If not the losing streak, at least Texas Tech ended the beatdowns. The Red Raiders, who were whipped by an average of 42 points the previous three weeks, led for all except the final 2:22 of a 31-27 loss to Missouri on Saturday night.
They were at the Missouri 6 in the final minute, on the verge of spoiling the Tigers' home finale, before Michael Sam intercepted a pass from Seth Doege that had been tipped at the line by Dominique Hamilton.
"It's extremely frustrating because we battled the entire game and I feel like we were in it the entire game," Doege said. "The ball didn't bounce your way." James Franklin accounted for four touchdowns and got the go-ahead score on a 9-yard run with 2:22 remaining as Missouri, minus suspended coach Gary Pinkel, won on Senior Day and sent Texas Tech to its fourth straight loss.
"A loss is a loss, but this one's tougher because when you're so close, and they take it from you right at the end," safety Terrance Bullitt said. "We just needed the one stop -- we were one stop away, and one score away." Franklin rushed for a career-best 152 yards with two touchdowns to help the Tigers (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) overcome Henry Josey's season-ending knee injury last week. He was 13 for 20 for 172 yards and two more touchdowns, including a 7-yarder to Marcus Lucas earlier in the fourth that cut Texas Tech's lead to three.
Doege threw for one touchdown and ran for another for Texas Tech (5-6, 2-6), which must beat Baylor next week to become bowl eligible for the 12th straight season. This was a major improvement for the Red Raiders, who were whipped by an average of 42 points the previous three games and absorbed the worst loss in school history last week in a 66-6 rout against Oklahoma State.
Texas Tech lost three players to knee injuries -- wide receiver Alex Torres, running back DeAndre Washington and offensive guard Lonnie Edwards. The Red Raiders weren't happy with the condition of the artificial turf. "Three bad knee injuries and a couple ankle injuries," head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We didn't have a punt returner or a kick returner after the first quarter.
"We were told this turf was pretty tough, and it was pretty tough."
Pinkel can rejoin Missouri on Thursday, two days ahead of the season finale against Kansas in Kansas City. Fans in midfield seats across from the Missouri sideline unfurled a banner that read "We (Love) You, Gary." Pinkel's wife, Vickie, attended the game.
Missouri trailed entering the fourth quarter for the seventh time, and won for the second time under those circumstances. A week after trailing 49-0 at halftime in a 66-6 loss to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech started fast, playing with the wind on a gusty day, and led 17-10 at the break, fueled by touchdowns on two of the first three possessions -- a 1-yard run by Bradley Marquez out of the wildcat formation and Doege's 3-yard run. It was only the third time Tech had led at the break all season.
Michael Egnew's first touchdown catch in five games came on a leaping grab in the back of the end zone to cut Missouri's deficit to 20-17 with 4:43 to go in the third quarter. It was the first touchdown in the third quarter in five games for the Tigers, who have totaled 40 points in that quarter all year. Texas Tech went up 10 again on Darrin Moore's 24-yard catch from Doege with one second left in the third that made it 27-17.
The wind was such a factor early that Texas Tech called a timeout to force Missouri to punt into it. The move was foiled when Trey Barrow got a very favorable roll on a 68-yarder into the end zone. Missouri blew a scoring chance in the first quarter when Kendial Lawrence got stripped by Cornelius Douglas at the Red Raiders 6-yard line and fumbled the ball out of the end zone.
Moore's 54-yard run to the 6 topped his season total of 39 yards the first 10 games and set up a 5-yard run by Franklin that capped a 10-play, 90-yard drive, the Tigers' longest of the year. Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines had two pass breakups for a season total of 16, breaking the single-season school record set by Michael Harden in 2002.