Dec 16, 2023; Shreveport, LA, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Coy Eakin (8) reacts with tight end Mason Tharp (80) after a touchdown catch during the first half against the California Golden Bears at Independence Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech runs off 27 straight points beats Cal in Independence Bowl

Behren Morton passed for 256 yards and three touchdowns to help Texas Tech notch a 34-14 victory over Cal on Saturday night in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La.

Tahj Brooks rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and became the fifth player in Red Raiders’ history to rush for over 1,500 yards in a season. He finishes the campaign with 1,542 yards.

Coy Eakin caught seven passes for 106 yards and a touchdown for Texas Tech (7-6), which won for the fourth time in five games. Mason Tharp and Loic Fouonji also had scoring catches for the Red Raiders, who scored the game’s final 27 points.

Fernando Mendoza completed 22 of 33 passes for 284 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions for Cal (6-7). Star Jaydn Ott rushed for a score but had just 42 yards on 15 carries.

Monroe Young caught seven passes for 81 yards and a touchdown for the Golden Bears, who had a three-game winning streak halted.

C.J. Baskerville, Tyrique Matthews and Jacob Rodriguez had interceptions and Amier Washington registered three of the Red Raiders’ six sacks. Morton completed 27 of 43 pass attempts and was intercepted once.

Brooks fell just short of his ninth 100-yard outing. He also had games of 98 and 95 yards.

The Red Raiders took control with 17 points in the second quarter.

Morton connected with Tharp on a 15-yard scoring pass to tie it at 14 with 12:16 left. Just 2:27 later, Texas Tech moved ahead on Morton’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Fouonjui. Gino Garcia tacked on a 25-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Red Raiders a 24-14 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, Brooks scored on a 7-yard run to boost the lead to 17 with 4:36 left.

Garcia added a 37-yard field with 4:08 remaining in the contest.

Texas Tech’s Drae McCray fumbled on the opening kickoff and Cal’s Michael Luckhurst recovered at the Red Raiders’ 25-yard line. On the next play, Mendoza tossed a touchdown pass to Young to get the Golden Bears on the board.

Texas Tech tied the score with a 10-play, 93-yard drive as Morton capped it with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Eakin.

The Golden Bears regained the lead on Ott’s 1-yard score late in the opening quarter, before the Red Raiders took control.

–Field Level Media

Texas Tech's running back Tahj Brooks (28) runs for a touchdown against TCU in a Big 12 football game, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at Jones AT&T Stadium.

Tahj Brooks, Texas Tech aim to run over Cal at Independence Bowl

Texas Tech scored its biggest win of the final few weeks of the calendar year when star running back Tahj Brooks pledged this week to return in 2024.

Now the Red Raiders would like to land one last on-field victory when they oppose Cal on Saturday night in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La.

Brooks enters the bowl season as the fourth-leading rusher in the nation with 1,443 yards. His presence will improve the chances of Texas Tech (6-6) finishing the season with four victories in its last five games.

“From our conversations in recent weeks, it was clear that Tahj wants to leave a legacy here at Texas Tech and that a return for next season would help him do just that,” Red Raiders coach Joey McGuire said.

Brooks has topped 100 yards eight times this season and also had outings of 98 and 95 yards.

The Golden Bears (6-6), who are looking for their fourth consecutive win, allow 134.1 rushing yards per game. That ranks 39th nationally.

Cal owns a lot of momentum after routing host UCLA 33-7 in the regular-season finale.

Star running back Jaydn Ott ranks 13th nationally with a Pac-12-leading 1,260 rushing yards, but the Golden Bears’ recent rise has been primarily due to the swift development of redshirt freshman quarterback Fernando Mendoza.

Mendoza was third string entering the season before finally moving to the top of the depth chart. He started the past seven games, and he threw seven touchdown passes and three interceptions during Cal’s three-game winning streak.

Overall, he has 1,447 yards and 13 touchdown passes against seven interceptions.

“I’m really taking my development seriously here,” Mendoza said. “It has been a crazy journey. … I am really excited that everybody here has given me a chance and believed in me.”

The other two quarterbacks to start games for Cal this season — Sam Jackson V and Ben Finley — plan to enter the transfer portal. However, Finley will be available to back up Mendoza on Saturday.

On defense, the Golden Bears have recovered 15 fumbles (returning three for touchdowns in a win over Washington State) but also have been torched for 50 or more points on four occasions. However, Cal allowed just 22 total points in its past two games.

Texas Tech is shaking off bruises after being pummeled 57-7 by then-No. 7 Texas in its regular-season finale in Austin.

The Red Raiders were 3-5 entering November before beating TCU, then-No. 16 Kansas and UCF over a 17-day span.

