Pass rush biggest winner of Tech Spring Game

Louisiana Tech senior receiver Isaiah Graham (blue jersey) hauled in this 16-year touchdown late in Saturday’s Spring Game at Joe Aillet Stadium. (Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT/LPJ)

By T. Scott Boatright

It was rarity in these strange days for the piney hills of Lincoln Parish, as a Louisiana Tech Spring Game was played at Joe Aillet Stadium for the first time in three years on Saturday.

The 2019 Tech Spring Game was canceled due to inclement weather while the 2020 game was canceled in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scores don’t really matter in a spring game. Instead, it’s all about evaluation for coaching staffs. And what Tech coaches got the biggest taste of was domination in the pass rush game as the defensive ‘Dogs chalked up 10 quarterback sacks.

For those concerned about the numerical outcome, Team LA Tech defeated Team Bulldogs 26-10. But afterward, Tech head coach Skip Holtz was only concerned with the outcome for his players, staff, and the fans in attendance.

“We’ve had 14 days of practice and you come into number 15 and you’re really looking forward to people in the stands and the players having to perform in front of people,” head coach Skip Holtz said. “I thank and applaud all the people that came out today. We had a great crowd for the spring game. You want to see how people respond when there are people in the stands. We have guys who go out there for 14 days and they’re focused on what they have to do and the play going on.

“It’s amazing that when you put family and fans in the stands, they start seeing everything else. It was good to have an opportunity to get out there. And as (Aaron) Allen said as he was walking out, ‘Coach, that felt like a real game.’ That one felt like a real game. That’s the environment we wanted to put them in and it couldn’t have been made possible if people didn’t come out and support us.”

Another of the game’s highlights was a battle between redshirt freshman kicker/punter Jacob Barnes, who scored the first points on a 39-yard field goal to give Team Bulldogs the 3-0 lead with 8:39 to play in the first quarter, and freshman kicker/punter Garin Boniol. who booted field goals from 40 and 42 yards out.

Barnes is the incumbent from last season and is the brother of former Tech kicking standout Jonathan Barnes while Boniol is the son of former Tech and NFL kicking great Chris Boniol.

Other highlights included a 12-yard scoring scamper by graduate transfer Marcus Williams Jr, a 25-yard scoring strike from quarterback Aaron Allen to wide receiver Praise Okorie, and a 16-yard touchdown pass from freshman signal caller JD Head to senior receiver Isaiah Graham.

“As a head coach, what you want to get out of a spring game is you want an evaluation,” Holtz said. “You want to see your players play in competitive situations. You want to see them play in different situations. Where are we in understanding down, distance, how I fit into the system, everybody playing one-of-11? There are so many things you’re trying to evaluate. The most important thing you’re doing is you want to come out of it healthy. We’ve had a great 14 days and, after today, we had a great 15 days. It wasn’t necessarily offense or defense as much as it was trying to make individual decisions on some of the players.”

Offensively, Allen led Team LA Tech after completing 14-of-25 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown. LA Tech was also led offensively by Williams with 52 rushing yards and freshman wide receiver Tre Harris with 91 receiving yards.

Head led Team Bulldogs after completing 12-of-25 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Freshman running back Harlan Dixon led the Bulldogs with 32 rushing yards, while junior wide receiver Griffin Hebert led the ‘Dogs with 59 receiving yards.

Defensively, Team LA Tech was led by Kody Fulp, freshman safety Jamison Kelly and freshman linebacker Eric Barnes with five tackles each. Redshirt freshman linebacker Maki Carabin led the Bulldogs with a game-high seven tackles.

Nine players registered sacks during the game, led by Team LA Tech senior defensive lineman Eric Kendzior with two.

The 2021 LA Tech Spring Game officially marked the end of 15 spring practice sessions for the Bulldogs.

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