BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP)Jake Herslow caught a 26-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass from Clayton Tune with 3:27 left, and No. 21 Houston beat Auburn 17-13 on Tuesday in the Birmingham Bowl.
The Cougars (12-2) marched 80 yards on eight plays to cap the third season in program history with at least 12 wins. They snapped a four-game bowl losing streak and won 12 of their final 13 games, the only loss coming to No. 4 Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
The Tigers (6-7) went in the opposite direction in coach Bryan Harsin’s first season. They ended a season with five straight losses for the first time in 71 years and dropped their third bowl game in a row.
Tune completed 26 of 40 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns with an interception while also rushing for 43 yards to earn game MVP honors. Nathaniel Dell caught 10 passes for 150 yards, while Alton McCaskill ran for 66 yards and caught a touchdown pass.
Auburn, which fired offensive coordinator Mike Bobo after the regular season, had one more chance after Houston’s go-ahead score but couldn’t get a first down. Tank Bigsby ran for 8 yards on first down and then T.J. Finley threw three straight incompletions on short passes.
Finley completed 19 of 34 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown in his third start since replacing the injured Bo Nix. Bigsby had 88 rushing yards and 68 receiving yards.
FIRST RESPONDER BOWL
AIR FORCE 31, LOUISVILLE 28
DALLAS (AP) – Haaziq Daniels threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others as Air Force beat Louisville.
Daniels completed 9 of 10 passes for a season-high 252 yards, leading a triple-option offense that came into the game averaging an FBS-best 340.8 rushing yards and the second-fewest passing yards at 82.5 per game.
Brandon Lewis had touchdown catches of 64 and 61 yards for the Falcons (10-3), finishing with five receptions for a career-high 172 yards. That’s the most receiving yardage for an Air Force player this season and the most ever in the Falcons’ 28 bowl games.
Matthew Dapore kicked a 26-yard field goal with 5:28 left to give the Falcons a two-score lead.
Malik Cunningham threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Harrell and ran for a 22-yard touchdown with 2:57 to play for Louisville (6-7). Jawhar Jordan returned a kickoff 100 yards and Trevion Cooley had a 1-yard run for the Cardinals’ other touchdowns.
TEXAS TECH 34, MISSISSIPPI STATE 7
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – Donovan Smith threw for 252 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score, and Texas Tech beat Mississippi State.
Tahj Brooks rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown and SaRodorick Thompson ran for 80 yards and a score for the Red Raiders (7-6), who finished with a winning record for the first time since 2015. They were appearing in their first bowl game since 2017.
Mississippi State (7-6) fell short in coach Mike Leach’s first game against a former program of his. Leach, who went 84-43 at Texas Tech from 2000-09, fell short in his bid to become the first Bulldogs coach to end each of his first two seasons with a bowl victory.
Red Raiders interim head coach Sonny Cumbie, a former player at Texas Tech under Leach, ended his five-game run with a 2-3 record. Cumbie, who is departing to become Louisiana Tech’s coach, took over for Matt Wells in October.
Leach’s prolific offense was held scoreless in the second half and finished with 344 yards, 105 below its average.
Texas Tech put the game out of reach with two third-quarter touchdowns. Smith scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 95-yard drive, the Red Raiders’ second-longest of the season. Smith, who was named the game’s MVP, completed passes of 39 and 52 yards during the drive. He added a 14-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Sparkman with 2 seconds remaining in the quarter.
GUARANTEED RATE BOWL
MINNESOTA 18, WEST VIRGINIA 6
PHOENIX (AP) – Ky Thomas ran for 144 yards and a touchdown, Mar’Kiese Irving added 129 yards rushing and Minnesota shut down West Virginia.
Thomas and Irving became the Gophers’ 1-2 punch after Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts sustained season-ending injuries. The two running backs carried most of the load offensively against West Virginia (6-7), accounting for 273 of Minnesota’s 358 total yards.
The Gophers (9-4) overwhelmed the Mountaineers defensively, holding them to 206 total yards to win their fifth straight bowl game, third under coach P.J. Fleck.
West Virginia was without leading rusher Leddie Brown, who opted to skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL, and struggled to find much of an offensive rhythm against the swarming Gophers.
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