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La Tech Defeats #25 Navy 48-45 in Armed Forces Bowl Thriller

Bulldogs win a program-best 3rd straight bowl game

NCAA Football: Armed Forces Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Navy Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We were promised points, and the Dawgs and the Mids did not disappoint.

Louisiana Tech got the fireworks started early as Carlos Henderson returned the opening kickoff to the Navy 17, setting up a quick touchdown. Navy’s first drive ended early with a fumble recovered by Prince Sam. Tech would get a field goal off the turnover, giving the Bulldogs an early 10-0 lead.

NCAA Football: Armed Forces Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Navy Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Navy would turn it on afterwards, and at one point led 21-17. But Tech would score a touchdown on the following drive. A Navy field goal on the next possession would tie it up, and the two teams would trade scores from there. Tech would score to go up by seven, then Navy would tie it back up. Rinse and repeat.

As the fourth quarter drug on, it started to feel like overtime was a strong possibility. But Navy came in with one significant disadvantage: they used all three of their time outs in the third quarter.

Tech had timeouts. Navy did not.

With 4:12 left in the game, Navy received the kick off following a go-ahead touchdown from Henderson. First play, Zach Abey threw a 15 yard pass to Darryl Bonner. However, Abey took a big hit and didn’t get up right away. Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Jordan Bradford was flagged for roughing the passer and, after a review from the booth, was ejected for targeting. This gave Navy 15 more yards, meaning the play resulted in a net gain of 30. Fourth string quarterback Malcolm Perry checked in for Abey, and in one play ran 30 yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 45 apiece with 3:46 to go.

NCAA Football: Armed Forces Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Navy Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This is where the timeouts mattered. Tech had the clock completely under their control. They had to start from their own 15, but Ryan Higgins was able to drive them down the field to well within field goal range. From there, they ran the clock. Higgins centered the ball and took a knee on the Navy 15. With three seconds left, Jonathan Barnes kicked a game-winning 32 yard field goal.

These teams were so evenly matched it’s not even funny. Both teams recorded over 450 yards of offense (497 Tech, 459 Navy), even if they did it different ways (409 passing for Tech, 300 rushing for Navy). 31 first downs for Tech, 25 for Navy.

Here’s the surprising part. Navy, as a triple option team, is usually able to dominate time of possession. However, the time of possession was pretty even. In fact, Tech actually had MORE time of possession than Navy (31:31 to 28:29). All in all, the stats seem pretty evenly matched, but slightly in Tech’s favor. That was reflected on the scoreboard in Tech’s 48-45 win. This game was going to be won by the team that had the ball last, or it was going to go into overtime.

Navy lost because they went into the fourth quarter without any time outs. Simple as that. If this game was played over, Navy could just as easily have won.

NCAA Football: Armed Forces Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Navy Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, Tech lit it up through the air, Navy on the ground. Neither defense had an answer, and the over/under of 68 was shattered (93 combined points). This was projected as one of the better bowl games of 2016, and most certainly did not disappoint.

Zach Abey finished 7/12 passing for 159 yards with a TD (Daryll Bonner with the reception). He carried the ball for 25 of Navy’s 49 rushes, collecting 114 yards and two touchdowns. Fullback Chris High (2) and quarterback Malcom Perry (1) scored Navy’s other rushing scores.

For Tech, Ryan Higgins finished 29/40 for 409 yards and four touchdowns. Star wide receivers Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson each caught two touchdown passes. Taylor caught 12 passes for 233 yards, while Henderson caught 10 for 129. Higgins and back up running back Boston Scott each recorded a rushing score. Jarred Craft rushed 17 times for 63 yards.

Zach Abey and Trent Taylor were named the MVP’s for each team.

For Louisiana Tech, this win meant several things. It was their first ever win over a service academy (previously 0-2 vs Army, 0-2 vs Navy). This is also Tech’s first victory over a ranked opponent since defeating WAC rival Fresno State in 2005.

NCAA Football: Armed Forces Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Navy Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, before Skip Holtz arrived in Ruston, Tech had 2 bowl wins (not counting College Division bowls and Division II/Division I-A playoffs). After their first two appearances (1977 and 1978 Independence Bowls), they had not been to bowls in back to back years. After a rebuild in 2013, Holtz has not only taken the Dawgs bowling in three straight years, but has brought three-straight bowl victories. From a bowl record of 2-3-1 before his arrival, Louisiana Tech is now 5-3-1.

Both teams finish 2016 with a 9-5 record and divisional titles. Navy finishes 0-3 following quarterback Will Worth’s injury.