By Kane McGuire, Louisiana Tech Assistant Athletic Director/Communications
RUSTON – Louisiana Tech stopped North Texas on fourth down four times through the first three quarters.
The defense needed to stand tall once more on fourth down with a minute to go in the game, and did just that as the Bulldogs held off the Mean Green by a final score of 24-17 on Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.
LA Tech (2-2-, 1-0 C-USA) was cruising in the first half, scoring 24 unanswered points despite being without starting quarterback Austin Kendall who was out due to medical reasons.
The arms of Aaron Allen and JD Head, as well as the legs of Marcus Williams, Jr., gave the Bulldogs that big early cushion thanks in large part to big plays.
Allen led the team on a nine-play, 65-yard opening drive that ended in a powerful 2-yard touchdown run by Williams, Jr. up the middle for his first ground score of the season. The transfer from App State tacked on another in the first quarter, this one a 42-yard gash to give the ‘Dogs a 14-0 advantage.
In came Head who on his first drive of the game fired a perfect deep ball down the right sideline to Samuel Emilus for a 34-yard touchdown.
LA Tech would make it four scores on its first five drives as Jacob Barnes added on three more points with a 21-yard chip shot to give the ‘Dogs a 24-0 lead with 10:03 to go in the second quarter.
North Texas (1-3, 0-2 C-USA) finally found the end zone just before halftime on a 3-yard rush by DeAndre Torrey.
The Mean Green continued to use the ground game in the second half to chip away at the Bulldogs lead. They got a 33-yard field goal from Ethan Mooney and converted their first fourth down with 5:39 to play, which resulted in an 8-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-17 with 5:39 still remaining.
Cesar Barajas attempted to give LA Tech a two-possession lead, but his 50-yard field goal attempt missed wide right, giving UNT the ball with 1:37 left and a chance to tie or take the lead. After getting four yards on the ground on first down, the Bulldogs forced three straight incompletions to seal the conference victory.
Head coach Skip Holtz
“When you look at the season we have been through, we needed this one. I am really proud of the way we came out. We talked about how we are learning a lot about our football team. This one was an absolute must and we found a way to get the win. This is the same offense that had 550 against SMU two weeks ago. I thought the defense played really well. I thought they showed up tonight, on a night we needed them especially. Offensively, it was ugly at times, but then other times it looked great. We hit some big plays early, scoring 24 points. The second half offensively, we really struggled. Fortunately, we made enough plays to hang on and get a conference win.”
· With Austin Kendall out due to medical reasons, Aaron Allen made his fifth career start at quarterback.
· With the 24-17 victory, the Bulldogs have now won five straight C-USA openers (the longest active streak in the league).
· LA Tech now leads the all-time series over North Texas, 13-7. The Bulldogs have won four straight over the Mean Green and seven of the last eight.
· The LA Tech defense limited North Texas to just 92 passing yards. That is the fewest since they gave up just 92 passing yards to WKU in 2018.
· The Bulldogs broke out the red uniforms. They have now won four straight games wearing red.
· Smoke Harris registered a 67-yard punt return, the longest of his career. It was the longest punt return by a Bulldog since 2011 (Craig Johnson had an 82-yard punt return).
· Smoke Harris recorded a game-high seven receptions. It is the most receptions by a Bulldog this season.
· JD Head threw his first career touchdown pass as a Bulldog, a 34-yard strike to Samuel Emilus. It was the second straight game for Emilus with a receiving touchdown.
· Marcus Williams, Jr. found the end zone twice on the ground for his first two rushing TDs as a Bulldog. His 42-yard rushing touchdown was the second longest by a Bulldog this season.
· LA Tech held North Texas to 1-of-6 on fourth down. Opponents are now just 3-of-10 on fourth downs this season against the Bulldog defense.
LA Tech steps out of conference for the last time, playing at NC State on Saturday, Oct. 2. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CT at Carter-Finley Stadium. The matchup will be broadcast on ESPN+.
— Featured photo by Darrell James