Capitals

Texas Tech rallies to beat Minnesota 34-31

201212282157790681502-p2.jpeg

Texas Tech rallies to beat Minnesota 34-31

HOUSTON (AP) Texas Tech has had a difficult month since coach Tommy Tuberville left abruptly for the job at Cincinnati.

The struggles continued on Friday night, and the Red Raiders trailed Minnesota by a touchdown with just more than a minute left in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

That was when seniors D.J. Johnson and Seth Doege came through with big plays to help Texas Tech to a 34-31 win.

After Doege connected with Eric Ward on a 35-yard scoring play to pull the Red Raiders even at 31 with just more than a minute remaining, Johnson returned an interception 39 yards and Ryan Bustin made a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give the Red Raiders the win.

``We've overcome a lot of adversity,'' Johnson said. ``To end my last play like that is a blessing.''

Michael Carter intercepted two of Doege's passes in the fourth quarter before the tying score, but Minnesota couldn't convert either of the turnovers into points.

``Things weren't always going our way ... but we kept fighting and put ourselves in a position to win the game,'' Doege said.

The Red Raiders (8-5) got their third straight bowl victory to end their trying season on a high note.

Texas Tech has hired Kliff Kingsbury to replace Tuberville, but interim coach Chris Thomsen led the team against Minnesota (6-7). Kingsbury was at the game, watching from a suite.

Doege threw for 271 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score in front of a crowd that included 1977 Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell and former Tech coach Spike Dykes.

``More than anything I credit those players,'' Thomsen said of Johnson and Doege. ``They really held it together ... to get to make those plays after they struggled. They kept their poise and confidence and continued to stay in there and battle.''

Philip Nelson threw for 138 yards and two scores for the Gophers, who were in a bowl game for the first time since 2009.

``I think our kids played hard tonight; they played their guts out, and I appreciate that,'' Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. ``We just couldn't make a play at a critical time.''

The Red Raiders returned to a bowl after having their 18-season bowl streak snapped last year.

A 1-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Drew Goodger gave Minnesota a 31-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Texas Tech led 24-17 at halftime, but couldn't do anything offensively in the second half until the last couple of minutes. It was an ugly game for the Red Raiders, who had 13 penalties for 135 yards and lost the tight end Jace Amaro when he was ejected for throwing a punch.

Jakeem Grant ran for what was initially ruled a touchdown for Tech late in the third quarter. Amaro threw a punch at Derrick Wells in the end zone on the play and was ejected.

After the penalty, the play was reviewed and overturned. Doege threw an incomplete pass before Tech made a 32-yard field goal. But the Red Raiders had a false start penalty on the play and had to kick again and this time the Gophers blocked it.

Nelson threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Devin Crawford-Tufts, who was left uncovered in the end zone, to tie it 24-all early in the third quarter.

Donnell Kirkwood scored on a 3-yard run to leave Minnesota up 17-14 early in the second quarter.

Texas Tech had a first-and-goal at the Minnesota 2 after a pass-interference call on the Gophers. But Texas Tech had to settle for a field goal after a rush for a 3-yard loss and two penalties.

Minnesota's next drive started out well before turning ugly. The Gophers had made two first downs before MarQueis Gray was sacked for a loss of 7 yards. Kirkwood ran for 17 yards on the next play, but Minnesota received two 15-yard penalties on the play, one for a personal foul on lineman Zac Epping, to make it second-and-42. Epping received a second personal foul penalty on the next play to bring up third-and-49.

``We just made some errors that I wish we hadn't made,'' Kill said.

Christian Eldred shanked the punt, giving Texas Tech the ball at the Minnesota 42.

The Red Raiders capitalized on their great field position when Doege spun away from a defender in the backfield and leaped over another Gopher near the goal line on a 4-yard touchdown run. Tech converted a fourth-and-6 play on that drive, and led 24-17 at halftime.

Minnesota's Rodrick Williams Jr. scored on a 2-yard run to give the Gophers a 10-7 lead in the first quarter.

Doege lost his helmet on a 5-yard scramble on Tech's next drive and had to go out for one play. He was replaced by Michael Brewer, who found Derreck Edwards for a 13-yard touchdown pass to give the Red Raiders a 14-10 lead.

Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire returned the opening kickoff 26 yards to break the NCAA record for career kickoff return yards. He finished the game with 111 yards to push his total to 3,615.

The Gophers ended that drive with a 41-yard field goal to make it 3-0.

Texas Tech's Grant returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to put Texas Tech up 7-3.

