Texas Tech football classics: Red Raiders complete record comeback vs. Minnesota

Quarterback Graham Harrell #6 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders drops back to pass. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Quarterback Graham Harrell #6 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders drops back to pass. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

In 2006, the Texas Tech football team pulled off the largest comeback in bowl history by rallying from a 31-point deficit to stun Minnesota.  Let’s look back at just how the Red Raiders managed to do what looked to be impossible at halftime.

One of the most common complaints voiced by Texas Tech football fans about the Kliff Kingsbury era was that Tech struggled to come up with wins when trailing at halftime.  Perhaps we took for granted how difficult such a task can be because of the memorable comebacks we were witness to during the Mike Leach era.

The most improbable of those came in the 2006 Insight Bowl when the Red Raiders rallied from a 38-7 third-quarter deficit to stun Minnesota 44-41 in overtime.  At the time, it was the largest comeback in bowl history and it was the program’s first-ever win over a Big 10 opponent.

The Red Raiders entered the game with a 7-5 record behind sophomore QB Graham Harrell, a first-year starter.  He had led his team to wins over SMU, UTEP, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas A&M, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State while dropping games at TCU, Missouri, Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, the Gophers came in at 6-6 overall and 3-5 in Big 10 play.  But after a 2-5 start, Glen Mason’s team ended the season 4-1 in their last five games with their only loss being at No 1. Ohio State.

This was truly a contrast in styles as Tech’s vaunted “Air Raid” spread attack was pitted against Minnesota’s two tight end power running attack.  And by the time the game was over, something else about the two programs was in direct contrast, their future.

The win sent Tech into 2007 with considerable momentum with Harrell set to return for his second season at the helm of the offense.  Meanwhile, Minnesota fired Mason following the game and this loss seemed to be what ultimately did him in.

"“I think if we had not lost the way that we lost, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” Minnesota AD Joel Maturi said at the press conference to announce Mason’s dismissal."

The collapse was the final painful chapter in Mason’s 10-year run with the Golden Gophers.  Though he had a winning record (123-121) and had reached seven bowl games, he managed to go just 32-48 in conference play.

Meanwhile, the win pushed Leach to 4-3 in bowl games, two more than any other coach in Tech history has ever brought home.  He would finish his career with five bowl wins in nine games (while his 2009 team also won the Alamo Bowl, he is not credited with the win because he was suspended by the university before the game).

Interestingly, the Red Raiders and Gophers would meet again in a bowl game six years later when Tech prevailed 34-31 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston.  That night, Tech also had to rally in the 4th-quarter by scoring the final ten points of the game.

But nothing will ever come close to the comeback that the Red Raiders pulled off in 2006 in Tempe, Arizona.  So let’s take a closer look at one of the most unbelievable games in program history.