Late turnover saves Bulldogs win

In a game that was full of offensive explosions, it was a late defensive play by Louisiana Tech that saved a 45-42 win by the Bulldogs over Southeastern Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.

With Tech clinging to a 3-point lead in the final minute, Southeastern quarterback Cole Kelley – who passed for 495 yards and three TDs and ran for two more – fumbled the football on a strip by linebacker Ezekiel Barnett. Tech corner Cedric Woods recovered it with 52 seconds to play and the Bulldogs ran out the clock.

“Great job creating the turnover there at the end,” said Tech head coach Skip Holtz. “It was a back and forth game. It was a great game. If you were a spectator and didn’t care who won you really enjoyed an entertaining college football game. I am excited to win.

“Ultimately you want to find a way to put one in the win column. Our players were able to get that done tonight. I thought there were plenty of mistakes to be made, and we definitely got to get some things cleaned up. I felt like we started doing our own stuff tonight. I thought guys started pressing tonight in a close game. People start worrying about who you are playing as an opponent. We lost our poise a little bit.”

In a game that saw Tech lead from start to finish, the Bulldogs used a strong rushing attack, timely throws by quarterback Austin Kendall and three forced turnovers to pick up their first win of the season. Marcus Williams rushed for 99 yards, Greg Garner added a pair of rushing TDs – and a 33-yard TD reception – as the Bulldogs amassed 198 yards rushing in the win.

“Offensively, I can’t say enough about the offensive line,” said Holtz. “About the running backs and the way they protected the football. We did a really nice job. I thought the receivers made the plays they needed to. We did a really good job catching the ball. It’s not like we had a bunch of drops tonight.”

BeeJay Williamson was one of the few bright spots on the defensive side. Williamson recorded two interceptions, including a 45-yard return for a TD on Southeastern’s second offensive possession of the game to give Tech the early 7-0 lead.  

“Defensively, I thought we were really bad,” said Holtz, who saw his team surrender 594 yards of offense. “I give them an awful lot of credit. I think Cole Kelley is really good, but they had way too many uncontested wide receivers. They would throw the ball out in the flat and run for 20 yards, and there is nobody there. We played man coverage, and we didn’t cover them.”

Austin Kendall passed for 217 yards and one score for Tech while wide receiver Kyle Maxwell tossed a 33-yard TD pass to Garner on a double pass in the third quarter.

Tech led 45-35 with less than five minutes to play in the game when the Bulldogs defense forced a fourth-down-and-13 punt by the Lions from midfield. However, Southeastern pulled a fake as punter Austin Dunlap pulled down the ball and rushed for 15 yards for the first down. The Lions would score four plays later to close the gap to 45-42, giving them a chance late.

“I said if they punt it the game is over,” said Holtz. “We call punt safe, have four guys lined up at linebacker level that have the punter. There only job is to make sure the ball is punted.

“And all four of them turned and ran down the field to block somebody. It’s a matter of doing your job. We called it, but we didn’t do a very good job of coaching it and that starts with me. I will make sure we get punt safe straight tomorrow. I can assure you of that. There is no way that should have happened.”

Trey Baldwin led Tech with nine tackles and two pass breakups while Tyler Grubbs added eight tackles. Levi Bell and brother Ben Bell combined for all three sacks by the Bulldogs in the game.

Tech returns to action next Saturday when it hosts SMU.

Photo: Emerald McIntyre

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