T.J. Vasher

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Quinton Flowers leads USF to wild come-from-behind victory in Birmingham Bowl

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The 2017 season may not have checked off all of the goals for USF (11-2), but Charlie Strong and the Bulls have reason to celebrate at the end of the season after winning a wildly entertaining Birmingham Bowl with a 38-34 victory over Texas Tech (6-7) on Saturday afternoon. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers was the hero fo the day after putting the Bulls on his back in the second half, shrugging aside a woeful first half to pull USF from behind for the win.

Flowers ended his day with an MVP performance with 311 passing yards and four touchdowns and 106 rushing yards. It was Flowers who had to step things up in the fourth quarter, leading the Bulls to three touchdowns in the final quarter by using his feet and his arm to work the late game heroics.

Early in the fourth quarter, and just one play after an instant replay confirmed a call on the field marking the ball shy of the end zone, USF tried muscling their way across the goal line only to be overmatched by Texas Tech’s defensive effort to keep Darius Tice just out of the end zone on fourth down.

The Texas Tech stop preserved a seven-point advantage, but the battle of field position would still end up helping USF. After forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, USF took over at the Texas Tech 43-yard line and worked their way into the end zone, this time ending the drive with Flowers running off to the right side to find a clear path for a game-tying touchdown.

Texas Tech took a 27-24 lead with just over five minutes to play with a 33-yard field goal by Clayton Hatfield, setting the stage for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers to try and deliver some last-minute heroics in his final college football game. Flowers needed just two plays before giving the Bulls a 31-27 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Texas Tech answered with a touchdown of their own, with T.J. Vasher somehow getting left wide open in the end zone for an easy touchdown pass from Nic Shimonek.

But the Red Raiders left Flowers and the Bulls too much time to strike back, and strike back they most certainly did. Flowers once again delivered the heroics with a key 21-yard run on a 3rd and 10 and followed that up with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tyre McCants to go up 38-34 after the extra point.

The legacy of Quinton Flowers at USF will be one that will be remembered fondly, even if it never saw a trip to a BCS or New Years Six bowl game. But Flowers will leave with a handful of team records and his shoes will be big to fill for whoever is next in line in Tampa. After coming up just shy of an elusive AAC championship after a wild shootout loss against UCF in the regular season finale, it is fitting to see Flowers go out having led his team to a wild back-and-forth victory in a bowl game.

For three quarters, it appeared as though Texas Tech may get by the game using its defense, going against the grain of what is typically expected from a Texas Tech team. All of that crumbled in the fourth quarter, however, despite the goal line stand highlighted above. USF had over 400 yards of offense in the second half after a lackluster first half showing, and the Bulls edges the Red Raiders in first downs with 27 to Texas Tech’s 26.

The AAC improves to 2-1 in the bowl season with the win after Temple took care of FIU on Thursday night. Texas Tech gets the Big 12 off to a 0-1 start in the bowl season with the next games played on Tuesday by West Virginia (vs. Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl) and Kansas State (vs. UCLA in Cactus Bowl).

Texas Tech’s 2018 season will open with a neutral site game in Houston against Ole Miss of the SEC on Sept. 1, 2018. USF will begin the 2018 season at home on Sept. 1 against FCS opponent Elon. The Bulls will then host Georgia Tech and visit Illinois the following two weeks.

West Virginia closes with 29 unanswered points to rally past No. 24 Texas Tech

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One week ago, West Virginia was ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and played every bit like you’d expect the No. 23 team in the country to play in challenging but ultimately falling in a loss to No. 8 TCU. However, voters dropped the Mountaineers out of the rankings and inserted Texas Tech at No. 24, rewarding them for a win at Kansas — something everyone in the Big 12 save Charlie Strong does.

Voters will rectify that tomorrow.

West Virginia rallied from an 18-point second half deficit with 29 unanswered points to knock off the 24th-ranked Red Raiders, 46-35. The win lifted Dana Holgorsen to a 4-1 lead over his former player and colleague Kliff Kingsbury.

Texas Tech’s offense came out firing, as West Virginia did not force a punt until the Red Raiders’ seventh possession and only one boot in their first nine touches. Nic Shimonek fired four touchdown passes, two bombs to freshman T.J. Vasher and a pair of short tosses to Dylan Cantrell and Keke Coutee, but the Red Raiders built their early lead on the ground. Texas Tech harassed West Virginia quarterback Will Grier for much of the game and held Justin Crawford in check for the first two-and-a-half quarters.

Tre King 30-yard touchdown run gave the Red Raiders a 35-17 lead with 9:11 to play in the third quarter. Texas Tech (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) again moved the ball on their next possession, but Michael Barden missed a 37-yard field goal to close the drive — his third miss of the day. That would prove crucial.

Once West Virginia (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) found a way to protect Grier, Texas Tech could not stop the Mountaineers. More specifically, Texas Tech could not stop Grier.

An 8-yard strike to David Sills pulled West Virginia within 35-24 at the 5:07 mark of the third quarter, and a 32-yard rainbow to Ka'Raun White (plus a 2-point strike to Sills) pulled WVU within 35-32. Texas Tech appeared to seize back momentum after Grier was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 sneak, but an examination of the spot gave West Virginia the first down by the nose of the ball. Grier put West Virginia on top for good on a 17-yard strike to White on the next play.

Grier’s fifth touchdown pass of the day to Sills (his third scoring snag) gave West Virginia an insurance score with 3:23 to play, and Kyzir White’s interception of Shimonek sealed it with 1:49 left on the clock.

Grier closed the day hitting 32-of-41 passes for 352 yards with five touchdowns and one interception, while Shimonek was 24-of-39 for 323 yards and four touchdowns against one pick. 

Texas Tech leading West Virginia through one half

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Through one half in Morgantown, Texas Tech is threatening to run West Virginia off its own field. The Red Raiders have not punted and lead 28-17 at the half.

Texas Tech forced two West Virginia three-and-outs and turned them into quick touchdowns. The first came after the first drive of the game, when Nic Shimonek hit T.J. Vasher for a 60-yard snatch-and-dash on the Red Raiders’ second snap.

West Virginia raced down the field in three plays, equaling the score on a 31-yard strike from Will Grier to David Sills. Texas Tech returned volley, this time moseying down the field in 10 plays, the last of which a 6-yard strike from Shimonek to Dylan Cantrell.

The Red Raiders’ defense held serve on the next possession by forcing a 43-yard Mike Molina field goal and, after a missed field goal of their own, forced a second three-and-out, which turned into Shimonek’s third touchdown toss of the first half, a 6-yarder to Keke Coutee.

West Virginia answered with a 5-yard Justin Crawford run and appeared in position to take its first lead when Texas Tech’s punt team took the field for the first time of the day. But punter Dominic Panazzolo ran 13 yards around the left side on 4th-and-1 to keep the drive alive, and Shimonek hit Vasher on a 53-yard bomb one play later. 

The Mountaineers momentarily posted their first true stop of the half on Texas Tech’s final possession of the half when Shimonek was intercepted in the end zone, but the pick was wiped out after a roughing the passer penalty. Coutee, however, dropped a touchdown pass on third-and-goal, and Michael Barden missed his second field goal of the half, doinking a 23-yarder off the left upright.

Shimonek finished the half hitting 17-of-24 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns. A host of Red Raiders have pieced together 18 carries for 86 yards.

Grier has completed 18-of-22 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown, but the Mountaineers’ running backs have managed 13 yards in seven carries.

Texas Tech will receive to open the second half.