Quick Links

Vitek Vanecek will play in NHL's round robin, but Capitals' Stanley Cup hopes rest with Braden Holtby

Vitek Vanecek will play in NHL's round robin, but Capitals' Stanley Cup hopes rest with Braden Holtby

Brought up to replace the injured Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek's first taste of NHL hockey will come inside the bubble in Toronto. Not exactly the best of circumstances. 

But Vanecek plays an important role on a Capitals team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Should Braden Holtby struggle or get hurt during the playoffs, Washington will need its young back-up goalie to keep their team afloat and let his talented skaters take it from there.

That's why NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May, during an appearance with The Sports Junkies Tuesday, looks forward to seeing Vanecek play a little bit in the round-robin portion of the NHL restart. Ideally, though, it stops there.

"[Vanecek] probably will get one of these games, [the Capitals] said that from the start," May said. "But I hope he doesn't play once they get to the playoff rounds. I think it would be wise to play him in [round robin] games, it's not the end of the world what the seeding is in this. He's a good size goaltender, I think he's about 6'2, and with the training that he's had, he's worked on the fundamentals of his game, he's gotten his conditioning up. He looks very similar to Holtby in net, He's gotten a lot of good reps in American Hockey [League] just like Holtby did around the same age."

And what's the reason why no Caps fan should want to see Vanecek in the postseason? It's simple really. Because this team's best chance at another title revolves around Holtby being a steady and stifling presence between the pipes throughout the playoffs. 

RELATED: PHYSICALITY THE KEY FOR CAPITALS IN PLAYOFFS

"I think the big thing with this is you really don't want to see [Vanecek] in the net after the round robin," he said. "If they're going to win this thing, it's gonna have to be Braden Holtby getting 16 wins. To me, the most important thing is that Holtby plays in the playoffs, the guy's dynamite, no leaky goals out of him."

This could be Holtby's last playoff run with the Capitals as he enters a contract year. The Caps already committed long term money to Nicklas Backstrom this season, they have an Alex Ovechkin extension to worry about and the flat salary cap certainly won't do them any favors either. Not to mention the presence of Samsonov after a stellar rookie season. 

So if this is it, if this is Holtby's last dance in Washington, he at least looks ready to play his best hockey when it matters most.  

"He looks focused and dialed in, and he wants to make sure if he's going out and won't be a Capital anymore he wants to go home with a victory in his last game."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

Positive reports about Alex Smith's early training camp performance came out over the weekend, and on a Tuesday morning Zoom call with the media, Ron Rivera echoed those reviews.

"He's looked good, he really has," the head coach said. "I'll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see how far along he is. It's been exciting to watch his progression."

According to Rivera, Smith has been working off to the side with Washington Football Team trainers at the Ashburn facility and is mirroring what Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen are doing, too. Coordinator Scott Turner and QBs coach Ken Zampese are apparently involving Smith as much as they can, and Smith is looking "very fluid" so far.

"It's a tribute to who he is, it's a tribute to his trainers and his doctors who have helped him get where he is today," Rivera said.

That all, of course, is wildly encouraging. The fact that the 36-year-old is in a place where he can check off those boxes and do those activities is astounding. That can't be pointed out enough, either.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

Yet it's also fair to note just how different mimicking a starting signal caller and actually serving as the starting signal caller are. So, is there any real chance of Smith transitioning from that first phase to the second before the season? 

With what he's seen from the veteran so far, Rivera certainly believes there is.

"I can envision it," he said. "The big thing is if he can do the things that we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the football field, he'll be part of the conversation most definitely. He did some really good things last week. He went through all four workout days, had no residual effect the next morning, which is always important because the next day usually tells.

"We'll see how he is this week and we'll go from there."

As Smith continues to rehab and try to make his way off PUP, the challenges are solely physical. Rivera is not worried at all about the veteran having to adjust to a new scheme or dealing with any other mental task; instead, the primary concern is ensuring that Smith can handle the contact that'll come if he makes it back into live action.

"I believe he already knows probably 75-percent of our playbook," Rivera said. "So for him, it's really just a matter of can he do the movements he needs to do? Can he protect himself when he's on the field?"

It feels like every time Smith is brought up, he's taken another step. The next one, however — going from the PUP list to the huddle — is particularly daunting.

But at this point, it's gotten pretty difficult to imagine anything being particularly daunting for Alex Smith. So don't be that floored if he makes it happen. Rivera clearly won't be. 

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL NEWS