2. All-time meetings between Texas Tech and Minnesota. The first took place in the 2006 Insight Bowl, and Tech unleashed a 31-point comeback in 23 minutes to eventually win the game in overtime, 44-41. The second took place on Saturday night in Houston and only featured eight lead changes and a late, 10-point Tech surge for a 34-31 Red Raider win. Let's just go ahead and legislate that these two teams play every year. Minnesota was not very good for the season as a whole (honestly, I didn't realize the Gophers were bowl-eligible until the bowl pairings were announced; it completely snuck up on me), and Tech lost four of five to finish the regular season, but none of that mattered at Reliant Stadium. The two teams put on a gritty, interesting show. Again.
5. Virginia Tech fumbles. Bad snaps, bad exchanges, the Hokies made their mistakes in a variety of ways. It seemed that after every good play the Hokies' offense made, it was followed by a penalty and a drive-killing mistake. But they won, in part because they recovered five of the game's seven fumbles overall. A bad snap led to a Rutgers defensive touchdown on the second play of the game, but for most of the rest of the game, when the ball hit the ground (and it hit the ground a lot), it bounced the Hokies' way. Or, as Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples put it in one of the best columns he has ever written:
One team rushed for three yards, committed 14 penalties for 95 yards and opened the festivities by fumbling into its own end zone and allowing a recovery for a touchdown. The other team lost.
We'll come back to this one.
9. Passes defensed by Minnesota. It is an awkward-looking term, but "passes defensed" are a team's interceptions and passes broken up. Against a Texas Tech offense that puts you under constant stress, Minnesota's secondary showed up beautifully in the Texas Bowl, and without much help from the Gophers' pass rush. Michael Carter picked off two Seth Doege passes (one was a deep arm-punt, the other was a brilliant, juggling break on an out route) and broke up another one. Martez Shabazz broke up two more (one was a near-interception in the game's final two minutes). Of Seth Doege's 14 incompletions or interceptions, nine were due to aggressive plays by the Minnesota defense. Plus, the Gophers tackled well. Texas Tech's star receivers, Darrin Moore and Eric Ward, only averaged 9.1 yards per catch, and Doege averaged only 5.8 yards per pass attempt overall.
The Red Raiders made six trips inside Minnesota's 40-yard line and outgained the Gophers by 61 yards, but they were forced to settle for three field goals (they made two, missed one) in the process, committed two turnovers, and needed help from their run game (12 carries for 111 yards from Eric Stephens and Kenny Williams), their return game (Jakeem Grant returned a kickoff for a touchdown midway through the first quarter), a brilliant slant from Doege to Ward with 1:10 remaining (it went for 35 yards on a touchdown) and a late interception and long return by D.J. Johnson (which set up the game-winning field goal) to escape with their eighth win of the season.
16. Points scored on 10 trips by Rutgers and Virginia Tech into scoring position. I typically refer to "scoring position" as your opponent's 40-yard line. You aren't going to score on every trip, but you should average at least about four points per trip over the course of the game. Rutgers and Virginia Tech averaged 1.6. Not including their defensive touchdown, Rutgers advanced into scoring position five times, made a field goal, missed two, punted once, and turned the ball over on downs once. Tech, meanwhile, scored a touchdown, kicked two field goals, missed a third, and punted in its five trips.
That's the thing about this game: Even with two offenses performing mostly terribly, both teams still should have scored at least 17-21 points. These teams each had good defenses playing great, and it bears mentioning that a defensive slugfest can often be incredibly watchable. But the offensive mistakes in this one were maddening. Also maddening: there is some skill position potential here! Tech receivers Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller are exciting. Rutgers receiver Brandon Coleman is enormous (6'6, 220) and fast. Rutgers backs Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins are agile and interesting. And it goes without saying that, while terribly inaccurate at times, Logan Thomas' arm is just about the strongest and most seductive in college football. He throws the most gorgeous interceptions in the country. If these offenses lacked talent, you could almost forgive them. But they don't.
20. Combined third-down conversion rate for Virginia Tech (5-for-19) and Rutgers (3-for-21). Tech quarterback Logan Thomas completed just six of 19 passes to his two primary weapons (4-for-12 to Davis, 2-for-7 to Fuller), Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova overthrew deep balls off of his back foot all night, and the teams combined to punt 21 times. That it finished on a missed field goal was probably fitting.
Actually, you know what? Let's just move on. One could write an entire Numerical on all the ways this game was frustrating to watch, but who wants to read that?
41. Plays Ohio needed to exceed the total yardage from Rutgers-Virginia Tech. And that's with a 19-yard loss in the mix. In a 45-14 romp over UL-Monroe in the Independence Bowl, the Bobcats looked as good as they were supposed to look for most of the year. An injury-plagued defense pounded away, and pounded away, and pounded away at ULM quarterback Kolton Browning, sacking him five times, forcing him out of the pocket, then slugging him in the open field. And Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton's deep ball made you wonder why Ohio didn't throw more deep balls this year. Tettleton completed eight of nine passes to Tyler Futrell and Chase Cochran for 295 yards and a touchdown.
For Frank Solich's Ohio squad, this game was about redemption, both from a season that tumbled out of control a bit (a 7-0 start and Top 25 appearance begat a 1-4 finish) and from what was a bit of a program-changing in the Bobcats' last trip to Louisiana. On December 18, 2010, Troy spread Ohio out and both ran and passed all over the Bobcats in a 48-21 New Orleans Bowl romp. Solich began to incorporate more spread aspects in his own program, and with an opportunity to face an exciting, up-tempo, hard-hitting ULM squad, Ohio was more exciting, more athletic and more hard-hitting. Solich was already perhaps the best coach in the program's history, leading the Bobcats to more eight-win seasons in the last seven years (five) than they had experienced in their previous 44 years at the FBS level (three). But now he is the winner of two straight bowl games, and he added a pretty large, redemptive feather to his cap in Shreveport.
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