(Eds: Retransmits to correct keyword. With AP Photos.)By BETSY BLANEYAssociated Press
Texas Tech is back in a bowl game, a year after the Red Raiders ended a streak of 11-straight postseason appearances.
Texas Tech travels to Houston to take on Minnesota of the Big Ten in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 28. The Red Raiders beat the likes of West Virginia and TCU and doubled their Big 12 win total from last season.
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”We’re excited about being back in a bowl game,” said coach Tommy Tuberville, who is without a winning Big 12 record since coming to Texas Tech in 2010. ”Hopefully, we can play much better than we what we played at the end of the year.”
Minnesota (6-6) and Texas Tech (7-5) played each other in the 2006 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., when the Gophers blew a 31-point lead and lost 44-41 in OT. It was the largest comeback in Division I-A bowl history.
The Red Raiders will need to stem a downward spiral – one that plagued them this year and last. This season, they lost four of their last five games by a combined score of 197-112, and needed two overtimes at home to topple Big 12 cellar dweller Kansas in their lone win down the stretch.
Last season, after starting 5-2 and beating then-No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman to end the Sooners’ 39-game home win streak, the Red Raiders dropped their final five games for Texas Tech’s first losing season in 19 years. The defense was ragged last season, giving up a school-record 471 points. For a second-straight season the Red Raiders defense finished No. 114 in the nation. They were dead last in stopping the run.
That changed this season when the Red Raiders got their fourth defensive coordinator in as many years. Art Kaufman, a longtime friend of Tuberville who coached with him in the Southeastern Conference, took over a year after Chad Glasgow failed to produce.
The unit appeared mentally tougher and more cohesive, and for several weeks early on Texas Tech was ranked in the top five in the nation in total defense. The Red Raiders are currently 39th in the nation (367 yards per game) and 74th against the rush (171 ypg).
Like last season, injuries have taken their toll, especially at receiver. The Red Raiders have played several games without Javon Bell, Bradley Marquez and Jace Amaro. Before their injuries – specific information on Amaro’s injury hasn’t been released, Bell broke a foot in practice and Marquez hurt his knee – all were productive behind quarterback Seth Doege, who has thrown for 3,934 yards and 38 touchdowns this season.
He’s leading the 12th best offense (501.42 ypg) in the country and averaged 328 passing yards.
Alex Torres did not play in the last two games because of a back injury.
”Hopefully, we’ll get back one, maybe two,” Tuberville said.
Though Minnesota lost three of its last four games and finished tied for last in the Legends Division with Iowa, reaching a bowl will give the rebuilding Gophers 15 extra practices to work with their younger players.
The Gophers will be seeking their first bowl win since they beat Alabama 20-16 in the 2004 Music City Bowl.
For Minnesota, a victory would be its seventh on the season – one more than it was able to rack up in 2010 and 2011 combined.
”We’ve been through some hard times,” Minnesota senior defensive back Troy Stoudermire said. ”Coach Kill did a great job getting us back bowl eligible.”
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.