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) /

The Red Raiders outscore Minnesota 31-3 in the second half

Though Tech outscored the Gophers by 28 points in the second half to force overtime, the third quarter began with Minnesota grinding out a 16-play drive that took 7:13 off the clock and led to a field goal that extended the lead to 38-7.

But then, the game shifted with two subtle but critical strategic changes.  First, when Harrell and the Red Raider offense went to work, Minnesota stopped bringing pressure the way it had in the first half.

Going to a 3-man line and dropping its linebackers into coverage, Minnesota allowed the Tech offense, which had struggled to handle the Gopher’s blitz package, to find its rhythm.  And as we all know, once a Mike Leach offense finds its rhythm, it is virtually unstoppable.

Harrell led his team to four-straight touchdowns to open the half.  He hit Joel Filani for a 43-yard touchdown on the Red Raiders’ first possession to start the comeback.  Still, the 4th-quarter began with Tech trailing 38-14.

After the Gophers’ first punt of the game, Harrell led his team on an 11-play, 61-yard drive that culminated in a 6-yard Robert Johnson touchdown pass.  On the next possession, Harrell scored on a QB sneak from the 1-yard-line to cut the deficit to just 10 points.

Another UM punt led to a 9-play 56-yard drive that ended with a Shannon Woods’ 1-yard touchdown run and Tech was down only 38-35 with 2:39 to play.  The defense forced a punt and Tech regained possession at the 12-yard-line with just 1:06 to play.

Harrell drove the Raiders 53 yards in eight plays but with just five seconds to play, the Red Raiders had to turn to Alex Trlica, who knocked home a career-long 52-yard field goal to tie the game. In overtime, the Red Raiders held Minnesota to a FG before Woods scored from 3 yards out to give Tech its first lead of the game and seal the comeback.

While the Minnesota defense did itself no favors by playing a soft zone, the offense also went into a shell and ran the ball on virtually every down that was not third-and-long.  After carrying the ball 17 times in the first half, Pinnix amassed 17 more carries in the second half but he amassed just  38 yards.

Tech’s key strategic decision, the other move that changed the game, was to bring strong safety Darcel McBath into the box and play a nine-man front to take away the ground game.  But what was surprising is that Minnesota stopped going to the play-action pass, which killed Tech in the first half.  Simmons had only two receptions for 33 yards after the break, which was indicative of how the entire offense went into a shell.

The Gophers learned the hard way that when facing a Mike Leach offense, the worst tactic is to play it safe.  By taking the air out of the ball on offense and calling off the dogs on defense, Minnesota allowed Tech to gain its footing and it ultimately cost them the game and their head coach his job.