Texas Tech defeats Virginia in the Gator Bowl

January 1, 2008 3:42:49 PM PST
Alex Trlica kicked a 41-yard field goal with 7 seconds left to give Texas Tech a 31-28 come-from-behind victory over No. 21 Virginia in a wild Gator Bowl on Tuesday. Tech overcame several mental errors, including pivotal penalties and a fumble, to come back from a 28-14 fourth quarter deficit. Its aggressive pass offense couldn't score much for three quarters, but Graham Harrell still managed to rack up several Gator Bowl records.

He completed 44 of 69 passes for 407 yards, all records, plus three TDs.

In the final period, the Red Raiders finally found the end zone as they were accustomed to all year. Twice, actually, and Trlica's field goal did the rest.

Just a few minutes earlier, the Cavaliers seemed to have things sewn up. A Tech drive kept alive by two fourth down conversions sputtered with eight minutes left, and All-American Michael Crabtree couldn't haul in a prayer in the end zone on fourth-and-1.

But a few minutes after that, Harrell found him in the same spot against the same defender, and this time it worked - despite a pass interference call.

Tech scored its next touchdown after knocking the ball out of backup Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich's hands at the 4 yard line. Tech recovered and Aaron Crawford's 4-yard run a play later tied it at 28.

The Red Raiders overcame a tremendous effort by Virginia tailback Mikell Simpson, who ran for 170 yards on 20 carries - including a NCAA bowl-record 96-yard TD run - and caught another touchdown.

Virginia's offense wasn't the same after losing Jameel Sewell at the start of the fourth quarter. His statistics weren't outstanding - 14-of-23 passing for 78 yards and a TD - but he commanded the Cavaliers well. Not known for running, the second-year quarterback had nine carries for 32 yards, and his mobility was key to Virginia's first score.

Sewell kept that drive going with two rushes for first downs, one of them on third-and-8, before a 2-yard TD pass for Virginia's first score.

He was tackled near the line of scrimmage at the start of the fourth quarter and came up favoring his left leg. Sewell had to be helped off the field and didn't return until Virginia's last possession, when Tech came back and tied things up.

By then it was too late - the Cavaliers couldn't move the ball or stop Harrell, a different story from early in the game.

Virginia forced one of the country's most prolific and efficient passers into two safeties in the first half. The two happened similarly - Harrell was backed into his end zone and desperately tossed the ball toward his linemen, earning two grounding calls that counted for safeties.

The second time he shouldn't have been in that position anyway. Tech got the ball at its own 11, then was set back to the 6 with a delay of game penalty. It was one of numerous mental mistakes the Red Raiders overcame.

There was also an unsportsmanlike conduct call that gave Virginia new life in Tech territory, and a defensive offsides call that ruined a third-down stop, both in the fourth quarter. An illegal block in the third quarter pushed the Red Raiders back to their own 8, and Grant Walker fumbled with less than a minute left in the third quarter and Tech driving.

Crabtree, the nation's leading receiver, had nine catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. He hauled in a 20-yard score to put Tech back in the game despite a pass interference penalty. He also beat double coverage to nab a 29-yarder that put Tech in the red zone with about 9 minutes left and trailing by 14.