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Texas Tech survives UTEP in OT on Trlica's 49-yard FG

EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- Alex Trlica missed two field goals in the
fourth quarter before coming through in overtime.

Trlica's 49-yard field goal hit the left upright and bounced
through the posts, giving No. 24 Texas Tech a 38-35 overtime
victory over Texas-El Paso on Saturday night.

"First time ever," Trlica said when asked if he'd ever nailed
a game-winner. "It was relieving. Had I not missed the others, it
might have been a little different. It was just a huge relief off
my shoulders."

It was a fitting ending to a crazy night at the Sun Bowl,
capping a marathon contest that never seemed to finish when it
should have -- in part because Trlica missed from 51 and 34 yards in
the fourth quarter.

Still, coach Mike Leach never hesitated to send his kicker out
in overtime.

"We had quite a ways to go to get a first down. It was kind of
a no-brainer, really," Leach said. "I guess it's a little like
when Babe Ruth strikes out three times in a row. It makes it more
likely he'll hit it the next time."

Graham Harrell threw for 376 yards passing and two touchdowns
and Joel Filani had 10 receptions for 169 yards and one score for
the Red Raiders (2-0).

On the first OT possession, Texas Tech stopped the Miners (1-1)
at the 6 when Darcel McBath intercepted a batted throw by
quarterback Jordan Palmer. Two plays later, it seemed over after
Harrell connected with Robert Johnson on a 20-yard TD play.

But the Red Raiders were flagged for holding, and officials
added another penalty for excessive celebration after the apparent
TD -- pushing Texas Tech back to the 43. Two plays later, Trlica
trotted out for the decisive field goal and pinballed it home.

"When it came off my foot, I thought it was going down the
middle," Trlica said. "Then I saw it tail off and it hit the
upright. Everybody was in my way and I couldn't see. I bent over
and saw the ref give the signal."

The Miners had tied it at 35 when Palmer threw a 39-yard scoring
pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. with 1:04 remaining.

But then just when it seemed overtime was imminent, the Miners --
who didn't have any penalties in last weekend's win at San Diego
State -- blundered by committing two defensive penalties with no
time on the clock.

"It's a lot easier to see from the press box than on the
field," UTEP coach Mike Price said, defending his players. "You
couldn't hear yourself think out there."

A roughing-the-passer call against defensive tackle Zach West
and another penalty for having 12 men on the field gave Texas Tech
a fourth-down play at UTEP's 34, but Trlica's 51-yard field goal
try sailed wide left.

Earlier, Trlica missed on a 34-yard try with 4:15 left.

"Those first two kicks, things like that happen," he said. "I
was just hoping I'd get the opportunity to redeem myself and help
the team win."

Filani said Trlica gets some grief on the team simply because
he's a kicker. But it's certain to be all handshakes on the trip
back to Lubbock.

"They all get hated on because they're kickers," Filani said.
"But Alex, he's our man. He made a big field goal and we're happy
he made it."

Palmer, younger brother of Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer,
completed 34-of-51 attempts for 334 yards and three TDs and two
interceptions. The last one wasn't really his fault, not after it
was swatted by 6-foot-8 defensive end Jake Ratliff.

"There's nothing I would change about that pass," Palmer said.
"There's only so much you can control."

Harrell was 40-of-52 with one interception.

Next for Texas Tech is game next weekend at No. 23 TCU, which
has Division I-A's longest winning streak -- 12 in a row after a
46-13 victory over UC Davis and Texas' loss to Ohio State. Texas
Tech beat TCU 70-35 when they last played two years ago.

It was a festive night until the end for the Sun Bowl crowd of
51,827, the largest ever to see a UTEP home opener and the fourth
largest in school history.

"If we can get a crowd like that every week, it keeps us in the
game," Palmer said.

And leave it to Price to spring a few surprises in a wild second
half.

The Miners scored on a 41-yard flea-flicker from Florida State
transfer Lorne Sam to Joe West in the second quarter, and Sam got
UTEP within 24-19 when he lined up at quarterback and scampered for
a 9-yard TD on a draw in the third quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Higgins lined up on the right end -- in
front of Texas Tech's sideline -- and corralled an onside kick that
set up Palmer's 3-yard TD pass to Jake Sears for a 25-24 lead late
in the third.

Moments later, UTEP had the ball again at Texas Tech's 47 after
an interception by Quintin Demps. The Miners led 28-24 after Reagan
Schneider's 36-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth
period.

Trlica answered, kicking a 26-yard field goal to keep the Red
Raiders within 28-27 with 9:51 remaining. And after the defense
forced a UTEP punt, Texas Tech led 33-28 when Shannon Woods scored
on a 9-yard run.

Harrell found Johnson in the back of the end zone for a 2-point
PAT that put the Red Raiders up 35-28 with 7:10 to play.

Things looked even better for Texas Tech when McBath caught
Palmer's first interception at UTEP's 25 with 6:30 to play. But the
Miners' defense held and Trlica missed from 34 yards.

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