College football: Big second half lifts La. Tech past Hawaii in Hawaii Bowl; Ferguson sets sack mark

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Donny Crowe/LaTechSportsPix.com

Malcolm Butler
Louisiana Tech Associate Athletic Director/Communications

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Jaylon Ferguson got the record. Louisiana Tech got the win.

On a night that saw Ferguson pass former Virginia Tech and NFL star Terrell Suggs as the NCAA all-time sack leader, Louisiana Tech defeated Hawaii 31-14 in the SoFi Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium late Saturday night.

Ferguson recorded 2.5 sacks and the Bulldog defense totaled a Hawaii Bowl record nine sacks and three interceptions while holding the high-powered Warriors offense in check all night long. The Bulldog All-American – named MVP of the game – ends his decorated collegiate career with 45 sacks, one more than Suggs.

Tech won its fifth bowl title in five years, adding another trophy to the case.

In a game that saw Tech trail 7-3 at the half after committing three first half turnovers, the Bulldogs came out and owned the third quarter, outscoring Hawaii 21-0 and outgaining UH 210-53. Tech scored on three straight offensive possessions. While the Tech offense found its groove in the third quarter, it was – appropriately – a pair of defensive plays that sparked the rally.

After a failed fourth down play deep in Tech territory on the opening possession of the third quarter, Ferguson and the Bulldogs D stood tall. On a first down and 10 play from the Bulldogs 18, Ferguson tied Suggs for the NCAA record, teaming up with Jacorion Andrews for a sack of UH quarterback Chevan Cordeiro.

On the next play Jordan Baldwin stepped in front of a Cordeiro pass and returned it to the Tech 49 yard line, ending the UH threat. Following the interception, Tech drove 51 yards on three plays highlighted by a 41-yard pass from J’Mar Smith to Teddy Veal and capped by a 5-yard TD run by Israel Tucker. Bailey Hale’s extra point gave Tech a 10-7 lead.

Ferguson wasn’t the only Bulldog defensive lineman who had a field day on the Island. Willie Baker, who entered the game with two sacks on the season, recorded five tackles for loss, including a four sacks for a Hawaii Bowl record.

Leading by a field goal, Tech turned to Jaqwis Dancy on its next possession. After taking over on its eight yard line following a UH punt, Smith picked up a huge first down on a 25-yard scramble from the shadow of the Tech end zone. Back to back runs by Dancy picked up another first down and set up the second TD of the night. On a second down and 10, Dancy took a screen pass from Smith and raced 58 yards untouched to paydirt and a 17-7 Bulldog lead.

Tech’s final score of the third quarter came via the legs of Smith. After a 54-yard hookup to Adrian Hardy took the ball down to the UH 7-yard line, Smith faked a handoff and ran four yards through the middle of the Hawaii defense for the score.

The fourth quarter turned into the Amik Robertson Show. The sophomore all-conference corner fed off of the Hawaii passing game, recording two interceptions off of UH quarterback Cole McDonald, equaling his total from the 12 regular season games.

Hawaii added a TD with 6:14 to play following a blocked punt. McDonald drove UH 35 yards, 15 coming on a questionable defensive pass interference penalty, and finished the drive with a 7-yard scoring pass to Armstrong-Brown.

However, with the game still in doubt, the Tech special teams unit recovered an onside kick. The Bulldogs offense then sealed the victory as Kam McKnight took a third down handoff out of the full house backfield, ran off right tackle and went untouched for a 39-yard score with 3:45 remaining in the game.

The first two quarters of the game were far from explosive.

Hale gave Tech a 3-0 lead with a 24-yard field goal with 1:08 to play in the opening quarter, capping a nine-play, 44-yard drive.

The second quarter was one of turnovers for Tech as the Bulldogs committed three. Following a fumble by Hardy that UH recovered, the Warriors drove 71 yards on seven plays to grab a 7-3 lead on a 24-yard pass from Cordeiro to Jason-Matthew Sharsh.

Despite two more turnovers by Tech on its ensuing two possessions, UH wasn’t able to add to its lead thanks to a stellar effort by the Bulldogs defense.

Offensively, Tech totaled 455 yards, including 285 through the air and 170 on the ground. Smith completed 19-of-29 passes for 285 yards and one score while Veal caught eight passes for 107 yards and Hardy added six catches for 93 yards.

Tech’s defense held UH to only 226 yards and 2-of-14 on third down conversions.