Defense leads Bulldogs to C-USA Win

Don’t talk to Skip Holtz about ugly wins.

With the way the Bulldogs season has started with two last second heartbreaking losses, Holtz will take the W anyway he can get it.

And on Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium, the Bulldogs – playing without starting QB Austin Kendall who was out for medical reasons – built a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter and held on for a 24-17 win over North Texas in the Conference USA opener.

“Right now, it’s a win,” said Holtz. “I will take it. Now tomorrow when I’m watching film, I will probably be a little tougher on a lot of things. But right now I’m proud of our guys and happy with the win.”

Despite playing without Kendall, the Bulldogs (2-2, 1-0 C-USA) looked like world beaters early. Aaron Allen led Tech to TD drives on its first two possessions of the game.

Allen was efficient early – despite missing a couple of deep balls to open receivers – and led Tech down the field before Marcus Williams capped both drives with TD runs. Williams scored from two yards out on the opening possession and then found a seam and scored from 42-yards away on the second possession.

Tech led 14-0.

Freshman JD Head then got his turn. Head went 4-for-4 on his first opportunity and found Sam Emilus for a 34-yard strike and a 21-0 Bulldog lead early in the second.

Smoke Harris then ignited the Tech faithful with a 67-yard punt return, giving the Bulldogs a first and goal at the NT 2-yard line. Although the Bulldogs weren’t able to find the end zone, Jacob Barnes connected on a 21-yard FG and the lead was 24-0 with 10 minutes to play in the second.

Little did Tech fans know it would be the final points of the night for the Bulldogs.

“Offensively, it was ugly at times, but then other times it looked great,” said Holtz. “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.

“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.”

While the Tech offense disappeared for most of the final 40 minutes, the Bulldog defense stood tall. Although North Texas scored 17 points over the final 31 minutes of the game, Tech got stops when it mattered, including a fourth down stop with just over a minute to play in a one-score game.

North Texas was 0-for-6 on fourth downs and managed just 333 yards despite running 86 offensive plays.

“This is the same offense that had 550 against SMU two weeks ago,” said Holtz. “I thought the defense played really well. I thought they showed up tonight, on a night we needed them especially.”

Tech returns to action Saturday when it travels to Raleigh to face North Carolina State, who defeated No. 9 Clemson in overtime.

Photo: Darrell James

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