Bowl Preview: Texas Tech

Tumultuous times have hit Texas Tech since the Red Raiders received, and accepted, the bid to play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas Dec. 28 in Houston. Foremost, of course, was Tommy Tuberville's stunning resignation to take the post at Cincinnati.

It was a whirlwind courtship.

Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said he was at his daughter's soccer game on a Saturday morning when he got a call from an Ohio area code and a message from Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock that Babcock was going to talk to Tuberville about the Bearcats' opening.

An hour later Hocutt got another call, this one from Tuberville saying he was accepting Cincinnati's offer.

At a press conference later that day, Hocutt said offensive coordinator Neal Brown was interviewing at another school as well.

That "other school" turned out to be Kentucky, where it was announced a couple of days later that Brown will join new Wildcats coach Mark Stoops' staff as offensive coordinator.

So, as the Raiders prepare for their game against Minnesota, offensive line coach Chris Thomsen will take over as interim coach and receivers coach Sonny Cumbie will handle duties as offensive coordinator.

Thomsen has previous head coaching experience, having served at Division II Abilene Christian before coming to Lubbock last February. He was 51-21 and was Lone Star Conference South Division Coach of the Year four times.

And Hocutt will be searching for a new coach on a permanent basis.

"I think it's important to find somebody who embraces the West Texas community, the West Texas lifestyle," Hocutt said at the hastily called press conference. "This is a great place to live. It's a great place to raise a family. It's a great place to build a football program.

"And we want somebody who is familiar with the state of Texas. We want somebody who is familiar with the values that we hold dearly in West Texas in Lubbock, and I'm confident that we'll be able to find that person."

Texas Tech will head to Houston for its bowl game after receiving an invitation to play Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

The game will be played Dec. 28 at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Offensive line coach Chris Thomsen has taken over as interim coach for the Red Raiders after Tommy Tuberville took the vacant job at Cincinnati, and receivers coach Sonny Cumbie will handle duties as offensive coordinator after Neal Brown took the same post at Kentucky.

It will be an opportunity for the Red Raiders, who missed out on the postseason last year, to make up for a rather sour finish to the regular season.

After winning six of their first seven games, including three of their first four in Big 12 play, the Raiders lost four of their last five.

They ended up 7-5 overall and 4-5 in league play, a step up from last year's 5-7 overall and 2-7 conference marks but somewhat of a disappointment nonetheless.

Minnesota, meanwhile, also stumbled badly down the stretch, losing three of its last four to Michigan (35-13), Nebraska (38-14), and Michigan State (26-10).

Minnesota's lone win in that span was a 17-3 victory over a hapless Illinois team for the its second conference win in eight Big Ten games. The Gophers are 6-6 overall.

The game is a rematch of one of the more entertaining bowl games of recent years. Texas Tech outlasted Minnesota 44-41 in overtime in the 2006 Insight Bowl in Tucson, Ariz.

The two teams will present contrasting styles this time around.

The Red Raiders are No. 12 in the country in total offense, producing over 501 yards a game. Of that total, nearly 362 comes via the pass, which is second-best in the country.

Minnesota is No. 111 in the country out of 120 FBS teams in total offense with an average of just over 317 yards a game.

Minnesota, however, holds the advantage in defense. The Gophers finished No. 29 in total defense in yielding less than 353 yards per contest to opponents.

Once No. 1 in the country in total defense, Tech finished the regular season down at No. 39 in allowing opponents just over 367 yards. That's still an improvement over 2011 that saw the Red Raiders give up nearly 486 yards per outing.

Not surprisingly, Texas Tech and Minnesota had no common opponents this season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Senior QB Seth Doege has had back-to-back strong seasons, throwing for 3,934 yards while completing 70.4 percent of his passes this season after compiling numbers of 4,004 yards and 68.5 percent as a junior in 2011. He was No. 3 in passing efficiency in the Big 12 in the regular season.

Senior WR Darrin Moore, despite missing the opener while serving a suspension, had 81 catches, six more than junior WR Eric Ward, to lead the Red Raiders in that department. He had 13 receiving touchdowns.

Sophomore RB Kenny Williams leads Tech's rushing attack. He ran for 779 in the regular season, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Junior DE Kerry Hyder was among the leaders in the Big 12 in tackles-for-loss with 13.5. He and junior Dartwan Bush on the other end combined for 10 sacks.

BOWL HISTORY: Texas Tech became bowl eligible for the 19th time in 20 years with a triple-overtime win over TCU back on Oct. 20. The one exception was last year, when the Red Raiders were only 5-7. Tech is making its 35th postseason appearance and is 12-21-1 all-time but is 7-3 in the last 10 bowls.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Do I feel betrayed? Again, it's a business. And I wish coach (Tommy) Tuberville the best, and he's made the right decision for him and his family. So I wish him only the best as he moves forward." Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt, on Tuberville's abrupt decision to take the Cincinnati job only a day after the coach told him of his commitment to Texas Tech.

BOWL BREAKDOWN

Scouting the running game: Texas Tech is rushing for under 140 yards a game, with sophomore RB Kenny Williams carrying the bulk of the load with 65 yards a game. The Raiders must run effectively enough to take the load off the passing game.

Scouting the passing game: QB Seth Doege leads the nation's second-most productive passing attack, one that is averaging nearly 362 yards a game. Senior WR Darrin Moore (81 catches) and junior Eric Stephens (75) are the most popular targets. They have 24 touchdown receptions between them. Minnesota's surrendered only 13 touchdown passes for the season.

Scouting the run defense: Tech's defensive numbers have slipped in recent games, but still are an improvement over 2011 figures. The Red Raiders are giving up over 171 yards a game on the ground after surrendering 278 to Baylor in the last game and 256 to Oklahoma State the game before that. Minnesota, however, averaged just over 146 yards a game rushing.

Scouting the pass defense: The Raiders were No. 1 in the regular season in pass defense, holding opponents to under 196 yards a contest through the air. But they did give up 23 touchdown passes while recording just seven interceptions. They also had 16 sacks. Minnesota threw for just over 171 yards a game.

Scouting the special teams: Sophomore PK Ryan Bustin hit over 70 percent of his field goal attempts (15-of-21) with 1-of-2 from over 50 yards. Junior P Ryan Erxleben averaged 42.1 yards on 37 attempts. Junior RB Sadale Foster is a capable kick returner (21.8 average), and senior WR Austin Zouzalik averaged over 10 yards on punt returns.

Intangibles: Texas Tech didn't exactly wow folks down the stretch, losing four of their last five games. A win could help provide the Raiders with some satisfaction after that disappointing tumble. Minnesota, on the other hand, will be have the motivation of playing in its first bowl since 2009.

ROSTER REPORT

Senior QB Seth Doege finished the regular season No. 4 in the country in completions per game (29.08) and No. 6 in passing yards (327.83).

Senior WR Darrin Moore had over 100 yards in receptions in each of his last two games (186 vs. Baylor, 140 vs. Oklahoma State).

Redshirt freshman G Alfredo Morales was scheduled for surgery for the season-ending injury he sustained to his shoulder, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Morales was injured Nov. 17 at Oklahoma State.

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