DALLAS – Taylor Potts threw four touchdown passes and scored another on a trick play, and Eric Stephens ran 86 yards for a TD to carry Texas Tech to a 45-38 victory over Northwestern in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl.
The Red Raiders (8-5) led by 22 points early in the second half, then had to sweat it out.
The Wildcats (7-6) got within a touchdown twice in the fourth quarter, with freshmen quarterbacks Evan Watkins and Kain Colter combining to lead three straight touchdown drives and Jordan Maybin returning an interception 39 yards for a score with 5:37 left.
The game wasn't decided until the final play, a heave by Watkins that was intercepted.
Northwestern remains winless in a bowl since 1949. The Wildcats have lost eight in a row, including three straight close ones.
The game was played at the Cotton Bowl, site of more bowl games than any stadium but the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The building was empty last bowl season because the namesake game moved to Cowboys Stadium. Attendance was announced as 40,121, well under half of capacity; the actual crowd was several thousand less. Not even a game sponsored by a ticket-seller could lure folks other than fans of both schools to an 11 a.m. kickoff on a windy New Year's morning with temperatures in the 30s.
It turned out to be quite a contest — 927 yards of total offense and an inspired comeback by the Wildcats.
There were all sorts of oddities and game-changing plays, from a flubbed hold on an extra-point kick to Tech coach Tommy Tuberville trying an onside kick while leading 38-17 late in the third quarter. Soon, Northwestern was within 38-31.
Potts held them off, though, going 43 of 56 for 369 yards. He ran twice for 19 yards, 13 coming when he threw the ball to Austin Zouzalik on the right side of the field and Zouzalik threw it back to him. Potts scored easily behind a convoy of blockers. The throwback was ruled a lateral, so it went down as a rushing play.
Stephens became Tech's main running back because of an injury to Baron Batch. He ran 14 times for 128 yards.
His big play was the second-longest in a bowl game at this stadium, topped only by the 95-yarder in the 1954 Cotton Bowl that was awarded when Alabama's Tommy Lewis came off the bench to tackle Rice's Dickie Maegle.
Stephens also contributed to the dramatic finish by failing to gain enough first downs to let Tech run out the clock.
Lyle Leong caught 10 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Watkins, a redshirt freshman who took over when Dan Persa tore an Achilles' tendon in mid-November, was 10 of 21 for 76 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a 13 yards and a touchdown.
Colter, his smaller, speedy substitute, ran 18 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw for 36 yards.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Northwestern safety Hunter Bates — son of former Dallas Cowboys standout Bill Bates — broke a leg and had to be carted off the field.
Northwestern scored its most points of the season against a Tech defense run by line coach Sam McElroy. He took over following the departure of coordinator James Willis earlier this week. His unit was solid in the first half, then gave up scores on the first four drives it faced in the second half.