After spotting the Gophers a 31-point lead, Texas Tech rallied for a stunning overtime victory in the Insight Bowl, the biggest comeback in Division I-A bowl history.
TEMPE, ARIZ. - Only the Gophers.
How else do you explain what happened here Friday night?
The Gophers football team played arguably its finest half of football this season before halftime and built a 38-7 lead against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the third quarter of the Insight Bowl ...
And then gave it all away.
Shannon Woods' 3-yard touchdown run in overtime capped the largest comeback in NCAA Division I-A bowl game history as Texas Tech stunned Minnesota 44-41 before an announced crowd of 48,391 at Sun Devil Stadium.
"Needless to say, that was a game of two different halves," Gophers coach Glen Mason said. "All coaches preach that no lead is sufficient until the clock says it's mathematically impossible to come back."
The second-half collapse had to bring back painful memories to Minnesota fans who endured that infamous fourth-quarter collapse against Michigan in 2003.
After building a 38-7 lead, the Gophers saw Texas Tech score 31 unanswered points -- including 24 in the fourth quarter -- to turn a rout into high drama.
Alex Trlica drilled a career-long and Insight Bowl-record 52-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime.
The Gophers got the ball first in overtime and had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Joel Monroe.
The Red Raiders completed their remarkable comeback when Woods went up the middle for the touchdown.
"You hate to say it, but you could see guys were on Cloud Nine in the locker room at halftime," Gophers linebacker Mike Sherels said. "We didn't think we could be stopped. In retrospect, that was a mistake."
The 31-point rally eclipsed the previous record comeback of 30 points by Marshall against East Carolina in the 2001 GMAC Bowl.
"At halftime we felt like we had an opportunity to do something memorable," Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said. "Everybody recommitted and got focused. It became a body punch kind of deal. We were lucky enough to make them collapse."
That collapse looked eerily similar to the one against Michigan in which the Gophers lead 28-7 going into the fourth quarter, only to lose 38-35.
Been there, done that.
"When they cut the lead to 10 and we weren't moving the ball, I knew we were in trouble," Mason said.
The Gophers, who won their final three games of the regular season to become bowl eligible, finished the season at 6-7 -- their first losing season since 2001 -- and will have the entire offseason to stew about this latest collapse.
Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell completed 36 of 55 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns to claim game MVP honors. Joel Filani finished with 11 catches for 162 yards and one touchdown. Woods rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.
"We got away from some of the things that we were doing," Sherels said of the second half. "Maybe being lackadaisical. Once they got the momentum, it was real hard to stop."
The Gophers looked unstoppable in the first half on both sides of the ball. Using five defensive backs almost exclusively, the Gophers forced two turnovers in the half and got a key fourth-down stop on the opening series.
The Gophers offense seemed to feed off that energy and punished Texas Tech (8-5) with a balanced attack. Playing in his final game, senior quarterback Bryan Cupito completed 11 of 13 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, setting several school records in the process. Junior tailback Amir Pinnix chipped in 141 rushing yards and one touchdown on 18 carries in the first half.
The play that seemed to crystallize Minnesota's can't-do-wrong performance in the first half came in the second quarter. Pinned at the 2-yard line, Cupito's pass intended for Logan Payne was intercepted by Antonio Huffman at the 15.
Pinnix tackled Huffman at the 4, causing him to fumble the ball into the end zone. Fullback Justin Valentine jumped on it, giving the Gophers a touchback and better field position.
Minnesota promptly went 80 yards on seven plays and took a 28-0 lead on Cupito's 14-yard touchdown pass to Ernie Wheelwright.
The second half, however, was a complete role reversal. The Gophers played shoddy defense, didn't tackle well and Texas Tech moved the ball at will to draw closer.
Clinging to a three-point lead late, Minnesota faced a third-and-7 from the 47. But Cupito was sacked, forcing a punt that gave Texas Tech the ball at its 12-yard line with one minute, six seconds left.
Out of timeouts, the Red Raiders moved the ball to the Gophers 35 with five seconds left, setting the stage for Trlica's heroics and the historic comeback.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org