Bulldogs stifle Roadrunners, become bowl eligible
RUSTON, La. – In order to get win No. 6 on the season to become bowl eligible, Louisiana Tech turned to No. 6 Boston Scott, who put the Bulldogs on his back on Senior Night, rushing for a career-high 138 yards and a touchdown in LA Tech’s 20-6 victory over UTSA on Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.
The victory marked Louisiana Tech’s fourth straight over UTSA as the Bulldogs improved to 6-6 overall on the season and 4-4 in Conference USA play. LA Tech becomes the 10th team in Conference USA to reach bowl eligibility, while the Bulldogs are now bowl eligible for the fourth straight season following Saturday night’s victory.
“I really want to see these seniors have an opportunity to go enjoy a bowl game,” head coach Skip Holtz said. “They have worked extremely hard. They have put a lot of time, effort and energy into this program and be a great way to say thank you. But it’s Thanksgiving weekend, there’s so much to be grateful for, so much to be thankful for and I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with these guys.”
The Bulldog defense turned in a stellar performance on Saturday night, holding UTSA to a season-low six points and 201 total yards of offense (91 pass, 110 rush), while forcing two turnovers in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. The Roadrunners were held to 50 percent in the red zone with two field goals.
“Defensively, oh my gosh, what an incredible effort,” Holtz said. “They got down in there on that goal line and they wouldn’t give in. They just kept banging that rock and really proud of them. (Amik) Robertson came up with a huge interception down there after the one turnover but, defensively, it was our best effort of the year. I mean, statistically, just the togetherness, the energy, the way everybody was into it.
“I thought the offensive line did a great job with the running game. They changed some things after the first couple series and made a couple little adjustments but I thought the way Boston Scott ran, tough little son of a gun. He just keeps competing and really proud of what he was able to do tonight on the offensive line. But like I said, I thought the defense was the real hero of this game the way the defense stood up on these goal line stands was huge.”
Louisiana Tech entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead, but a UTSA field goal made it a one-possession game with just over 12 minutes to play.
Jaqwis Dancy returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards into UTSA territory, but LA Tech could not make anything of the good field position and was forced to punt it back to the Roadrunners. Despite the defense forcing a punt on UTSA’s next drive, Teddy Veal muffed the return, allowing the Roadrunners to regain possession deep inside Bulldog territory at the 15-yard line.
From there, momentum began to swing in favor of the Bulldogs.
On the first play of the its next drive, UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm’s pass into the end zone was picked off by LA Tech cornerback Amik Robertson for the true freshman’s fourth interception of his rookie season with seven minutes to play.
Needing to drain the clock, the Bulldogs turned to No. 6 once again to close things out. Scott ran the ball six times during the next offensive possession and ate up nearly five minutes off the game clock on his way to a 35-yard rushing touchdown to make it a 20-6 lead for Louisiana Tech.
The momentum continued to favor Louisiana Tech after UTSA took back over with 2:23 left on the clock only for the Bulldog defense to create its second turnover of the night, this one an interception by Darryl Lewis that allowed LA Tech to run out the clock and earn its sixth win of the season.
Defensively, Louisiana Tech was led by senior Russell Farris, who registered a career-high 13 total tackles (5 solo, 8 assists), including two tackles for loss. Jaylon Ferguson had five tackles on the night, three of which went for a loss, including 1.5 sacks on the night.
In addition to Scott’s career night, receiver Rhashid Bonnette had four catches for 64 yards. Overall, LA Tech struggled to make much happen in the passing game as quarterback J’Mar Smith was 7-of-21 for 101 yards, including 18 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Midway through the first quarter of play, Louisiana Tech’s defense forced an early punt on UTSA’s opening drive of the game, while the Bulldog offense followed that up by driving 80 yards down the field with the help of three penalties by the Roadrunners to take a 7-0 lead on J’Mar Smith’s one-yard quarterback keeper. Jonathan Barnes connected on a 26-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in the first half gave the Bulldogs a 10-0 advantage at the break.
For the second straight game, the Bulldog defense stood tall in the first half and recorded a shutout in the first half of the game, but the strong play continued early in the third quarter. Despite LA Tech throwing an interception on the first drive of the third quarter that gave UTSA the ball inside the red zone, the Bulldog defense held the Roadrunners to a field goal to make it a 10-3 lead for Tech.
