BOULDER - Texas Tech revved up its passing attack in the second half, cashed in on a pair of fourth-quarter breakdowns by Colorado's special teams and rallied to defeat the Buffaloes 27-24 Saturday at Folsom Field.
CU opened the second half of its 2010 season with a loss it couldn't afford. The Buffs now must win three of their remaining five games to become bowl eligible for only the second time in coach Dan Hawkins' five seasons.
The loss was the Buffs' third straight after a 3-1 start, dropping them to 3-4 overall and keeping them winless (0-3) in their final season of Big 12 Conference play. The Red Raiders improved to 4-3, 2-3.
"It's tough to come up one play short," Hawkins said. "Our kids played hard, they battled. It was a back-and-forth game. They'll get back up tomorrow . . . half of life is getting back up when you get knocked down."
The Buffs appeared to have the Red Raiders knocked out at one point, holding a 24-14 lead late in the third quarter. But CU wouldn't score again and Tech would take advantage - particularly on a pair of miscues by the Buffs special teams.
One was a missed 35-yard field goal by Aric Goodman, the other a 29-yard punt by Zach Grossnickle. The Red Raiders drove to their tying touchdown after Goodman's miss and kicked the winning field goal after Grossnickle's short punt.
Held to 28 yards passing in the first half, Tech quarterback Taylor Potts responded with 258 and two TDs in the second. He completed 24-of-38 and had one interception.
From 5:50 of the second quarter through the end of the game, CU's offense was directed by backup quarterback Cody Hawkins, who filled in for Tyler Hansen after the Buffs starter suffered bruised ribs. Dan Hawkins said Hansen "was having a hard time breathing" but initial X-rays of Hansen's ribs were negative. No determination has been made on Hansen's availability for next Saturday's game at Oklahoma.
Tech entered the game averaging 315.3 passing yards a game, sixth in the NCAA. Tech's pass defense came to Boulder nowhere near the Top 10 (No. 80, 293.2 average yards allowed), and CU appeared eager to take advantage.
Hansen completed 9-of-10 passes for 62 yards, but Hawkins finished 22-of-43 for 274 yards and a pair of touchdowns to true freshman Paul Richardson. CU totaled 336 passing yards to Tech's 286.
But Tech outrushed CU 144-28, a stunning stat given the Buffs' 155.0-yard average and the Red Raiders' weekly allowance of 142.5.
Asked what Tech might have done to disrupt his offense, Cody Hawkins said, "They got in the huddle and told us to screw ourselves . . . no, we just didn't execute."
With CU moving to the Pac-12 Conference next season, Tech's visit Saturday likely was its last. But the Red Raiders made their final trip to the Rockies count, earning their first win in Boulder in five tries and evening the series at 5-5.
The Buffs used a 45-yard punt return by Travon Patterson to set up their first touchdown, a 1-yard sneak over right guard by Hansen. Goodman's PAT gave CU a 7-0 lead that held until just after the midway point of the second quarter, when Tech tied on a 1-yard dive by tailback Aaron Crawford and Matt Williams' PAT. Williams' right leg proved to be the difference in the game; he made two field goals and three extra points.
After being injured on an option pitch left to Rodney Stewart, Hansen went down and was replaced by Hawkins, who pushed the Buffs from their 19 to the Red Raiders' 6-yard line. On fourth-and-five, Goodman hit a 23-yard field goal to put CU ahead 10-7 at halftime.
With Hansen's return ruled questionable at intermission, Hawkins opened the second half and engineered an 11-play, 80-yard drive for a score. Hawkins threw his first TD pass of the season and Richardson made his first TD catch, an acrobatic 3-yard grab.
Goodman's PAT put CU up 17-7, but Potts - finding his rhythm now - answered with a 15-yard scoring toss to Alexander Torres, culminating a 93-yard drive, and Williams extra point kick narrowed the Buffs' advantage to three (17-14) with 8:43 left in the third quarter.
After forcing Tech to three-and-out, Hawkins and Richardson teamed for a 60-yard score and with Goodman's PAT, CU again went ahead by 10 (24-14). Richardson, of Gardena, Calif., became only CU true freshman to catch a pair of TD passes in the same game.
Facing fourth-and-15 at the Buffs' 23-yard line, the Red Raiders opened the fourth quarter with a 40-yard field goal by Williams that cut the Buffs' advantage to 24-17.
CU got a special teams break on the ensuing Tech possession when Grossnickle's 45-yard rugby style punt hit Blake Kelley and was recovered by the Buffs' Arthur Jaffee at the Red Raiders' 36-yard line. But CU advanced only as far as the Tech 18, where Goodman was wide right on a 35-yard field goal attempt.
It was Goodman's first miss in his last four attempts, and it was precisely the shot of momentum Tech needed. In seven plays, Potts pushed his offense 80 yards and hit receiver Lyle Leong with a 7-yard scoring pass. Williams' PAT tied the score at 24-24 with 10:54 remaining.
The Buffs went three-and-out on their next series, but couldn't force the Red Raiders to do the same. Potts drove them to the CU 12, where on third-and-five, his high, floating fade for Detron Lewis was intercepted by Buffs corner Jalil Brown.
Hawkins and his offense took over at their 20 yard line with 5:56 left to break the tie. But in addition to suffering another three-and-out, Grossnickle's rugby punt covered only 29 yards and gave Tech a first down at its own 47-yard line with 4:26 left.
The Red Raiders stalled at the Buffs' 16, but Williams saved the drive - and ultimately the game - with his 36-yard field goal, giving the Red Raiders their first lead (27-24) with 2:08 to play.
Once again, CU assumed possession at its 20, but once again was punchless. The Buffs turned the ball over on downs with 1:44 left, but got possession with 16 seconds left.
Same result. Nothing changed for CU except its record.
BUFF BITS: Saturday's attendance was 47,665 . . . . CU's Oct. 30 game at No. 3 Oklahoma (No. 1 BCS poll) will kick off at 7:15 p.m. (MDT) and be televised by ESPN . . . . CU freshman safety Terrel Smith made his first career start, as did sophomore defensive end Nick Kasa and junior nickel back Jonathan Hawkins . . . . Buffs defensive end Josh Hartigan (ankle) missed Saturday's game, but corner Jimmy Smith (concussion) was back in the lineup . . . . Senior Scotty McKnight's 12-yard reception in the first quarter marked the 43rd consecutive regular-season game in which he has made at least one catch - a school record and current NCAA/FBs best . . . . Hawkins, after taking over for Hansen, moved past 6,000 career passing yards, joining Joel Klatt (7,375) and Kordell Stewart (6,481) as the only two CU QBs to surpass 6,000.