Quarterback Behren Morton passed for 1,498 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions, but his targets for the bowl game have been reduced due to six receivers and two tight ends entering the transfer portal. Among the portal entrants are the Red Raiders’ top two in receptions — Myles Price (43 for 410 yards and five touchdowns) and Jerand Bradley (36-431-4).

McGuire said some of the players in the portal will still play for the Red Raiders on Saturday.

This will be the second meeting between the programs, following Texas Tech’s memorable 45-31 upset of No. 4 Cal in the 2004 Holiday Bowl. Aaron Rodgers was the Golden Bears’ starting quarterback and Marshawn Lynch was Cal’s second-string tailback.

The Red Raiders are 16-23-1 in bowl games, and Cal is 12-11-1.

–Field Level Media

Dec 23, 2022; Shreveport, Louisiana, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns wide receiver Lance Legendre (12) runs after a catch as Houston Cougars linebacker Mannie Nunnery (14) makes the tackle during the first half in the 2022 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Houston beats Louisiana in Independence Bowl on late TD

Clayton Tune completed 19 of 28 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 20 seconds remaining, to lift Houston to a 23-16 comeback win over Louisiana in the Independence Bowl on Friday afternoon in Shreveport, La.

Tune found Nathaniel Dell open for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining to break a 16-16 tie and clinch the win for the Cougars (8-5) in what was their third consecutive bowl appearance.

Louisiana (6-7) lost starting quarterback Chandler Fields in the fourth quarter to an apparent leg injury. Backup Zeon Chriss completed 4 of 6 passes for 25 yards but was intercepted by Jayce Rogers on the Ragin’ Cajuns’ final drive. D’Anthony Jones also had a key sack for the Cougars on that drive.

Fields completed 17 of 25 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown as Louisiana relied mostly on its passing game early on. Houston also flipped its offensive script early, trying to go to the ground more often until Tune found some offensive rhythm late in the first half. Tune, who made his 38th career start for Houston, was one of three Cougars to rack up 45 yards rushing.

The Ragin’ Cajuns set the tone early with a 15-play, 75-yard drive that took up nearly half the first quarter and was capped by a 4-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone by Johnny Lumpkin.

Houston trailed 13-0 in the second quarter before Tune found KeSean Carter for a 33-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone with three minutes left. Carter led Houston with 104 yards and that touchdown on just four catches.

Kyle Ramsey missed the extra point, however, and Louisiana tacked on its third field goal of the second quarter to take a 16-6 halftime lead.

Tune’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Dell with 9:21 left in the third quarter pulled Houston to within 16-13.

Houston’s defense managed to hold Louisiana’s offense, which ran for 129 yards, in check throughout the second half.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) attempts a pass during the first quarter against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Louisiana plans for Houston’s passing attack at Independence Bowl

Louisiana and Houston both kept their streaks of bowl appearances alive this season and are bracing for their clash Friday, Dec. 23 in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (6-6) will make their fifth consecutive bowl appearance while the Cougars (7-5) are in a bowl for the third consecutive season.

Like other teams in their respective situations, Houston and Louisiana are already concentrating on recruiting and the transfer portal as each program looks to build for the future.

But Houston coach Dana Holgorsen isn’t discounting what a victory in this game could mean.

“I think for bowl games to survive they’ve got to create some interesting matchups and I think this is an interesting matchup,” Holgorsen said recently. “I know the history of the Independence Bowl. I’ve watched it forever. It’s got a lot of great history and tradition, and I’m excited about digging into that.”

The Cougars lead the all-time series against Louisiana 6-3, but the Ragin’ Cajuns won the most recent matchup 31-28 in Houston in 2006. This will be the first bowl matchup between them.

Houston possesses one of the most potent offenses and passing games in the nation, scoring 37.2 points per game and passing for 321.1 yards per game.

Quarterback Clayton Tune has thrown for 3,845 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He is one of the players the Cougars are trying to replace next season, likely through the portal.

His top target is Nathaniel Dell, who leads the team with 103 catches for 1,354 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Louisiana has already been hit hard by key departures to the NFL draft, losing defensive end Andre Jones, which makes its defensive task even more difficult in this game. The Ragin’ Cajuns will have to rely on their less experienced defenders to try and slow Houston’s aerial assault.

“John (Stephens), Pete (LeBlanc), Errol (Rogers Jr.), Jake Bernard, those guys need to step up a little bit and play their best game,” Louisiana coach Michael Desormeaux told reporters recently. “Then you add (wide receiver) Lance (Legendre), who’s played more and more as the season has gone on, but now it’s his time to go out there and do it.”

Chandler Fields (954 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions) leads Louisiana’s passing game although his top target, Michael Jefferson, has also declared for the draft. Louisiana’s leading rusher Chris Smith (579 yards, three touchdowns) will play.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2021; Shreveport, LA, USA; BYU Cougars quarterback Baylor Romney (16) runs the ball during the second quarter against the UAB Blazers during the 2021 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

UAB uses ground game to beat No. 13 BYU in Independence Bowl

Dylan Hopkins threw three touchdown passes, including a 14-yard strike to Trea Shropshire in the fourth quarter to give UAB a 31-28 upset of No. 13 BYU on Saturday in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La.