On LA Tech’s next possession, Barnes saved a drive by drilling a season-long field goal of 53 yards, one shy of his career long, to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 10 midway through the third quarter of play.
The Bulldogs will now await next week’s bowl announcement to find out their fate.
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Louisiana Tech Head Coach Skip Holtz
Q. Coach, I don’t know what it is, the feeling right now with the team, the fans, probably the most complete game we’ve played all year.
COACH HOLTZ: Oh, no, no. Definitely defensively, defensively, oh, my gosh, what an incredible effort. They got down in there on that goal line and they wouldn’t give in. They just kept banging that rock and really proud of them, (Amik) Robertson came up with a huge interception down there after the one turnover but, defensively, it was our best effort of the year. I mean, statistically, just the togetherness, the energy, the way everybody was into it.
Offensively, probably one of the worst passing performances in the history of college football. When you look at passing performance. But you know what, I thought the offensive line did a great job with the running game. They changed some things after the first couple series and made a couple little adjustments but I thought the way Boston Scott ran, tough little son of a gun. He just keeps competing and really proud of what he was able to do tonight on the offensive line.
Like I said, I thought the defense was the real hero of this game the way the defense stood up on these goal line stands was huge.
Q. You’ve got a 6-4 wide receiver — 5-9, you knew the play was coming but he timed the jump perfect.
COACH HOLTZ: He really did a great job. You look at Amik, and he may be a little bit shorter than that guy if you put him on a height, but if you put vertical jumps and competitive nature and heart, I’ll take our chances with Amik Robertson. He’s such a great competitor. He’s got great ball skills.
He had a couple of those opportunities earlier this year where you know, maybe he just batted it away or wasn’t able to make the play, but he was able to go up and make that one, which was absolutely huge, because that was right after the turnover. We fumbled the punt and all of a sudden you give them an opportunity to get into it. Just like I said, great individual effort on his part but great performance by our defense and our defensive staff.
Q. The offense, still a one-possession game and really needed to pick up some first downs and you were able to do that because this offense, you told me you would be lucky to get eight positions and around seven or eight, you were exactly right. Their drives took nine minutes.
COACH HOLTZ: Yeah, we kept talking about it, even at half-time. I think we had the ball four times. Like, golly, guys, feel like we haven’t done anything as an offense, we’ve only punted twice and didn’t have a turnover the first half.
So you just take the air out of it, they play a low-scoring game and we were prepared to come in here and do that. We made a foolish interception early in the third quarter and then we dropped that punt and put our defense in two bad field positions.
But outside of those two field positions, like I said, I thought our defense kept competing. Offensively, though, the end of the game, as bad as it was passing, I they were 7-of-21 in the completion percentage, somewhere in there. But at the end of the game, you know what we needed to make some first downs. We ran the ball every down. Boston Scott, Jaqwis Dancy, the offensive line, they were in zero coverage. Safeties were downhill, extra hats everywhere, but boy, they did a great job.
Q. The seniors, just seemed to be a lot more energy, you came through Senior Night, sometimes can be really emotional. You could feel that energy throughout the team?
COACH HOLTZ: This senior class is really special. You look at what these guys have accomplished and what they have done, you talk about guys like Secdrick Cooper, Deldrick Canty, you go through some of these guys, Jarred Craft, Boston Scott, these guys have been here for four years and have played major roles for us in the last three years, and then to come out here and to think that, you know what, this was going to be their last opportunity, they were going to make the most of it. Just really proud what they were able to do tonight.
Q. The kicker, you know what, it’s senior night — 53 yards.
COACH HOLTZ: They had asked me before, you know what, really, where do you feel good with John. And I said, you know, I feel really comfortable, really 55, but I’d try 60. I told him that earlier in the week when we had tried the 64-yarder at Southern Miss and just missed it by about a yard or two, and then all of a sudden I look up there and somebody said, punt them in the hole. And I thought, punt them, no, I’m thinking field goal. You know, your money where your mouth is. You said that you felt comfortable with John Barnes and you said you believed in him and you had an opportunity to go up two scores and I thought that was huge points on the board.
Q. Now it’s in the hands of all the Bowl committees out there. 6-6, Bowl eligible, a lot of teams left to play but now it’s just in the hands of committees.
