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College football: Mississippi State rallies in fourth quarter, edges Louisiana Tech in opener

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By Kane McGuire, Louisiana Tech Assistant Athletic Director/Communications 

STARKVILLE, Miss. – In a game of runs, Louisiana Tech had its game-winning field goal attempt blocked in the final seconds, falling 35-34 to Mississippi State in the 2021 season opener on Saturday afternoon at Davis Wade Stadium.

MS State (1-0) made the first run, capitalizing on two LA Tech (0-1) turnovers to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs from Ruston struck back, using big plays to score 34 unanswered points.  First was a 72-yard bomb from Austin Kendall to Bub Means.  Next was a 59-yard run by Kendall, keeping the ball on a zone read on 3rd-and-short and outracing everyone to the end zone to tie things up at 14-all.

LA Tech took the lead at 21-14 after Kendall hit Smoke Harris over the middle for a 24-yard touchdown. 

The run continued into the second half, getting field goals of 20 and 33 yards off the left-footed Jacob Barnes.  Those were sandwiched by a 35-yard pick six by Trey Baldwin (the fourth turnover forced by the swarming defense). 

The tables turned in the fourth quarter as MS State countered with 21 unanswered points to go up 35-34 with 3:37 to play in the game. 

The LA Tech offense, which had gone three-and-out on back-to-back drives, got the ball moving down the field and even converted a 4th-and-11 with Isaiah Graham hauling in a contested catch on the left sideline to put the team in field goal range.

After three straight rushes netting minimal gain, head coach Skip Holtz called a timeout with two seconds left to set up Jacob Barnes for a potential game-winning field goal from 46 yards away.  The ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and fell short. 

QUOTABLES

Head coach Skip Holtz

“I am really proud of the way the team competed.  We got down 14-0, turning the ball over twice.  But that is when I was really proud of the team.  Nobody hung their head or gave up.  They played the game with passion and energy and took the lead.  At the end of the game though, we did not execute well.  I am proud of the way they hung in there.  We have plenty of things to clean up.  It is game one of a long season.  We have to grow from some of the mistakes we made today.”

NOTABLES

·        Austin Kendall’s 72-yard touchdown pass to Bub Means was the longest for the Bulldogs since Nov. 9, 2019 when J’Mar Smith connected on an 80-yard pass against North Texas.

·        Austin Kendall’s 59-yard touchdown run was the longest by a Bulldog QB since Ryan Higgins in 2016 (71 yards versus Rice).

·        The 34 points scored by LA Tech was its second most ever against Mississippi State and the fourth most ever against an SEC opponent.

·        The 34 consecutive points scored by LA Tech was the most since 2019 (scored 42 straight versus UMass).

·        LA Tech had three touchdowns of 24+ yards in the game.  They had only six touchdowns of 24+ yards all of last season.

·        Trey Baldwin registered his third career interception and his first career touchdown on the pick six late in the third quarter.  It was the 14th pick six by LA Tech since 2017, the most in the country during that span. 

·        LA Tech forced four turnovers in the game for the first time since Oct. 19, 2019 against Southern Miss.

UP NEXT

Louisiana Tech gets ready for three straight games at Joe Aillet Stadium, starting with its home opener versus Southeastern on Saturday, Sept. 11.  The matchup is set for 6 p.m. on ESPN3.

— Featured photo by Darrell James

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