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CFN Meineke Analysis - Texas Tech 34, Minn 31

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 29, 2012


CFN's thoughts and analysis on Texas Tech's comeback to beat the Gophers.

Depending on which side you’re on, either Texas Tech pulled off a phenomenal rally, or Minnesota gagged away a bowl victory. The Red Raiders’ D.J. Johnson came up with a pick in the final minute, returning it 41 yards to the Gopher 22 to set up a Ryan Bustin 28-yard game-winning field goal. Before Minnesota’s ill-advised throw that led to the pick, Tech tied the game with just over a minute to play with a terrific seven play drive that went 82 yards, closed out by a 35-yard touchdown pass from Seth Doege to Eric Ward. It was Doege’s only scoring throw of the day, but he ran for a touchdown and threw for 271 yards. The Gophers ground away with the running attack throughout the game blasting away for 222 yards, and got two touchdown passes from Philip Nelson in the second half, but they gave up too many big plays with Tech’s Jakeem Grant returning a kickoff 99 yards for a score and the defense allowing six yards per run. While it was an entertaining game, it was also a chippy one with plenty of after-the-whistle penalties, an ejection for a punch and 20 combined penalties.

Texas Tech: 13 penalties for 135 yards … Seth Doege completed 31-of-45 passes for 271 yards and a score with two picks, and he ran for 20 yards and a touchdown. … WR Darrin Moore made 11 catches for 84 yards. … The offense converted 8-of-14 third down plays. … S D.J. Johnson made a game-leading 14 tackles with the pick and 39-yard return that led to the game-winning score. … DE Dartwan Bush made 11 tackles with half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Minnesota: The Gophers held on to the ball for 36:18. … Philip Nelson completed 7-of-18 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns with one bad pick, while MarQueis Gray completed one pass for eight yards and ran 11 times for 59 yards. … Donnell Kirkwood ran 19 times for 77 yards and a score. … WR Derrick Engel caught four passes for 108 yards. … CB Michael Carter made seven tackles with two picks.

Richard Cirminiello

Brutal loss for Minnesota in a game that it clearly played well enough to win. No moral victory here for Jerry Kill’s kids, who were nearly two-touchdown underdogs; blowing a lead in the final minutes is going to sting for a while in the Twin Cities.

Gophers fans ought to be cautiously optimistic about the future now that rookie QB Phillip Nelson has a full season of action behind him. Save for the late pick on a forced throw, the local kid from Mankato, Minn. did not carry himself this evening like a teen that was still in high school a year ago.

The Red Raiders comeback will end up being a gift for incoming head coach Kliff Kingsbury. He now inherits a team that’ll have a tailwind heading into spring ball, courtesy of the Meineke Car Care Bowl hardware in the trophy case.

Another exciting finish in a bowl game involving Texas Tech and Minnesota. Somewhere in there is a line about Tommy Tuberville missing the ending after bolting his living room at halftime.

Gutsy effort by Texas Tech QB Seth Doege. It was not the senior’s best night, but he found a way to lead his team to a victory, the sign of a leader and a veteran who’s earned the respect of his teammates.

Underrated performance from a Minnesota D that overachieved for much of the season. Minus any household names, the Gophers shut down Texas Tech for most of the second half. Coordinator Tracy Claeys quietly earned a pay raise in his second year on Jerry Kill’s staff.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

1) Don't make the scoreboard outcome deceive you. Texas Tech should go ahead and celebrate, but let's not allow Friday night's events in Houston to suggest that the Big 12 helped itself here. The Big 12 had a lot of teams in 2012 that won more games than they lost. The league was and is the deepest in the country. Only one team (Kansas) failed to make a bowl. However, only two Big 12 teams – Kansas State and (marginally) Oklahoma – displayed any sustained degree of upper-tier quality in 2012. This was a weak league that had a much better season in 2011, when Baylor was better and Oklahoma was a third-place team; when Texas could play defense and Kansas State re-established itself; when Missouri won eight games and Oklahoma State went 12-1.

Records can always be deceiving; yes, on one hand, few Big 12 teams won 10 games because the nine-game conference schedule led many league schools to beat each other up. Then again, Kansas State was the only team that left a lasting mark of excellence for most of the season. Do make the argument that the Big 12 had more tolerable teams – and fewer horrendous teams – than other power conferences. Don't say that the Big 12's depth was particularly imposing or overwhelming. You get to make some arguments, but not others, when debating conference strength at the end of each college football season.

2) Duke and Rutgers, save some stomach-punch leftovers for Minnesota. The Golden Gophers – like the Blue Devils and Scarlet Knights – were better prepared than their opponent this bowl season. They competed with great commitment and passion… and lost their nerve at crunch time. Amplifying what was said about Duke after the Belk Bowl, Minnesota once again shows that misfortune sometimes finds the same victim over the course of many decades. The Golden Gophers were a national powerhouse through the early 1960s, but over the past 50 years, Minnesota's football history has been defined by shattering events, and little else.

3) Kliff Kingsbury, if you turn Texas Tech into a renewed version of Mike Leach's 2008 squad, you will have done one remarkable job in Lubbock. You have so much work to do right now. Drink that coffee in 2013… you're going to be spending many a late night in your office.

4) Minnesota was an "almost" program under Glen Mason. This game – especially the way Jerry Kill's staff prepared for it – suggests that the Golden Gophers are on the way up. Only time will tell if Texas Tech's massively disorganized (lack of a) coaching situation was the biggest reason this game was so close. Nevertheless, Gopher fans have much more reason to be encouraged than they did before this game began.

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

For the second night in a row, a Big 12 team made a statement on defense. Who would have thought that the Texas Tech D, which ranked 106th nationally in turnover margin, would end up making the difference in this contest?

People will undoubtedly question why Jerry Kill was throwing deep with a true freshman under center and less than a minute to play. However, Kill did the right thing by playing to win the game in regulation. After all, there was no guarantee that the Gophers would have won the game in OT, since the Red Raider defense dominated the fourth quarter, allowing only two first downs.

Yes, Seth Doege has what it takes to play QB at the next level. Sure, he threw two picks in the fourth quarter, but like all great signal callers, he took his play to another level with the game on the line. In Tech's final two drives, Doege went 7-for-8 for 98 yards and a TD. Every NFL team needs a field general that can run the four-minute offense with that type of precision.

While tonight's loss will sting throughout the offseason, Minnesota football is heading in the right direction. The Golden Gophers doubled their win total from a year ago, and have improved by leaps and bounds since Kill arrived on campus. With a talented crop of players returning, including QB Phillip Nelson, look for UM to return to a bowl again next season.