By Kane McGuire, Louisiana Tech Assistant Athletic Director/Communications
RUSTON – Another Louisiana Tech football game, another nail-biting ending.
And Saturday’s contest ended in more heartbreak for the Bulldogs as SMU scored the game-winning touchdown on a hail mary pass with no time on the clock to take it 39-37 inside Joe Aillet Stadium.
With only 36 seconds remaining in the contest, Jacob Barnes drilled a 47-yard field goal to up LA Tech’s (1-2) lead from one to four at 37-33, which forced SMU (3-0) to have to score a touchdown with no timeouts to win the game.
After three chunk plays and two spikes, the Mustangs drove down to the 33-yard line with enough time to get off one more play. Moving to his left, Tanner Mordecai tossed the football into the end zone, which was batted sideways and found the hands of Reggie Roberson, Jr. for the game-winning score.
LA Tech needed a strong second-half comeback to put itself in a position to win the game. Down 23-14 early in the third quarter, Austin Kendall found Tre Harris for an 11-yard touchdown pass. The two hooked up on the first score of the day, a 62-yard bomb down the left sideline.
After SMU’s Blake Mazza connected on a 26-yard field goal, Kendall gave the Bulldogs the lead back at 28-26 with a 3-yard touchdown run.
The advantage swayed back in favor of the Mustangs after Mordecai threw a 5-yard TD to Rashee Rice late in the third quarter, but LA Tech regained the edge with a nine-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in a 6-yard TD pass from Kendall to Marcus Williams, Jr. who broke a tackle and walked into the end zone.
The Bulldog defense stood tall on the next drive, stopping SMU on a fourth down for the second time in the game (first time came at the goal line early in the second quarter).
But, after LA Tech drained 2:42 off the clock and tacked on three points with the made field goal, the Mustangs covered 73 yards in six plays in just 36 seconds to pull out the win.
Head coach Skip Holtz
“Hard to lose, especially in the manner we just lost. There is nothing anyone can say to make the pain go away. Football is a 60-minute game. I am proud of our players. There were highs and lows, ups and downs. SMU has a good football team. It was a hard-fought football game on both sides. You sit at 1-2 with a loss, but you are two plays away from being 3-0. I wish somebody could take the pain and hurt away from everybody in that locker room. We just have to keep banging that rock. I think this is going to make us stronger as we continue through the year. I love this team, their fight, their competitive nature. It is unfortunate we came up on the losing end.”
· With the 39-37 loss, LA Tech now leads the all-time series over SMU, 4-2. The loss snapped the Bulldogs three-game winning streak over the Mustangs.
· Austin Kendall threw for 351 passing yards and four touchdowns, both being the most in his Bulldog career. The 351 passing yards is the third most in his collegiate career while the four TDs set a new career high.
· Austin Kendall ran for a touchdown for a third straight game. He is the first Bulldog quarterback to do so since J’Mar Smith did it in 2017.
· Tre Harris became the first Bulldog this season with a 100-yard receiving game. The wide receiver 102 yards to go along with two touchdown catches on just five receptions.
· Smoke Harris led LA Tech with six receptions, the most by a Bulldog this season.
· Austin Kendall found Tre Harris for a 62-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. That is the second 60+ yard TD throw this season (the Bulldogs had only one all last season).
· Austin Kendall led the ‘Dogs on a 13-play drive that went the full 99 yards in the second quarter. It marked the first time LA Tech has had a 99-yard drive since Kenneth Dixon ran a 99-yard touchdown at UL-Lafayette in 2014.
· Tyler Grubbs finished with a game-high 13 tackles (second most of his career). He is the first Bulldog to record double-digit tackles in a game this season. It was the sixth time Grubbs has had 10+ in a game.
· Tristan Allen blocked a PAT attempt by SMU in the first half. It was the first blocked PAT for LA Tech since the 2018 season opener at South Alabama.
· Jacob Barnes made his lone field goal attempt, connecting from 47 yards out for a new season high (second longest of his career). He improved to 4-5 on the season.
LA Tech will close out its three-game home stand on Saturday, Sept. 25 when they host North Texas. The Conference USA opener for the Bulldogs will kickoff at 6 p.m. and be broadcast by Stadium.
— Featured photo by Darrell James