31 points is more than most Big 10 teams could score in 2006, much less come from behind from in a single game.
FOMO. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a feeling that all sports fans are familiar with, and is also a key factor why the demand for live sports still is so high among television/streaming networks. And while attendance is a well-documented issue for college football in the last decade, when the opportunity to attend a live sporting event presents itself to any fan, FOMO strikes because we never know when the next incredible event will occur. Any fan that has witnessed sports history will tell a story unlike any other fan can, and the mere mention of the game can give them goosebumps as they are transported back to that exact moment in time.
December 29th, 2006 I had just finished my first semester at Texas Tech after having transferred from a small school in Alabama. I was with my family and, as is the tradition with many college football fans, was looking forward to watching all 7,000 bowl games of the holidays (there are not too many bowl games, fight me) but I was especially looking forward to watching Texas Tech conclude their 7-5 season against the Gophers of Minnesota. One big problem, most people couldn’t watch it.
The NFL Network debuted in November 2003 but didn’t start airing any live football games until 2006. They also acquired some rights to college football games that year, which included the Insight Bowl. Because the programing was so limited, it was extremely difficult to find access to the NFL Network as many cable/satellite providers were not carrying the channel at that time. And even though the DirecTV package my family had was robust, it did not include the NFL Network.
The only way I was able to keep up with the game in real-time were the score updates on the bottom line of the bowl game I was watching. So it was only recently I was able to watch the entire game. Thanks to the power of YouTube, I also got to watch the 2006 commercials that were aired for the telecast of the game, and that was almost as fun as the game itself. Now, grab your Zune and travel back to Tempe, AZ circa 2006 to relive the greatest bowl game comeback of all time!
The 1st quarter was brutal for Texas Tech
Texas Tech took the opening kickoff and had promise on their opening drive, but an untimely holding call stalled the drive and ended up getting stopped on 4th down inside Minnesota territory. Minnesota capitalized on the short field and took a 7-0 lead. The very next drive, Sophomore Quarterback Graham Harrell threw an interception and the Golden Gophers started on the plus side of the field again and turned that opportunity into a 14-0 score. Texas Tech responded well driving the ball inside the 10-yard line looking to cut into the lead. Instead, Harrell suffered his 2nd turnover of the game, fumbling the ball on a sack and Minnesota recovered.
“What in tarnation is happening?”
Minnesota, as was the trend in the 1st half, controlled the line of scrimmage all the way down the field to take a healthy 21-0 lead in the 2nd quarter. I do remember catching this score on the bottom line and thinking “That’s a typo right? In what world is the Big 10 going to outscore THIS offense? And what exactly is the offense doing?” Texas Tech ends up being forced to punt, but did pin the Gophers deep in their own territory. Admittedly, what happened on this next series I had never realized occurred since I never saw the full game. The very first play, from their own 2 yard line, Minnesota is pressured into throwing an interception; exactly what Texas Tech needs to get back in this game. He appears he will run it all the way back for the score…except DISASTER. CB Antonio Huffman was tackled and fumbled the ball into the endzone in which Minnesota recovered. So not only did Tech gift the football back, but Minnesota gained 18 yards off of an interception. Down 21-0, and witnessing that, I would not have blamed any fan in all but giving up at that point.
But it gets worse
The fumbled opportunity brought more agony as Minnesota marched down the field to go up 28-0 with 7:42 left in the first half. Oof! However, the Red Raiders finally put an answer together and score a touchdown cutting the lead to 28-7. The defense surely will take the field ready to make a stand and carry more momentum into the halftime right? Wrong. Another drive by the Gophers without much resistance resulted in another touchdown and a 35-7 lead that would be the score going into halftime. Also, Minnesota gets the ball to start the 2nd half. They showed the score during the halftime break of the bowl game I was watching. I was flabbergasted. Did Tech forget to get on the plane to Tempe? Surely someone had to get hurt.
Turns out Texas Tech was just getting its tail whipped
Minnesota took the opening possession of the 2nd half and marched down the field as it had done all game. They got the ball all the way to the Texas Tech 2 yard line. It appears a 42-7 lead is all but inevitable. But the defense stiffens and Minnesota ops to take the points and pushes the lead to 38-7. With 7:47 left in the 3rd quarter, the NFL Network executives were not happy with the result of the bowl game rights they had purchased. Nonetheless, the Red Raider offense trotted onto the field.
