Minnesota-Texas Tech Preview

The last thing Texas Tech expected to be doing as college

football’s coaching carousel began to spin was hopping on board to

hire someone itself.

In the end, the Red Raiders wound up with a rather familiar

face.

Former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury will take over the

program as one of the youngest head coaches in the FBS, but first

interim coach Chris Thomsen will try to lead the Red Raiders past

Minnesota on Friday night in the Meineke Car Care Bowl at Houston’s

Reliant Stadium.

Tommy Tuberville never quite clicked in his three seasons in

Lubbock, but it was still a shock when the former Auburn coach

suddenly announced Dec. 8 that he was leaving Texas Tech (7-5) to

go to Cincinnati.

Athletics director Kirby Hocutt named Thomsen, who had been in

charge of the offensive line, as the team’s interim coach two days

later, and two days after that he found a new coach. Hocutt

announced the decision to bring Kingsbury back to the program he

starred for from 1999-2002 with a video message on Twitter.

Perhaps it was a fitting way to introduce the 33-year-old, who

becomes the second-youngest coach in FBS behind Toledo’s Matt

Campbell.

“It’s just been a whirlwind but I couldn’t be happier, beyond

ecstatic to be back. It feels like home,” Kingsbury said. “This is

where I wanted to be, it’s where I’ve wanted to be.”

Thomsen will still coach the bowl game, and he’ll have another

former Red Raider quarterback – Sonny Cumbie – call plays against

the Gophers. But Texas Tech fans should be intrigued with

Kingsbury’s arrival for one big reason – he spent 2012 as the

offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas A&M,

where he tutored Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

Minnesota (6-6) is still hoping Jerry Kill is the best fit for a

program that’s looking for its first bowl win since after the 2004

season, and it’s at least taken a step in the right direction by

making its first postseason appearance since 2009 after going 3-9

in Kill’s first season.

“We’ve been through some hard times,” senior defensive back Troy

Stoudermire said. “Coach Kill did a great job getting us back bowl

eligible.”

Still, the Gophers went 2-6 in the Big Ten after opening with

four non-conference wins. Only in a 44-28 victory over Purdue on

Oct. 27 did Minnesota score more than 17 points in a conference

game.

The personnel and coaching staffs of the Red Raiders and Golden

Gophers have certainly changed since these teams met in the 2006

Insight Bowl, but their records are the same and the Meineke Car

Care Bowl has to be hoping they get a show as good as the one those

teams put on in Tempe.

The Golden Gophers held a 38-7 third-quarter lead before

allowing the Red Raiders to rally and win 44-41 in overtime,

surpassing Marshall’s 30-point comeback in the 2001 GMAC Bowl as

the biggest in Division I history.

Texas Tech’s offense, as usual, is among the nation’s best. The

Red Raiders are second in the nation in passing yards (361.9 per

game), 12th in total yards (501.4) and 16th in points (37.8) led by

senior quarterback Seth Doege, who finished second in the FBS with

38 touchdowns.

Perhaps the toughest thing to maintain without Tuberville will

be the success of the defense, which made major strides in 2012.

Texas Tech was tied for 114th in the nation in total defense (485.6

yards) in 2011 but was 39th (367.3) – and second in the Big 12 –

this season.

That improvement didn’t turn out to mean much, though. The Red

Raiders only forced 10 turnovers – third-worst in the FBS – and

didn’t have one in their final five games.

They also allowed at least 52 points in four of their last

six.

“I feel like all the losses we took this year, the tough losses,

we never got down,” said receiver Darrin Moore, who finished tied

for fourth in the nation with 13 touchdowns. “We came back the next

day ready to work. We never held our heads low. We came back and we

got right back at it.”

Texas Tech might not have to worry about scoring enough to keep

up with the Golden Gophers. Minnesota’s offense is 114th in the

nation, averaging 317.5 total yards, and it’ll no longer have its

top target in the passing game.

Junior receiver A.J. Barker, who had a team-high 577 yards and

seven TDs, abruptly quit the team in November amid allegations of

mistreatment by Kill.

Barker isn’t the only one who won’t be back. Sophomore

quarterback Max Shortell, who lost his job to freshman Philip

Nelson on Oct. 20, will also head elsewhere.

Those are minor issues in the grand scheme of things for Kill,

who experienced his third game-day seizure in his first two seasons

at Minnesota in a 26-10 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 24.

Kill walked out of the stadium and has recovered after missing

the second half of that game, and he intends to be on the sidelines

in Houston.

The last four Meineke Car Care Bowls have been decided by an

average of 20.3 points.

Three Texas Tech players – defensive back Cornelius Douglas,

linebacker Chris Payne and defensive tackle Leon Mackey – were

suspended for the game this week because they violated team

rules.