COACH HOLTZ: Yeah, I certainly hope, I certainly hope this team has that opportunity. I know with all the close games that they have had, there’s been two games that really we got beat. I mean, but every other game, when you look at it, we have been in it. These guys compete. They work hard and for this senior class, I would love to have it. I mean, selfishly I want those extra practices for the young players to have the opportunity to have another spring practice for the development and the growth of this team moving forward.
But I really want to see these seniors have an opportunity to go enjoy a bowl game. They have worked extremely hard. They have put a lot of time, effort and energy into this program and be a great way to say thank you. But it’s Thanksgiving weekend, there’s so much to be grateful for, so much to be thankful for and I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with these guys. Appreciate the people that showed up tonight. I know the students are out of school and it makes it a hard draw, but I really appreciate the people that took their Thanksgiving Saturday and came out here and supported the senior class and this football team.
Louisiana Tech Running Back Boston Scott
Q. Talk about the injury in the first half and coming out of the game and what was it and what did you do at half-time to get it right?
BOSTON SCOTT: Yeah, I was running inside zone. I cut it back, but I didn’t do what my coach said. I was supposed to press the block more and I didn’t do that, and whenever I made the cut, I got tackled and I felt my toe pop, and I went, ahh.
Q. What was involved?
BOSTON SCOTT: Yeah, just treatment. I just had to walk it off. Walk it off and it ended up going away, so bounced around a little bit, ran back on it, so I was good. I wasn’t going to be out.
Q. What was it like to put an exclamation point on your career there with that long touchdown run?
BOSTON SCOTT: I mean, I just ran through the whole. My O-line, you could drive an 18-wheeler through it. It was a nice hole. I just hit it as fast as I could and as hard as I could and just took it the distance. That’s the O-Line right there. They paved the way.
Q. Does it look a little different — you really worked the last two — you had a good run early on.
BOSTON SCOTT: We don’t really like to compare much to the past couple of seasons. We just focus on now, you know. And I will say that because it was the last game, single elimination, it’s all on the line, that we play harder, but that’s the way we competed in every single game. Even the tight ones, it just happened to fall on the other side of the ball. It happened to fall to the opponent.
But the competitive nature, the competitive greatness of this team has been consistent throughout the year, there’s no question of that.
Q. Talking about the resiliency. There are losses where you’ve had really heartbreaking, close losses early in the season that would have broken you guys but you stuck with it.
BOSTON SCOTT: Man, I’m just so proud of this team and the way that they fight, the way that they battle, every game, no matter what the result of the game is, if it’s a tough loss like a Southern Miss or whoever it is, we come back the next week ready to work. That’s what we do. That’s what we did, and we showed up. We showed up.
Q. Talk about the defense. What was it like for you and the offense to watch what they did on the sideline?
BOSTON SCOTT: Man, like when we go over to the bench like to like sit down and talk about the offense. Like Coach had to come and pull me from the sideline because I was out there watching that defense.
Man, just to see, just everybody did a phenomenal job. Just to see guys that that I have seen develop like Dae’Von Washington who is a walk-on, Darryl Lewis, also a walk-on to come up and make big plays in big-time situations. The defense as a whole, they play lights out. That’s big time. Especially moving into the post-season, we’re going to need them. Tonight, that was — I mean, that’s my boys. Those boys compete. That’s big time.
Q. Was tonight the first time you had the prayer before the game?
BOSTON SCOTT: This was the first time. So, yeah, I mean, they want me to do it every game, I would. But this time they just wanted me to do it.
Q. Did it mean a little something to you being Senior Night here?
BOSTON SCOTT: Doing the invocation? Oh, absolutely. I’ve been the president of FCA here for the past two year, and FCA and just my faith in general has been huge for me. I wouldn’t be here without God giving me the abilities to be here and I think that is huge that they allow me to do that on the final night. Wish I could have done it more but I’m just thankful for the position that God’s put me in.
Louisiana Tech Defensive End Jaylon Ferguson
Q. I saw you celebrating with your family out there after the game. Talk about what it means to be able to celebrate with them after a big win like that.
JAYLON FERGUSON: It’s crazy, because I actually got my son due Wednesday, and I was celebrating with my sisters and my mama, they got up here for the birth. We won, cruising on into it. Going to be jumping into fatherhood and I’m glad I did it tonight on the win. Feeling pretty good about that.
Q. I know the first half, you had one and a half sacks and those came at key times. Just talk about the ability that you had tonight to get to the quarterback.