“Glad to see the team has a pulse”
The following drive was a crisp Air Raid attack that culminated with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Joel Filani to cut the lead to 38-14. Yet another bottom line update I remember seeing and just letting out a chuckle that might as well have been a long sigh. Especially after seeing the bottom line eventually alert me that the 4th quarter was beginning and the score had not changed. What I was unaware of was that the Red Raiders were driving and could be cutting the lead to 17.
What happened next wasn’t really a choke job
A lot of times when a large comeback happens, it’s often the result of the leading team completely folding/exercise some awful coaching decisions. For example, if the Atlanta Falcons remember how to even attempt a few rushing attempts in the Super Bowl, Falcons fans aren’t living with 28-3 jokes for life. But, in watching this game in its totality, Minnesota never made a critical mistake. Every time Minnesota had the ball in the 2nd half, they always were able to produce at least one first down. They never even turned the ball over. The only potentially questionable decision was Minnesota opted to go for it on 4th and 7 from the Texas Tech 31 yard line instead of attempting a 48-yard field goal. But the broadcast team mentioned multiple times through the game about the struggles of the Golden Gophers kicking game all year. What happened in the 4th quarter was simply a blitzkrieg offensively by the Red Raiders.
It was a touchdown pass from Harrell to Robert Johnson that did trim the lead down to 17 with still over 14 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. But when the lead shrunk to 10 with 7:49 left, I remember seeing the bottom line score and thinking “No way they can do this. The offense can score, but will need some help defensively.” A defensive stop and an eventual 1-yard touchdown run by Shannon Woods now displayed a 38-35 score with 2:39 left. I was the only one still awake in my home and was pacing around the living room like Gus Gus from Cinderella since I couldn’t actually yell at the TV for fear of waking anyone up. Basic football math still told me that the Red Raiders needed one more stop. The defense was able to deliver one more required stop and forced a punt by Minnesota.
A career kick for the ages
Texas Tech, after a false start penalty, now was on their own 12-yard line with 1:06 left on the clock. Oh, and no timeouts. Tech gets to work quickly driving down the field. Harrell completes three straight passes, but it is the 3rd pass Red Raider fans were given a sign of good fortune that this comeback was preordained. It was a 9-yard completion to Filani over the middle of the field that placed the ball on the Minnesota 49 yard line with only 30 seconds remaining. Seeing it live, it seemed clear that he was a full yard short of the 1st down line. However, the officials blew it dead to call for a measurement, giving the Red Raiders a de facto time out. As a result, the Red Raiders do not need to spike the ball and end up saving at least 5 seconds of gameplay. This would prove to be critical as Texas Tech would get the ball to the Minnesota 35 yard line, and with only 5 seconds left, the Red Raiders would put their faith in the program’s 2nd all-time scorer.
Alex Trilca made 233 consecutive PATs without a miss in his career at Texas Tech. But his FG percentage wasn’t anything great. In his 4 seasons at Texas Tech, he never made more than 75% of his FG attempts. His career-long FG made prior to this night was 47 yards. With a historic bowl come back on the line, Trilca came up and absolutely drilled this kick, setting a new career-long of 52 yards. Minnesota and Texas Tech would go to overtime with the score tied at 38.
“WHY DIDN’T ANYONE GET TO SEE THIS?!?!?”
The game-tying kick was something that ESPN actually broke into its broadcast to show and…let me ask Guns Up Nation a question, have any one of you whispered screamed? I have three children these days, so I have perfected the art of screaming with my body, but the actual audible noise stays below a whisper. This game is the first memory I have of performing such a weird body convulsion. Coming down from my euphoric state, I grew angry at the fact that NOBODY WAS ACTUALLY WATCHING THIS GAME ON TV. Minnesota was able to finally break their scoreless streak and open the overtime period with a field goal. But the football gods were destined to see this one come to its rightful conclusion as it took 6 offensive plays by the Red Raiders before Shannon Woods completed the comeback as he ran into the endzone from 3 yards out. Que the mass hysteria by the Texas Tech sidelines. Que up the late-night dancing by an undergraduate student watching a few time zones away. The Texas Tech Red Raiders set a NCAA record for largest comeback in a bowl game as they erased a 31-point deficit to take down the Minnesota Golden Gophers 44-41.
Don’t take bowl games for granted. Don’t take the ability to watch basically any college football game from your phone for granted. And Minnesota, don’t take a 31-point lead for granted.