Morton and Brooks lead Texas Tech past California in Independence Bowl
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Behren Morton completed 27 of 43 passes for 256 yards and three first-half touchdowns, leading Texas Tech to a 34-14 victory over California in the Independence Bowl on Saturday night.
Tahj Brooks ran for 99 yards and a score as the Red Raiders (7-6) overcame a terrible start. They shut out the Golden Bears (6-7) over the final three quarters to win the 47th edition of college football’s 11th-oldest bowl game.
Texas Tech led 24-14 at halftime and Brooks, the nation’s fourth-leading rusher, scored the only touchdown of the second half on a 7-yard run in the third quarter.
It was the third straight bowl win for the Red Raiders, who fumbled the opening kickoff. Cal freshman Fernando Mendoza then rifled a 25-yard touchdown pass to Monroe Young to give the Bears the lead 15 seconds into the game.
California had a golden opportunity to extend the lead, but Mendoza was injured on a third-down scramble to the Texas Tech 5. Cal passed on the field goal and was stuffed after Jaydn Ott took a direct snap.
Texas Tech capped the ensuing 93-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Morton to Coy Eakin.
Mendoza returned on the next possession and needed just 94 seconds to help the Bears regain the lead. Ott’s 1-yard touchdown run was preceded by a 51-yard pass from Mendoza to Trond Grizzell.
The Red Raiders had another immediate answer and tied the game at 14 with a 15-yard pass from Morton to Mason Tharp.
The Red Raiders’ defense forced a three-and-out early in the second quarter and the offense continued to chew up yards — and points. A 14-yard strike from Morton to Loic Fouonji gave Texas Tech its first lead, 21-14.
A short field goal by Gino Garcia before halftime made it 24-14. Garcia added a 37-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Texas Tech lost in its previous two trips to the Independence Bowl, to Ole Miss in both 1986 and 1998.
California: The future is bright for the Golden Bears, but they didn’t get enough out of their young stars Saturday. Mendoza struck on the first play, but turned the ball over four times (three interceptions, one fumble). Ott was stymied throughout the night.
Texas Tech: Morton proved the Red Raiders don’t have to simply rely on Brooks. The sophomore helped the team recover from an awful start and matched Cal’s early scores before the defense found its footing.