JAYLON FERGUSON: Just effort. Most of it was effort. I’m running down from the back side, nothing could be done without the D-Line, the linebackers, the safeties, the coverage sets. Everything we all work together. Just because one person gets the sack on me, I get all the credit; but it usually goes out to the whole defense. Just make it clear, I’m not alone on this defense.
Q. Does it surprise you that despite the success the defensive front had in the first half, that they came out in the third quarter and they only threw the ball one time in the third quarter, were y’all surprised by that, having shut it down the first half?
JAYLON FERGUSON: Yeah, it’s like a slap in the face, shut it down the first half and come back and try it again. But I feel like the D-Line and the linebackers, the whole front seven, we had a strong — we had two good red zone stops. They weren’t running, we asked them for it.
Q. The red zone, were you feeling like you knew it was coming or — you were able to keep them out and hit them a lot of times in the backfield even. The first down on the two-yard line, first and goal and to come up with three more stops again, how important is it when you are able to — what was going on —
JAYLON FERGUSON: Communication breeds confidence. We talked about it all week. We practice here. We work on relentless effort on the field, just relentless effort. It’s the same thing as practice, just harder, faster, more. We demand more from each other every play and we are really demanding more in the red zone because in the past we have not been a very good red zone defense.
I feel like today we stepped up to and we answered the challenge and we answered in a big way. We came back and did it again and came back and did it again.
Q. How does it feel to at least have one more game opportunity and see the season go on and maybe finish with a winning season?
JAYLON FERGUSON: Feels good. My future right now is uncertain but for a lot of guys on the team I came in with, it’s their Senior Night and this is going to be the last time — this was the last time I got to play with them. I’m glad we went out on top and I’m glad we get to hit the field. Practice with them one more time, play with them one more time. Just being around my teammates, all my brothers one more time, it feels great. Feels really good right now.
Q. A lot of close games, a lot of close losses this year. They had the ball and were covering a punt with seven minutes to go in the game and you were able to go out and Amik Robertson gets that interception. How did it feel to be on the flipside of the close game there?
JAYLON FERGUSON: Feels good. Nothing we hadn’t already prepared for. We worked for this. You could see, he had a really good year this year. He had a breakout year this year and he kept — indiscernible — came with the interception. We practiced it. We worked on it every day (indiscernible). You’ve got to get those. Amik is short but he stepped up tonight and he got the ball and won us the game.
UTSA Head Coach Frank Wilson
Q. I know a disappointing night. But now you’ve got to sit back, and the anxiety of being eligible, but not guaranteed. What did you tell the guys tonight in the locker room?
COACH WILSON: Yeah, the object of this game is to score touchdowns and when you don’t score touchdowns, you won’t have favor. To score touchdowns and to deny a team from scoring touchdowns, in both those regards, we were not able to do that today unfortunately. Had some opportunities in the red zone, in the tight red zone, within the five-yard line and did not score touchdowns and that’s unfortunate.
Q. The first half, it seemed like Louisiana Tech was able to run some stunts and do some twists and get some penetration. You kind of neutralized that for a lot of the second half.
COACH WILSON: Yeah, we did. You know, and it allowed us to then get some drives started at times. But as I alluded to, the drives are one thing. Scoring touchdowns are another.
Q. The defense really fought tooth-and-nail, came up with a couple turnovers. What did you tell the guys about their play and how they did tonight?
COACH WILSON: They did a good job. At the end of the day, though, when we had them backed up in there, we get gashed for a big run at the very end. But I thought they had a valiant effort and played extremely hard.
Special teams created a turnover at the very end for us to give us the ball inside the 20 to make the game they interesting at that point and they threw an interception.
I thought our defense did a good job for the most part. Early on we missed way too many tackles and their back was elusive. He did a really good job but I thought we did enough defensively to put ourselves in position to win this game.
Q. What does next week look like to you? I know it’s recruiting time and you’ve got to get — you find out next Sunday if and when you go to the Bowl, so recruiting is top of the list?
COACH WILSON: Well, no, our team is, and we’ll meet tomorrow and to give them directives on what’s going to happen in these next several days, and then we’ll have a team meeting next Sunday.
Unfortunately we allowed our fate to be in a Bowl Commission or Bowl Committee’s hand that’s going to determine whether we get an opportunity or not, when it presented itself today that we could have solidified it.
So we’re hopeful. I think we’ll get a shot and we’ll pick up from there.
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