The Bulldogs used a run-heavy approach in the first half. Although Israel Tucker got the start at running back, Jaqwis Dancy stole the show, scoring a pair of touchdowns to give Tech a 13-0 lead.
Tech started off the second half with a field goal that gave them a 23-7 lead, and they seemed to have things under control. South Alabama, however, had other ideas.
One of the big questions for USA this season has been who will play quarterback. Cole Garvin got the start for the Jags at quarterback, and his touchdown pass to Kawaan Baker brought USA to within 10 midway through the third quarter. But later in the quarter, he was strip sacked by Jaylon Ferguson and James Jackson. The Jags gave Garvin the ball back just three plays later when J’Mar Smith was picked off by Jay Woods, but Garvin gave it right back when he overthrew his target on a flea flicker and Darryl Lewis came down with it.
A few plays later, now early in the fourth quarter, Smith was picked off yet again by Jalen Thompson. When the Jags retook the field, however, it was Evan Orth who came in to play quarterback. Orth didn’t score himself, but he led two touchdown drives to make things interesting late. It was Orth’s 59 yard run that set up the Jags’ fourth touchdown of the night, which made it 30-26. The onside kick attempt was corralled by La Tech’s Teddy Veal, securing the victory for the Dawgs.
In the first half, Jaqwis Dancy seemed almost unstoppable for La Tech, but they curiously went away from him in the second half. Tech played good defense for most of the game, and seemed to have the USA run game under control in the first half. It was a shakier second half, and they failed to stop Evan Orth on either of the drives he was given.
J’Mar Smith was shaky. He threw 19/29 for 209 yards. He threw two touchdowns to three interceptions. Most of his passes were short passes, and the receivers did the rest. In contrast to the 29 passing attempts, Tech ran the ball 48 times. Dancy rushed 15 times for 144 yards and two scores, while Israel Tucker rushed 19 times for 82 yards. Tech was at its best running the ball, and it doesn’t look like Smith improved from last season.
For South Alabama, it’s premature to say the quarterback competition is over. With that said, they were at their best in the fourth quarter with Evan Orth. His two rushes were enough to lead the team with 74 yards. He threw 4/6 for 44 yards. For comparison, Cole Garvin threw 7/16 for 47 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
Both teams ran for over 200 yards. La Tech also passed for 209 yards, while South Alabama only had 91 yards through the air.
Both defenses played well, with Tech going 4/14 on third down and USA going 3/13. However, Tech also went 2/3 on fourth down, while USA went 4/5. Tech threw three picks, while USA threw two. The Jags also lost two fumbles.
At the end of the day, neither team looked particularly impressive. Jags kept it closer than last year, but still ended up on the short end. Tech needs to decide how they want to approach the offensive side of the ball, as they seemed indecisive on what kind of scheme they were running.
Fortunately for Louisiana Tech (1-0), they take on the Southern Jaguars at home next week, and then get a week off. Plenty of time to work things out. South Alabama (0-1), however, heads to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State next week.