DALLAS -- Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville said he had never been a part of a bowl game like Saturday's TicketCity Bowl, one in which he lost multiple starters for the majority of a 45-38 win over Northwestern.
One of those starters was standout running back Baron Batch, who has carried the Red Raiders' running game throughout the year.
Instead, it was Mansfield's Eric Stephens who led Tech in the inaugural bowl game at the Cotton Bowl.
Stephens, a sophomore, took the majority of the carries in the second half, including an 86-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and finished with 128 yards on 14 carries and one touchdown.
The back's finishing effort in the fourth quarter provided the coaching staff and Stephens himself with a confidence boost after he struggled with fumbles during the season.
"I loved the fact they trusted me to give me the ball despite my fumbling problems in the past," Stephens said. "It made me feel good and got my confidence back."
Stephen's 86-yard touchdown run was the Red Raiders' longest offensive play of the season and the second-longest in a bowl game at the Cotton Bowl, behind the 95-yard touchdown run of Rice's Dicky Moegle in which he was famously tackled by a player who ran off the bench.
"I got it, I was about to cut it back a little early," Stephens said. "I just pressed it and cut back and there was no one near. I just tried not to get caught."
The confidence and experience Stephens gained Saturday will give him good momentum going into the off season and next year, he said. The momentum should help as he moves into a starting role in an offense that Tuberville said will change to encompass a more physical running game.