Down 31, Texas Tech rallies for biggest bowl comeback

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Trailing Minnesota by four touchdowns at halftime, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach told his team it had a chance to make history.

The pep talk turned out to be a prediction.

The Red Raiders spotted Minnesota a 31-point, third-quarter lead, then rallied for a stunning 44-41 overtime victory in the Insight Bowl Friday night, the largest comeback in Division I-A bowl history.

The previous record for a bowl comeback was 30 points, set by Marshall against East Carolina in the 2001 GMAC Bowl.

"We talked at halftime that we had a great opportunity to make history, and the reason people come to Texas Tech is to play all 60 minutes," said Leach, who fought back tears during a postgame interview.

It took Tech more than 60 minutes to earn one of the more improbable victories in its history.

Tech (8-6) appeared finished after Minnesota (6-7) took a 38-7 lead with 7:47 to go in the third quarter. But the Red Raiders mounted a furious comeback, scoring 31 unanswered points in less than 20 minutes.

Alex Trlica's 52-yard field goal as regulation expired sent the game into overtime.

Joel Monroe kicked a 32-yard field goal to put Minnesota up 41-38 in overtime, but Shannon Woods scored on a 3-yard run to win it for the Red Raiders.

That sparked a wild celebration for the Red Raiders, who mobbed each other while the shocked Gophers trudged to the locker room.

"Everyone felt like, 'Hey, we're going to win,'" said Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, who was selected bowl MVP after throwing for 445 yards and two touchdowns. "If you believe, good things can happen."

Tech's comeback began with 4:58 to go in the third quarter, when Harrell hit Phoenix native Joel Filani for a 43-yard score to cut the lead to 38-14. That started an avalanche that buried Minnesota in the first meeting of the schools.

"We're an offense that can score in a hurry, and everyone knows that," Harrell said.

Trailing 38-35 with no timeouts, the Red Raiders took over at their own 11 with 1:06 remaining. Eight plays later, Trlica tied it.

Woods rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns and Filani caught nine passes for 144 yards.

For Minnesota, Amir Pinnix ran for 179 yards, Bryan Cupito threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns and tight end Jack Simmons caught seven passes for 134 yards.

Minnesota set a school bowl scoring record, and Cupito, a senior, tied Asad Abdul-Khaliq's career record of 55 touchdown passes. The records were little consolation in the end.

"We just broke down," Minnesota linebacker Mike Sherels said. "You just kind of got the feeling that we were back on our heels and playing not to lose instead of playing to win."

That's not how the Gophers opened the game. They jumped ahead 7-0 after Leach went for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 45 on the opening series. Harrell was stopped on a sneak, and six plays later Cupito found Simmons for a 2-yard touchdown with 9:27 to go in the first quarter.

Four minutes later, Minnesota made it 14-0 after Sherels intercepted Harrell at Tech's 37. Pinnix capped a six-play drive with a 2-yard run.

Another Harrell turnover killed a Tech scoring drive. He fumbled on a sack by Willie VanDeSteeg, and Steve Davis recovered at the Golden Gophers' 13. Minnesota marched 87 yards -- its longest scoring drive of the year -- to take a 21-0 lead on Justin Valentine's 1-yard plunge on the first play of the second quarter.

Tech had a chance to slice the deficit when cornerback Antonio Huffman picked off Cupito's pass at the Minnesota 20. But Pinnix jarred the ball loose, and it bounded into the end zone, where the Gophers recovered for a touchback.

After Tech's Shannon Woods scored from 1 yard out to make it 28-7, the Gophers answered with an 81-yard drive that ended in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Cupito to Logan Payne in the final minute of the first half.

Minnesota looked as if it ended any Tech hopes for a comeback by opening the third quarter with a 16-play, 78-yard drive that consumed 7:13. Monroe's 20-yard field goal gave the Gophers a 38-7 lead.

"Everything was going our way," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said.

But it turned out to be a mirage.

Afterward, interviewers told Leach that his team had indeed made history. His locker room rhetoric had turned into a record.

"Didn't realize it until the end, but I knew it was kind of a big one," Leach said. "Quite honestly, despite that, I would have liked to have spotted them less points in order to come back from behind to win this thing."