(Sports Network) - Taylor Potts threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns, leading Texas Tech to a 45-38 victory over Northwestern in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl at the Cotton Bowl.
Potts also ran for a touchdown for the Red Raiders (8-5), who have won seven of their last nine bowl games. Eric Stephens ran 14 times for 126 yards and a touchdown, and Lyle Leong caught 10 passes for 118 yards and a pair of TDs in the victory.
"I had pretty good protection today, and I will be the first to say that," Potts said. "Playing behind those five guys all season was surly a privilege. They got so much better from the time we played SMU when I got hit eight or nine times, and I thought it was going to be a long season, to playing in the bowl game now where I didn't get touched one time. So, that was really nice. All season having the protection they put up and them giving me the time to throw to the receivers we have."
Texas Tech held a 22-point lead early in the third and had it whittled down to seven following a fierce Northwestern rally. The Wildcats had a final chance to tie the game, but the Red Raiders' defense recorded an interception on a final Hail Mary play.
Kain Colter ran for 105 yards and two scores for the Wildcats (7-6), who are still in search of their first bowl win since 1949. Since its victory in the 1949 Rose Bowl, Northwestern has lost each of its next eight bowl appearances.
"Throughout the week our coaches had a great game plan to show Texas Tech some different looks and I thought we did a great job at that," Colter said. "We kept them a little off guard. They gave me the opportunity to play some quarterback, running back and wide receiver so I enjoyed that and making some plays."
The Wildcats opened the second half with an 18-yard field goal from Stefan Demos, but Stephens ran 86 yards to the end zone on the next play from scrimmage to put the Red Raiders' lead at a seemingly comfortable 31-9.
Northwestern, which scored 14 points in the final 3:20 of last year's Outback Bowl to push Auburn to overtime before faltering on a trick play, nearly pulled off another comeback.
Colter trimmed the Wildcats' deficit to 14 by recovering his own fumble in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown run, finishing an 11-play drive. His two- point conversion pass to Josh Rooks succeeded.
Potts responded with a six-yard TD pass to Tramain Swindall to restore a 21- point cushion for Texas Tech, which unsuccessfully tried an onside kick with 2 1/2 minutes left in the third. The failure proved costly, as Evan Watkins eventually rushed into the end zone from four yards away for a 38-24 contest heading to the fourth.
The Wildcats' first drive of the fourth ended with Watkins' 18-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields with 10:33 to play, though Potts was able to answer again for the Red Raiders.
Potts directed a 10-play, 69-yard series that ended in Leong's 11-yard touchdown reception with 7:13 remaining, putting the heat back on Northwestern.
Things looked bleak for the Wildcats after they punted, but Jordan Mabin came up with a huge interception of Potts and returned it 39 yards to the end zone to once again cut the gap to seven, 45-38, with 5:37 to play.
Texas Tech went to the ground to try to run out the clock, and it succeeded for the most part. Stephens converted a pair of third downs during a stretch of seven consecutive runs, and Northwestern didn't regain possession until 24 seconds remained.
Watkins attempted a desperation heave from his own 42 in the final moments, and it was easily intercepted by LaRon Moore.
The Red Raiders were the only team to score in the first quarter on Matt Williams' 24-yard field goal and Potts' 13-yard touchdown pass to Austin Zouzalik.
Northwestern cut its deficit to four with 6:47 until halftime on a Colter one- yard rushing score, though Potts answered with a 13-yard run to the end zone for a 17-6 contest.
Potts' six-yard TD pass to Leong with only 11 seconds remaining on the clock made it 24-6 at halftime.
Potts completed a season-high 43 passes...The Wildcats began their season 5-0 before losing six of eight to end the campaign...Texas Tech is 12-21-1 in bowl games...Watkins was the leading passer for Northwestern with 76 yards on 10- of-21 throws.