Texas Tech Triumphs in Independence Bowl with a Commanding 34-14 Victory Over California

Texas Tech Triumphs in Independence Bowl with a Commanding 34-14 Victory Over California

In a spectacular display of skill and resilience, quarterback Behren Morton led the Texas Tech Red Raiders to a resounding 34-14 victory over California in the Independence Bowl on Saturday night. Morton completed 27 of 43 passes for 256 yards and delivered three first-half touchdowns, guiding the Red Raiders to their third consecutive bowl win.

Despite a rocky start that saw Texas Tech fumble the opening kickoff, the team rebounded with determination, shutting out the California Golden Bears for the final three quarters to secure the 47th edition of college football's 11th-oldest bowl game.

Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire expressed his satisfaction, declaring, “This was the best, most complete game we’ve had all year. I really thought we played extremely hard, very physical.”

At halftime, Texas Tech held a 24-14 lead, and star running back Tahj Brooks, the nation's fourth-leading rusher, extended the advantage by scoring the only touchdown of the second half with a powerful 7-yard run in the third quarter.

The Independence Bowl opened with a dramatic twist as Cal freshman Fernando Mendoza connected with Monroe Young for a 25-yard touchdown pass just 15 seconds into the game, giving the Bears an early lead. Despite facing a golden opportunity to extend their advantage, Cal's momentum was disrupted when Mendoza sustained an injury during a third-down scramble to the Texas Tech 5. The Bears opted to forgo a field goal and were thwarted after Jaydn Ott took a direct snap.

Mendoza, displaying resilience, returned to the game on the next possession, contributing to Ott's 1-yard touchdown run, briefly regaining the lead for Cal. However, Texas Tech responded swiftly, tying the game at 14 with a 15-yard TD pass from Morton to Mason Tharp.

The Red Raiders' defense showcased its prowess by forcing a three-and-out early in the second quarter, allowing the offense to capitalize. Morton's 14-yard strike to Loic Fouonji gave Texas Tech its first lead at 21-14.

A short field goal by Gino Garcia just before halftime extended the lead to 24-14, setting the stage for a dominant second half. Garcia added a 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, securing the victory for the Red Raiders.

Ott, an All-Pac-12 first-team selection, faced challenges, finishing with just 45 yards rushing on 16 carries. Coach McGuire attributed the defensive success, stating, “We were able to limit what he did, so we made them more one-dimensional. Made (Mendoza) throw into coverages we wanted him to throw into.”

The Independence Bowl victory marks a triumphant end to Texas Tech's season and adds to the team's bowl success. Having lost in their previous two trips to the Independence Bowl in 1986 and 1998, the Red Raiders have now established a winning streak in this historic bowl game.