 3rd-and-4 three plays later, Doege found Ward on a slant and the wideout did the rest, as he ran untouched into the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown to knot the game at 31-31 with 1:10 left on the clock.
Rather than take a knee and send the game to overtime, Minnesota tried to make its way into field goal range, but Nelson's third-down pass was tipped and landed in the arms of Texas Tech cornerback D.J. Johnson, who returned it 39 yards down the right sideline to the Minnesota 22.
After two straight gains moved the ball to the Minnesota 11, the Red Raiders called a timeout with two seconds remaining to set up Bustin's game-winning kick.
"I think we did everything we could to win the game we just didn't make a play," Minnesota coach Jerry Kill admitted.
Early on, Minnesota got a 41-yard field goal from Jordan Wettstein on its first touch of the game, but Jakeem Grant returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a score to make it 7-3 with 8:17 left in the first.
Minnesota answered with a 6-play, 67-yard scoring march, as a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone set up Williams' 2-yard TD surge to put Minnesota back in front, 10-7, just over 2 1/2 minutes later.
The Red Raiders responded with a 6-play scoring drive of their own, as backup quarterback Michael Brewer, who replaced Doege after the starter's helmet was knocked off on the previous play, found Derreck Edwards for a 13-yard touchdown to make it a 14-10 game with just over four minutes left in the first.
Kirkwood capped a 9-play, 48-yard scoring drive early in the second, as he surged through the line and into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown to restore Minnesota's three-point edge just over 30 seconds into the second.
Texas Tech had a 1st-and-goal from the Minnesota two on its next touch following a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone, but a pair of penalties handcuffed the drive and the Red Raiders were forced to settle for Bustin's 28-yarder to knot the game at 17-17 with 8:36 left.
After a Minnesota punt, Doege led the Red Raiders on a late scoring drive, as he converted a 3rd-and-2 with a 5-yard toss to Moore down to the Minnesota 4 before the Texas Tech signal-caller evaded a tackler a leaped into the end zone for a 4-yard TD to send the Red Raiders into the locker room holding a 24-17 advantage.
Texas Tech went three-and-out to start the second half before Nelson capped a 6-play, 53-yard scoring drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Devin Crawford- Tufts to tie the game at 24-24 just under three minutes into the third.
The Red Raiders looked poised to push ahead late in the frame, but Grant's apparent touchdown was reviewed and video replay showed he fumbled just short of the goal line.
Texas Tech maintained possession, but tight end Jace Amaro was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the aftermath of the apparent touchdown, turning a 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line into a 3rd-and-goal from the 16.
The Red Raiders then lined up for a field goal following a false start penalty, but Bustin's 38-yard attempt was blocked to give the ball back to Minnesota late in the third.
Minnesota return man Troy Stoudermire (3,615) returned the opening kick 26 yards to set an NCCA record for career return yards, surpassing Houston's Tyron Carrier's mark of 3,517 yards from 2008-11 ... Amaro was ejected for punching a Minnesota player during a scrum late in the third ...Minnesota has lost its last five bowl game appearances ... Former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury will take over head coaching duties for the Red Raiders ... These two teams met in the 2006 Insight Bowl, with the Red Raiders rallying from 34 points behind to earn a 44-41 victory. It still stands as the largest come from behind win in a bowl game in NCAA history.