Dallas Tommy Tuberville knew better. The last two onside kicks he called this season were returned for touchdowns. The most recent came in this very stadium.
The thing is, he just couldn’t help himself.
Leading Northwestern by three touchdowns late in the third quarter, the Texas Tech coach tried it again — and it backfired again, setting up an exciting finish in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl.
The Wildcats rallied to get within a touchdown twice in the fourth quarter and were driving for a tie or win when the Red Raiders intercepted a heave on the final play, preserving a 45-38 victory and allowing Tuberville to joke about his risky move.
“We wanted to make our guys work a little harder,” Tuberville said. “I’d blame it on somebody else, but I called it.”
Taylor Potts threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns and scored another on a trick play, and Eric Stephens ran 86 yards for a TD to help Tech close its first post-Mike Leach season at a solid 8-5.
The Red Raiders got off to a herky-jerky start under Tuberville, going 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4. But they won three of their last four. Tuberville also became just the fourth coach to win a bowl game at three schools, having also done it at Auburn and Ole Miss.
“It goes to the players, especially the seniors,” he said. “There were times when they’d have liked to do something different, but they bought into it.”
Northwestern (7-6) lost its eighth straight bowl game, extending a drought that dates to 1949. Coming close after being down by 22 points wasn’t much solace because the Wildcats were close the last two postseasons, dropping both in overtime.
Potts was 43-of-56 for 369 yards.