ICYMI: Turnovers cost Bulldogs in homecoming loss

Solo Lewis (36) made a grab inside the redzone during Saturday’s loss to Sam Houston. (Courtesy Photo)

Four turnovers, including three in the second half, and defensive struggles to get off the field on third down cost Louisiana Tech in a 42-27 homecoming loss to Sam Houston Saturday afternoon at Joe Aillet Stadium.

Tech (3-8, 2-5) recorded more than 500 yards of total offense, including over 400 through the air, but the Bulldogs couldn’t overcome a minus-4 turnover margin in the loss to the Bearkats.

Despite the miscues, the Bulldogs had an opportunity to tie the game in the final three minutes. Trailing 35-27 the Bulldogs defense forced a punt and the offense took over on its own 20-yard line.

After a 33-yard pass play to Kyle Maxwell across midfield, Hank Bachmeier was pressured by the Bearkats defense on the following play. The senior signal caller was hit as he tried to throw the ball out of bounds, forcing a fluttering pass that was intercepted by Sam Houston’s Kavian Gaither and returned 45-yards for a game-clinching score.

“It’s all about how we respond,” said Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie. “We talked about before the game in terms of respect and as a teammate and as a coach, you have respect for those that lay it on the line in seasons like this and in the end of the season and how you finish. And so to have the respect for one another, to lay it all on the line.

“I was proud of the guys who did that, whether it was on the field, whether it was on the sideline with their energy, and to have the respect and the response to finish the season strong next week against a good Jacksonville State team.”

Sam Houston came into the game after snapping its eight-game losing streak with a victor over Kennesaw State last weekend. And the Bearkats came out energized and motivated to make it two in a row.

“If you go into a week and you look at a win loss record, you’re misleading yourself because in this league, everybody is about even, minus probably Liberty, which they have a lot more than everybody else in a lot of different ways,” said Cumbie. “And so from that standpoint, we didn’t play well enough on offense. We turned it over four times and you can’t do that. And we didn’t get off the field enough on third down on defense.”

One of the biggest plays of the night came in the second quarter. With Tech trailing 14-3, Charvis Thornton took a handoff, broke a tackle and appeared headed for paydirt. However, Thornton was stripped of the football as he was less than a yard from crossing the goal line and fumbled the ball through the endzone — giving Sam Houston the ball on its own 20.

“We’ve been pretty good about taking care of the football up to this point,” said Cumbie. “And it really bit us in the rear tonight. The play with Charvis, I mean it’s teach-tape on finishing with the ball high and tight, and the ball gets loose. We were fortunate Rivera had a fumble that we recovered.

“You know the ball gets taken away from Cyrus down the sideline on the first drive of the second half, when you’ve got momentum again. You’re throwing and catching the ball well, and then you can’t do it. The thing is our ball security; we weren’t good enough at it tonight.”

After Sam Houston took a 21-6 lead in the third quarter following the Allen fumble, the Bulldogs responded on a 5-yard TD run by Keith Willis, Jr. — the first of his two in the game.

Kyle Maxwell found Allen on a 35-yard TD pass on a double pass play by the Bulldogs late in the third quarter, pulling Tech to within 28-20. Willis, Jr., scored on a 1-yard plunge with just over 5 minutes to pay to close the deficit to 35-27. However, the Bulldogs could never pull even.

Sam Houston converted 9-of-15 third down conversions in the win.

Bachmeier completed 29-of-42 passes for 384 yards and two interceptions — both coming in the final two and a half minutes of play. Allen led Tech with seven receptions for 155 yards and one score while Maxwell added two receptions for 72 yards.

“I think Hank saw the field better and made the throws down the field better in the second half,” said Cumbie. “And I think that was awesome. We didn’t make plays on the ball in the first half like we did in the second half also. So I think two things: he saw the field better, got the ball out and guys made plays on the football in the second half, which we didn’t hit in the first half.”

Tech wraps up the season next Saturday when it travels to Jacksonville State.