Hopkins’ game-winning toss came on fourth-and-7 with 6:17 left. It was the second fourth down UAB (9-4) converted on the drive as it won a bowl game for the second time in the program’s 31-year history. BYU was the highest-ranked opponent the Blazers have ever beaten.

Hopkins completed 19 of 23 passes for 189 yards. DeWayne McBride carried 28 times for 183 yards and scored on a 64-yard sprint in the first quarter.

BYU (10-3) was led by Tyler Allgeier, who carried 27 times for 192 yards and three touchdowns in breaking the Cougars’ single-season rushing record. Allgeier topped the mark of Luke Staley who ran for 1,582 yards in 2001. Allgeier finished the year with 1,601 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns.

Allgeier’s third score of the game came early in the fourth quarter after Masen Wake ran 29 yards with a shovel pass to the 1-yard line. Allgeier’s touchdown carry gave BYU a 28-24 lead.

But UAB retaliated with a 75-yard drive. McBride carried for 44 yards in the march which milked 8:16 from the fourth-quarter clock.

BYU moved to midfield on its ensuing possession but at the end of a 22-yard reception, Samson Nacua fumbled and UAB’s Mac McWilliams recovered with 3:36 left. The Blazers then ran out the clock as McBride rushed for a pair of first downs and Jermaine Brown (8 carries, 47 yards) carried for another.

The Cougars were without injured starting quarterback Jaren Hall. Baylor Romney completed 15 of 23 passes for 195 yards.

UAB took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Hopkins capped a 60-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Gerrit Prince.

On the Blazers’ next possession, McBride broke into the clear on off tackle run, stiff-armed a defender to the ground and outran two other defenders to the end zone on his 64-yard touchdown run.

But BYU responded with touchdowns on its next two possessions. On a 72-yard drive on which he accounted for all the yards on seven carries, Allgeier capped it with a 1-yard scoring run. Then Nacua scored on a 2-yard end around to tie it.

UAB regained the lead before the half ended as Hopkins capped a 78-yard march with a 23-yard strike to Prince on a wheel route.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; BYU Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) throws the ball against the Southern California Trojans in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Independent BYU fired up to make Independence Bowl statement

BYU had hopes of landing an upper-tier bowl game with a resume that includes a 10-2 record and the College Football Playoff ranking — No. 13 — only a dozen teams can trump.

BYU went 5-0 against Pac-12 teams this season and also defeated Virginia of the ACC.

Yet, the Cougars aren’t even close to the New Year’s Six and landed in a bowl game that gets the team back home well before Christmas.

Being an independent brought limited options and the Cougars are putting on brave faces when they discuss the reality: a matchup with UAB on Saturday in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

But Cougars coach Kalani Sitake, who just received a contract extension through 2027, opts against joining the woe-is-us rhetoric.

“I hope you know how excited we are to perform in this bowl game next week,” Sitake told reporters. “We are focused on the game and having a wonderful time at the Independence Bowl.”

Quarterback Jaren Hall said the message has been consistent since the bowl site was announced.

“Kalani has been pumping energy into us, and the other coaches have done a great job of continually harping on the importance of this next game,” Hall told reporters. “I think as players we are taking it and running with it. I think the energy will stay the same.”

There is no such issue for UAB (8-4), which is playing in a bowl game for just the fifth time.

This is the fourth bowl appearance in coach Bill Clark’s six seasons, and BYU easily represents the toughest foe.

“BYU is a big-time, quality opponent,” Clark told reporters. “We know we’ve got our work cut out for us. We have a lot of work to do to compete with them, but we are excited. It is a great step for our program, no doubt.”

Clark took over prior to the 2014 season, and the university disbanded the program following the season. Public outrage led to a reversal, and football was reinstated for the 2017 season.

The Blazers notched their lone bowl win in 2018 when they drubbed Northern Illinois 37-13 in the Boca Raton Bowl.

This season, UAB lost two games against ranked teams, falling to then-No. 2 Georgia 56-7 in September and to then-No. 15 UTSA 34-31 in November.

Stunning the Cougars would rate as one of the top wins in program history.

UAB will be trying to slay a program that beat Pac-12 champion Utah as well as Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington State.

The Cougars average 33.5 points and 457.1 yards per game, with Hall and running back Tyler Allgeier leading the way. Hall has passed for 2,583 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while Allgeier ranks eighth nationally with 1,409 rushing yards and is tied for the national lead with 20 touchdowns.

Defensively, middle linebacker Ben Benwater has a team-leading 93 tackles.

