Story by Scott German
Texas Tech’s high-scoring offense was held in check for three quarters and 10 minutes here New Years Day. However, fortunately for the Red Raiders, the Virginia Cavaliers pulled defeat from the jaws of victory in a monumental collapse as Texas Tech claimed an amazing 31-28 win in the 2008 Konica Minolta Gator Bowl.
Virginia led 28-14 with just under five minutes remaining when the wheels literally fell off the Wahoo Wagon. A Peter Lalich fumble inside his own five recovered by Texas Tech an quickly converted for a score accounted for one TT score while a controversial scoring pass from quarterback Graham Harrell the other.
Tied at 28-all, Virginia was three and out and punted to Tech with 1:50 left. The Red Raiders then took advantage of a short Cavalier punt to march the ball 30 yards into field goal position.
Alex Trilica connected on a 37-yard field goal into a swirling wind to cap the amazing comeback for Texas Tech to stun Virginia 31-28.
Texas Tech entered the game with the nation’s top passing game led by freshman receiver Michael Crabtree and gunslinger QB Harrell. Virginia, however, did a solid job of containing Crabtree, limiting him to 101 yards catching and nine receptions. But Texas Tech converted on seven third-down plays and two fourth-down plays in the contest to keep UVa. from ever putting the final nail in the coffin.
Lalich, who entered the contest in the waning minutes of the third quarter, had a scoring pass and did an admirable job for an injured Jamell Sewell. The ill-timed fumble turned the momentum completely over to TT. The fateful play was an attempted screen pass. Lalich took the snapand back-stepped but was met face-to-face by an untouched Texas Tech defender. He attempted to make the pass, but the ball dropped out of his hand and pounced on by Tech at about the seven-yard line.
This was a devastating defeat for a Virginia team that appeared to have that coveted 10-win season. The Cavaliers simply let the game get away by not taking care of business the full 60 minutes.
There may be plenty of blame to dish out. The Wahoo defense for not making some key third and fourth quarter stops. Lalich for not securing the ball properly, and for the play called on Lalich’s fumble – a screen pass? Why pass at all – run the ball (and the clock) Texas Tech had not exactly presented a stone wall for Virginia runners all game.
For Virginia they now have plenty of time to lament and to wonder what could have, and should have been.
GATOR BOWL NOTES
– Mikell Simpson’s 96 yard scoring run was the longest in Cavalier history as well as the longest in NCAA bowl history.
– The announced paid crowd was 60,000 actual fans in seats closer to 40,000. (Which led to an interesting conversation with a Gator Bowl representative I will share later this week)
Scott German is a SportsDominion correspondent.