LUBBOCK, Texas — Tahj Brooks ran for a career-high 182 yards while powering a game-clinching drive after E’Maurion Banks blocked a potential tying extra-point kick, and Texas Tech rallied for a 24-23 victory over UCF on Saturday night.
Behren Morton threw for two touchdowns as the Red Raiders (6-5, 5-3 Big 12) won their third consecutive game in a battle for bowl eligibility. In coach Joey McGuire’s debut last season, Texas Tech won its final four games, including a Texas Bowl victory over Mississippi.
Brooks hinted this would be his last season with the Red Raiders despite an extra year of eligibility left. If so, his home finale was one to remember.
“I teared up a little bit,” Brooks said. “But this is something that I knew I left a good legacy at Texas Tech.”
The Knights (5-6, 2-6), making their Big 12 debut, will have to win at home against Houston next weekend to secure an eighth consecutive season of bowl eligibility.
UCF couldn’t hold a 14-0 lead, didn’t get any points from inside the Texas Tech 5-yard line by letting time run out before halftime and settled for a short field goal on fourth-and-3 when trailing by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Despite all that, the Knights were a PAT away from a tie after John Rhys Plumlee’s 71-yard touchdown pass to Javon Baker with 5:30 remaining.
Colton Boomer had made 85 consecutive PATs when a leaping Banks in the middle of the line deflected the kick to keep the Red Raiders in front 24-23. Banks said the ball made contact with his elbow.
The Red Raiders then ran off the final 5 1/2 minutes behind Brooks, who carried eight times for 34 yards in the nine plays before Morton kneeled down twice.
Morton had a first-down pass during the drive, and the clincher was a 4-yard run from Brooks on second-and-3 with 1:16 remaining.
Brooks scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 13-yard run late in the third quarter as the Red Raiders gained bowl eligibility for a third consecutive year.
“Whenever I first got this job, I asked the players to understand that this program has been bowl eligible and so (this game) was a big part of continuing to build this program, having this mindset of what’s next and where can we go,” McGuire said.
UCF led 14-0 after the kicker Boomer ran 24 yards on a fake field goal to set up RJ Harvey’s second TD run of the first quarter, a 1-yarder.
The Red Raiders, who will finish with a winning record in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09 under the late Mike Leach, got even with Morton’s scoring tosses of 15 yards to Drae McCray and 19 yards to Mason Tharp.
The Knights were in position to score before the end of the half. Out of timeouts with the clock running inside 15 seconds, Plumlee threw a shuffle pass in the middle of the line to Harvey, who was stopped at the 2. UCF didn’t come close to getting off a play to stop the clock.
“It wasn’t a very good play, there’s no doubt about that,” coach Gus Malzahn said. “We’ve just got to get outside and we’ve got to throw it is what we’ve got to do.”
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UCF: The Knights and Cougars, who play next Saturday, are first-time members of the Big 12 after spending the past 10 seasons together in the American Athletic Conference.
Texas Tech: Visits Texas on Friday in the last scheduled meeting between the longtime rivals.