It was an exciting night in Ruston as the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs took on the South Alabama Jaguars, as both teams sought a win to close non-conference play.
The Jaguars received the ball to start the game, but had a hard time getting anything going as their first drive failed to get the offense out of their own 25 yard line. La Tech’s first drive fared better but it ended without points too as the Bulldogs drove the ball to the South Alabama 11 yard line in nine plays, only to have a fumble by Marlon Watts recovered USA corner Malcolm Buggs.
Suffering from the failed previous drive, Jaguars running back Xavier Johnson demolished the Louisiana Tech defense with 55 yards ran in only two plays into the Bulldog 29. USA quarterback Cole Garvin connected with Jamarius Way to cap off the drive with a touchdown.
Though demoralized, the Bulldog offense responded in kind. Starting their drive from their own 31, Louisiana Tech would march down the field in four plays to result in their own touchdown, a 18-yard reception from Rhashid Bonnette, a 4 yard-run by Jarred Craft, and a whopping 40 yard pass from J’Mar Smith to Teddy Veal for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
South Alabama, struggling to get only eight yards in their next drive, was forced to punt to a Louisiana Tech offense that was on fire. Starting from their own 38, the Bulldogs would use an 18 yard run from Boston Scott, a 21 yard reception by Kam McKnight, a 13 yard run by J’Mar Smith, and a 10 yard pass reception by Jarred Craft for a touchdown, thrusting the Bulldogs to a 14-7 lead over the Jaguars.
The remainder of the first half would go without another touchdown, but the next two drives by South Alabama would result in interceptions by Secdrick Cooper. The occasional big play by each team would occur, but neither would reach the end zone. Louisiana Tech would make a field goal via Jonathan Barnes and USA would make two field goals thanks to K Gavin Patterson.
The third quarter of the game was rather slow for Louisiana Tech, with Louisiana Tech’s first drive ending in a missed 41-yard by Jonathan Barnes, which is a rare occurrence for the senior kicker. South Alabama would respond with a slow, 12-play drive down field for a 46 yard field goal for USA K Gavin Patterson, bringing the game to a close 16-17 with only 5:20 left in the third quarter.
The next four drives of the game showcased each team’s defensive talents. In these four drives, South Alabama held the Bulldogs to a total of 26 yards of loss, and Louisiana Tech held the Jaguars to 14 total yards of loss. Early in the fourth quarter however, things began to click offensively, and the Bulldogs would begin their surge to victory.
Starting the drive from their own 10, Louisiana Tech drove the ball 90 yards in seven plays which resulted in a 30-yard touchdown reception by Adrian Hardy. The rest of South Alabama’s drives resulted in punts and turnover on downs, which gave the Bulldogs a chance to score a 29-yard field goal as well as an additional touchdown in a one-play drive through a 27-yard touchdown run by Boston Scott.
For those who like to watch a well-rounded game of football, this one didn’t disappoint. J’Mar Smith had a career 317 yards passing with 24 out of 39 completions and three touchdown passes. It was also the first game this season that Smith did not throw an interception. Jonathan Barnes made his 66th career field goal, putting him at the top of the Louisiana Tech all-time field goal list, and still has the rest of the season to climb even higher above now-second place, Josh Scobee.
Teddy Veal seems to have found his place as a star receiver for the Bulldogs, achieving 24 receptions for 331 yards (five receptions for 88 yards in this game). Secdrick Cooper also had a great game, going in with zero career interceptions and finishing with two picks. It seems as though things are finally clicking for the Bulldogs, which is exactly what they needed as they enter conference play.
Louisiana Tech will resume conference play next Saturday with a road game against UAB at 3 p.m. CST