UAB also has a strong running back in DeWayne McBride, who has racked up 1,188 yards and 12 scores on the ground. Quarterback Dylan Hopkins has thrown for 2,085 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Highly regarded nose tackle Tyree Turner (3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles) fuels a run defense that ranks 11th nationally by allowing 104.2 yards per game.

UAB and BYU are meeting for the first time.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2020; West Point, New York, USA; Army Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken leads his team out to the field before a game against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Michie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Monken: Army deserves a bowl bid

Army went from a date to play in the Independence Bowl to without a game on Sunday, and coach Jeff Monken said his team deserves better.

The Black Knights finished 9-2 and won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy after a defeat of Air Force on Saturday and looked forward to facing a Pac-12 opponent in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Dec. 26. But 24 hours later, with Southern California and other Pac-12 teams opting out of bowl games and other teams declining to face Army, the Independence Bowl was canceled.

“We had guys in tears,” Monken told ESPN about the reaction of his players after they learned the news. “We pulled off the biggest wins of these seniors’ career, they just won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy back, that’s going to be their legacy, and they’re looking forward to playing in a bowl game one time together, before they go off in the United States Army, and we’re sitting here telling them, ‘Sorry, guys, you can’t play.’

“You can talk about a playoff system and people bitching about they’re not a top-four team, ‘Oh, we should be in.’ All we want is a bowl game. All we want is a chance to play.”

An independent program, Army pieced together an 11-game schedule, finding opponents as teams canceled games amid the coronavirus pandemic. Their two losses came on the road against Cincinnati, which finished the season No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and Tulane.

Monken had harsh words for programs that opted out of playing after they didn’t win their way into the bowl game of their choice.

“USC, a week ago, was saying, ‘We deserve to be in the College Football Playoff if we go undefeated and win the Pac-12 championship,’” Monken told ESPN. “And the Pac-12 was saying, ‘An undefeated Pac-12 team deserves to be considered.’ So they go to the Pac-12 championship against Oregon and lose and they go from wanting to go to the College Football Playoff to not wanting to play at all? I don’t get it. Boise State opted out today. They lost their championship game yesterday. So they went from being their conference champion and representing their conference in a bowl game to opting out? You couldn’t go one more week and play us?

“It just doesn’t make any sense to me that you can go from wanting to play to not wanting to play in a matter of 12 hours.”

USC said it was following recommendations from medical officials in pulling out.

“Don’t say no to Army, because you’re not just saying no to our team. You’re saying no to the 1.3 million people who serve on active duty all over the world who want to have that source of pride represented in a bowl game,” he said. “These seniors have made a pledge to put their lives on the line for every other college football player in this country, for every college football fan, for everybody that’s involved in these decisions. Somehow, some way, somebody should say, ‘We’re going to make a way for this team to play.’”

Monken said his team will continue to practice this week in case a team backs out because of COVID-19 testing or other reasons.

“If we got a Dec. 31 bowl game, if you call us on the 29th, we’ll have those guys flying there on the 30th,” Monken said. “What I’m hoping is some of these bowl games, when they hear enough of this about Army, they’re going to say, ‘You know what? If somebody cancels, we’re going to take Army. We’re going to be the knight in shining armor and we’re going to look like a hero taking this team.’

“They’ll be the hero.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2020; West Point, New York, USA; Army Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken celebrates the 49-3 victory against the Mercer Bears at Michie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Army accepts Independence Bowl invitation

Army became the first team this season to land a bowl game, accepting an invitation from The Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., shortly after Saturday’s 49-3 win over Mercer.

The Black Knights (6-1) will be playing in a bowl for the fourth time in the past five seasons. Army will face a team from the Pac-12.

“We are absolutely delighted to extend a bowl invitation to the Army West Point Black Knights football team,” bowl chairman Frank Auer said in a news release. “The Independence Bowl celebrates the independence and freedoms we enjoy in America, and we are well aware that those freedoms are protected by our Army and the other armed forces.

“We deeply appreciate the role they play in our national landscape and will roll out the red carpet for them for their trip to Shreveport.”

Army athletic director Mike Buddie said the school was “very excited” to accept the invite. He said it was an “incredible opportunity to play in this outstanding bowl game” and cited it will be the program’s first trip to Shreveport since 1996.

The Black Knights, who are not part of a conference, are off to their best start since the 1996 squad won their first nine games. That team finished 10-2 after losing 32-29 to Auburn in the Independence Bowl.

Following that season, Army experienced 13 straight losing seasons. Now the Black Knights are 40-19 since the start of the 2016 season after coach Jeff Monken turned around the program’s fortunes.

The victory over Mercer marked the fourth time this season that Army scored at least 37 points. The Black Knights’ lone loss came against then-No. 14 Cincinnati, 24-10 on Sept. 26.

The date for the Independence Bowl will be announced at a later time.

–Field Level Media