Despite turning the ball over twice in the fourth quarter, the Texas Tech Red Raiders forced an interception with under a minute remaining that led to the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Gopher quarterback Philip Nelson’s pass tipped off the hands of his receiver and into the hands of Texas Tech senior D.J. Johnson, who returned the ball 39 yards, giving the Red Raiders more than adequate field position for an eventual 28-yard field goal to win the game against the Golden Gophers in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, 34-31.
Minnesota finished the season 6-7 following the bowl loss, but despite being 13-point underdogs going into the game, the Gophers played with fire from the beginning. But even a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter wasn’t enough to hold back another Red Raider bowl comeback against the Gophers.
The Gophers finished their first two positions on offense with a field goal and a touchdown, respectively. They dominated the ground game early and eating up chunks of time on the clock.
But the Red Raiders scored faster than the Gopher defense could get on the field. On the kickoff following a Gopher field goal to put Minnesota up 3-0, freshman Jakeem Grant returned the kick for 99 yards and a score — the longest play in FBS bowl history.
The only punt in the first half was a Minnesota punt in the latter half of the second quarter and it seemed from there that the Gophers would have score on every position, but the defense kept the Red Raiders scoreless in the third quarter while the offense responded with a touchdown.
The fourth quarter saw better defense from both teams including four punts and three interceptions combined.
Gopher senior Michael Carter had two of those interceptions, including his second with seven minutes left.
The momentum seemed to be on the Gophers, but all that was let out after Nelson’s interception. The Red Raiders only needed to gain 11 yards before the game winning kick as time expired went through the uprights.
The game nearly got out of hand for the officials; it was clear from the beginning both teams were playing with conviction. Twenty flags were called for more than 200 yards combined. Texas Tech racked up more than 130 of those yards and also had a player ejected after throwing a punch at a Gopher defender on the ground.
Gopher offensive lineman Zac Epping also contributed to the gripe as officials called him on two consecutive plays for personal fouls. The penalties on that down, in combination to another holding penalty on the same set of downs, pushed it to a 3rd and 49.