Quarterback Nic Shimonek didn’t start the game for Texas Tech, but he sure finished it.
Shimonek came off the bench in the fourth quarter to throw two touchdown passes and Texas Tech rallied to beat Texas 27-23 Friday night and earn a victory that could save coach Kliff Kingsbury’s job.
Kingsbury’s future has been in doubt after five seasons but the rally made the Red Raiders (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) bowl eligible after missing the postseason last year.
Shimonek, the starter all season, had been benched for McLane Carter, but came in with the Red Raiders trailing 23-13. His first drive included a 51-yard completion and his short touchdown pass to T.J. Vasher cut it to 23-20.
The game winner, a 16-yard pass to Cameron Batson, came with 2:07 to play. The touchdown was set up by a 52-yard interception return to the Texas 14 by Justus Parker.
Texas’ final drive ended when Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw another interception at the Texas Tech 20 with 1 minute to play.
Ehlinger passed for 239 yards and a touchdown but the Texas offense slogged through most of the final three quarters. The Longhorns ran for just 18 yards and had deep drives end in field goals of 19 and 20 yards by Josh Rowland instead of touchdowns.
Texas (6-6, 5-4) had already clinched its first bowl berth since 2014 under first-year coach Tom Herman but must win its postseason game to avoid a fourth consecutive losing season.
Texas Tech: Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who is also the chairman of the selection committee for the College Football Playoff, has plenty to contemplate about Kingsbury and the future of the Red Raiders program. Kingsbury is 30-32 with three losing seasons in five years. Kingsbury’s decision to start Carter was risky but he made the right move in the fourth quarter to go back to Shimonek and it may earn him more time with the program where he once was a record-setting quarterback.
Texas: The loss will make for a bitter off period before the bowl game. The Longhorns missed the chance to earn a seventh win for the first time since 2013 and the chance to end the regular season on a three-game win streak. The offense continues to be the problem for the Longhorns, who have struggled to move the ball all season under coordinator Tim Beck.