Louisiana Tech Associate Athletic Director/Communications
RUSTON — Jaqwis Dancy rushed for a career-high three touchdowns and Adrian Hardy recorded a career-high 10 receptions to lead Louisiana Tech to a 28-13 win over Rice in Conference USA action Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.
Tech overcame a night that saw it commit three turnovers – two J’Mar Smith interceptions and a fumble on a quarterback-running back exchange – as the Bulldogs improved to 7-3 on the season, 5-1 in Conference USA play.
“A couple guys stepped up and did some big things for us tonight,” said LA Tech head coach Skip Holtz. “This was not a pretty game. It got ugly at times. I’ll take some of the blame for that. We wanted to slow the game down a bit and execute at a high level, and that’s not really how we play. We had to fight through some foolish things in the first half.”
Collin Scott recorded two interceptions and L’Jarius Sneed registered one for a Bulldog defense that allowed the Owls (1-9, 0-7) to score just one touchdown in the game, a 68-yard pass from Shawn Stankavage to Austin Walter on the first possession of the third quarter. The score gave the Owls a 10-7 lead before Tech outscored Rice 21-3 the rest of the way.
“It wasn’t always pretty, but I’m proud that they were able to find a way to get a win,” said Holtz. “I thought our cover teams did a decent job for a team that is leading our league in punt returns and kick returns. I think we pretty much held them to no punt return yards. I thought we did a decent job on the kick returns. The defense played hard. They played smart. They played a solid football game. The defense settled down after that big play and really played a great game.”
With temperatures dipping below 40 on a cold night in north Louisiana, the Bulldogs improved to 7-0 when leading at halftime this season. Tech held a 7-3 lead at the break thanks to an 11-yard Dancy run with 3:02 to play in the second quarter. The run capped a 12-play, 63-yard scoring drive that took 5:51 off the clock as Dancy covered the final 29 yards on the ground.
The Owls wasted little time in retaking the lead in the third quarter. Stankavage found Walter down the far sideline. Walter made the over-the-shoulder catch, broke the tackle of James Jackson, and raced the final 30 yards to pay-dirt. It was the longest pass play of the season allowed by Tech.
“I’m really proud of the way our team competed tonight,” said Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren. “We challenged them all week to come out and work and do the things that we need to do to become a football team that wins games. I’m really proud with how the defense came out. I’m proud of the way they fought. I’m proud of the way they tackled. I’m proud of the forced turnovers.
“We’ve got a few other things we need to work on, but I think LA Tech is a talented, well-coached team. For us to take them into deep water and bring it to within one score in the fourth quarter was huge. The thing we have to do is get over that hurdle. When we do, I think really good things are going to happen for this football team.”
Tech responded minutes later. Hardy made a spectacular catch on a deep ball, leaping up between two Rice defenders as the pass played covered 49 yards and set Tech up at the Owls 1-yard line. On the next play, Dancy covered the final yard for his second score of the night. Bailey Hale’s extra point made the score 14-10.
Dancy struck again late in the quarter. This time the junior hit the hole off tackle and raced 18 yards to the endzone for a 21-10 Bulldog lead. Smith connected with Hardy for three receptions covering 48 yards on the 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
“I thought Adrian Hardy was a champ tonight,” said Holtz. “I thought he competed and played hard. He went up and made some big-time catches for us tonight. J’Mar Smith entered the top-10 all-time in passing touchdowns here at LA Tech, and I thought some guys on defense really stepped up and did some phenomenal things. Colin Scott with two interceptions and a lot of guys were involved in tackles all over the field.”
The Bulldog defense came up with a big fourth down stop on the opening Rice drive of the fourth quarter. After the Owls marched inside the Tech 20 yard line, Stankavage was pressured by Dae’von Washington on a third down play forcing an incompletion. Haden Tobola connected on his second field goal of the night for Rice, cutting the Tech lead to 21-13.
Tech responded immediately. Smith hit freshman Wayne Toussant on a 44-yard pass play down the middle of the field on the first play from scrimmage and the Bulldogs marched 85 yards on seven plays. Alfred Smith scored on a shovel pass from Smith from 10 yards out for a 28-13 lead.
“Offensively, we made enough plays to score some points, but it certainly wasn’t as productive as we wanted to be as an offensive football team,” said Holtz. “We’re learning a little bit more about who we are as we go through this. I’m proud of this team. They found a way to win seven games.”
Scott recorded two interceptions in the final six minutes of play, the final one coming with less than 60 seconds to play and sealing the victory. Sneed recorded his interception in the first half for Tech. Washington led the Bulldogs defense with seven tackles (1 TFL) while Jackson (6 tackles, 1 sack), Amik Robertson (6 tackles, 1.5 TFL), Scott (5 tackles, .5 TFL, 2 interceptions) and Immanuel Turner (5 tackles, .5 TFL) also had productive games.
Smith completed 21-of-34 passes for 314 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while Hardy led all Bulldog receivers with 10 catches for 160 yards. Teddy Veal added five catches for 43 yards and Smith added three receptions for 56 yards and one score.
Dancy rushed 15 times for 80 yards and three scores.
The Bulldogs travel to Hattiesburg Saturday to face Southern Miss at 2:30 p.m.