RUSTON — On a day where points were at a premium due to the stellar play of the two defenses, Louisiana Tech turned three third-quarter turnovers into 21 points as the Bulldogs held on for a 27-20 victory over UTSA 18,071 fans at Joe Aillet Stadium.
With the win, Tech (4-3, 3-0 C-USA) maintains its lead in the West Division standings heading into next weekend’s showdown at Southern Miss.
“It is always great to win,” said Tech head coach Skip Holtz. “We have had a few wins where we have gone out there and played really well, but this one we had to earn. It was a conference game against a very good team. A lot has been said about the quality of their defense and how physical they are. I thought it was a hard-fought game on both sides. I think they were a quality football team and showed us why they got a lot of votes to win the West (Division).”
Tech linebacker Terrell Pinson spearheaded the turnover barrage for the Bulldogs, returning a shotgun snap fumble two yards for a TD and then registering back-to-back interceptions which were also converted into scores.
“How do you not talk about Terrell Pinson,” Holtz said. “He had two interceptions, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, seven tackles including one for a loss. It was just an unbelievable individual effort.”
Pinson’s TD with 11:33 to play in the third quarter gave Tech (4-3, 3-0 C-USA) its first lead of the game as Jonathan Barnes point after attempt gave the Bulldogs a 13-10 advantage. On a third-down-and-12 play from the UTSA 15-yard line, freshman quarterback Austin Robinson had the shotgun snap sail through his hands. As the ball bounced towards the end zone, Pinson outraced Robinson, grabbed it on a bounce and hit paydirt.
On UTSA’s ensuing possession, Pinson struck again. On a second-down-and-11 play from the Roadrunners 49-yard line, Pinson intercepted Robinson and returned it to the UTSA 40-yard line. The Bulldogs offense capitalized as Cody Sokol hit Sterling Griffin for a 19-yard TD down the middle of the field. Barnes PAT made the score 20-10 with 9:01 remaining in the third quarter. Griffin led Tech receivers with six catches for 70 yards and one score.
The UTSA defense limited Sokol most of the day as the senior completed 14-of-31 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted one time.
Pinson recorded the turnover trifecta on the Roadrunners next possession, as Robinson’s pass sailed over the intended receiver’s hands and Pinson picked it out of the air, racing 19 yards to the UTSA 11-yard line.
Tech running back Kenneth Dixon scored two plays later from three yards out as the Bulldogs led 27-10. Dixon finished the day with 121 yards and one score on 28 carries in the game.
Tech scored the three touchdowns in a four-minute span. Thanks to the Tech defense, the Bulldogs offense only had to drive a total of 51 yards for the three touchdowns.
“I cannot say enough about the way the defense played today,” Holtz said. “We said there were going to have to be times when the defense carried this football team, and today was one of those days. The defense played a great game.”
UTSA’s defense which only allowed 278 yards on the day continued to stand tall while the Roadrunners offense used a pair of big plays to close the gap.
“We were struggling to drive the ball down the field as an offense,” Holtz said. “It seemed like we would get six yards and then get a penalty. That would put us in a passing situation, and we could not execute. It was just a frustrating day offensively. We could never get in a rhythm, and I give them a lot of credit for that and the scheme they put together.”
Late in the third quarter UTSA (2-5, 1-2 C-USA) faced a third down and 30 on their own 42 yard line, and it appeared as if the Bulldogs would force another punt. However, Robinson hit Jarveon Williams on a screen pass and Williams turned what appeared to be a five-yard gain into a 31-yard play as he reversed the field and raced to the Tech 27-yard line.
The Bulldog defense eventually held as Sean Ianno booted a 27-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 27-13 with 14:50 to play in the fourth quarter.
Following a three-and-out by the Bulldog offense, UTSA marched to the Tech 35-yard line after converting a fourth-down-and-1. The Roadrunners then used some trickery as wide receiver Kam Jones caught a lateral from Robinson and then tossed it 35-yards downfield to a wide open Kenny Harrison for the score. Ianno’s PAT made it 27-20 with 11:17 to play.
The Bulldogs defense stood tall on UTSA’s next possession and following a short punt from deep in its own end, Tech took over on the Roadrunner 43 with 8:09 to play. After picking up a couple of first downs, Tech’s offense eventually stalled as Jonathan Barnes came on with a chance to give Tech a double digit lead. However, Barnes’ 40-yard field goal attempt missed wide right as UTSA took over with 3:08 to play.
Three first downs later, UTSA moved inside of Tech territory with a chance to tie. However, the Bulldogs defense continued to pressure Robinson, who was sacked three times on the day and who was harassed all day. On a fourth-down-and-10 play from the Tech 33, Robinson hit Josiah Monroe on a quick out. Monroe was tackled by Bryson Abraham five yards short of the first down, sealing the win for the Bulldogs and avenging last year’s 30-10 loss in San Antonio.
The first two quarters saw more post-play action than in-game action. Numerous times following the completion of plays, officials were forced to separate players as multiple personal foul penalties were called. For the game Tech was penalized 10 times for 85 yards and UTSA eight times for 85 yards.
“Obviously, the penalties are another one of those glaring things,” Holtz said. “We just had far too many penalties. I thought the game got out of control in the second quarter. It got out of control, and there were frustrations on both sides of the field. Both coaches talked to their teams in the locker room and in the second half it was a hard fought game.”
UTSA built a 10-6 halftime advantage on an Ianno 23-yard field goal and a 53-yard touchdown run by Robinson on a busted play. Barnes hit field goals of 21- and 33-yards for Tech’s only points of the opening two quarters.
— Louisiana Tech Sports Information