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Final: LA Tech 35 Illinois 18

Louisiana Tech came out strong and jumped out to a 21-9 lead. Illinois came back despite numerous penalties and missed kicks. It took a little LA Tech magic in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs held on for the win.

Cody Sokol warms up for the Heart of Dallas Bowl
Cody Sokol warms up for the Heart of Dallas Bowl
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Louisiana Tech had a little case of nerves at the beginning of the game. The kicker slipped on the wet field and the opening kick went out of bounds. Hunter Lee dropped a would be first down. Lee played his final game as a Bulldog here in his hometown of Dallas.

Illinois' first possession didn't go much better as the Illini were called for two penalties. Houston Bates got a sack against his former team and Illinois had to punt.

On Tech's second possession, a Kenneth Dixon 28 yard run put theBulldogs in position to score. Cody Sokol escaped a would be sack and dove for the first down marker. He didn't make it and Tech went for a TD on 4th down. It was incomplete but Illinois was called for holding. Jarred Craft came in and channeled his inner-Dixon. Craft's 16 yard run for a TD put Tech up 7-0 Halfway through the first quarter.

LA Tech was getting great penetration on defense and Illinois had to use screen passes and reverses to get open. A reverse to speedy freshman Mike Dudek got them down to the LA Tech 10. Another sack by Houston Bates forced them to settle for three points.

A Cody Sokol pass to Kenneth Dixon went for 80 yards and a score as Tech answered right back. After one quarter of play, LA Tech led 14-3.

Illinois missed a field goal on the next possession, but they forced Tech to punt. Sokol was just 2-9 at that point. Reilly O'Toole led the Illini down the field and they finally got in the end zone. The extra point was no good and with 11:15 before the half,, LA Tech led 14-9.

Louisiana Tech continued to struggle on offense and the Illini started to gain momentum. LA Tech led the nation in turnovers forced and desperately need one. Xavier Woods responded with a pick-6 to put Tech up 21-9 with 7:20 left in the first half.

The second half started with both teams struggling on offense. O'Toole finally broke through with a pair of 3rd down conversions, the first of the game for either team, and Illinois punched it in. They went for two and failed, and the score was 21-16 Tech with 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.

LA Tech missed a field goal on their next possession. Illinois marched right back down the field and added a field goal of their own. With 14:01 left in the game, Tech's lead was down to 21-18. The Bulldogs were struggling in a major way.

The next series was pure LA Tech. The Bulldogs struggled to the 50 yard line. Sokol was stripped on a pass attempt and Illinois recovered. On the return, Illinois fumbled. The Bulldogs recovered and got the first down.

The Bulldogs basically lost 35 yards on the play but they got the first down. Tech finally got the big play they needed on a long pass to Carlos Henderson. Kenneth Dixon punched it in and Tech led 28-18 with 6:15 left to go.

Houston Bates came up with another sack (4.5 on the game) and Illinois went three and out. Cue the Skip Holtz run it up the middle and force them to call time out offense. Back to back first downs by Dixon and Blake Martin and it appeared that Tech would run out the clock. Then Martin ran it in from around the 30. Illini fans hit the exits.

With 3:38, Illinois took over down 35-18. A meaningless drive was left, which stalled at the LA Tech 12 and left the Bulldogs with the win.