Smith’s TD lifts LA Tech to OT win at Rice

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HOUSTON, Texas – J’Mar Smith scored from 12 yards out on a quarterback draw in the first overtime period to lead Louisiana Tech to a 23-20 victory over Rice Saturday night at Rice Stadium.

Tech (4-1, 2-0 C-USA) won for the first time in overtime since 2011 when the Bulldogs defeated Central Arkansas at Joe Aillet Stadium. Tech is now 3-8 all-time in overtime games.

Smith’s TD, which came on a second down and nine play, marked the first time the Bulldogs lead the entire game. It followed a 36-yard Chris Barnes field goal on Rice’s opening possession of the first overtime period and sent the Bulldogs sideline into a celebration.

The victory was No. 50 for Bulldog head coach Skip Holtz during his time in Ruston as the Bulldogs improved to 2-0 in league play for the first time since 2014. Tech is now 17-8 all-time in C-USA road games.

Rice (0-5, 0-1), which lost its third game of the year by only one score, led for the vast majority of the game including a 14-7 halftime advantage. The Owls had an opportunity to lead by two scores at the break, but Darryl Lewis intercepted Tom Stewart’s pass in the back of the endzone with five seconds to play in the second quarter to keep the Owls from adding to their lead.

The turnover ended a Rice drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock, covering 70 yards and 14 plays.  Rice also missed a 36-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter, keeping the 14-7 score intact.

Justin Henderson tied the game at 14-14 with a 26-yard TD run late in the third quarter for Tech.

The Bulldog defense, which struggled in the trenches in the first two and a half quarters, came through down the stretch, limiting Rice to just one field goal in the second half. Barnes connected on a 37-yard field goal to give Rice a 17-14 lead with 2:51 to play in the final quarter.

Smith and the Bulldogs offense answered. Smith found Adrian Hardy and Cee Jay Powell – both covering 22 yards – to move Tech into Rice territory. Another Smith to Powell connection covering 12 yards moved the football to the Rice 13-yard line.

However, three straight incompletions forced a 31-yard Bailey Hale field goal with 1:10 to play, tying the game at 17-17. Both teams had one final opportunity in the fourth quarter, but the defenses came up strong.

Tech has a week off before returning to action Oct. 12 against UMass at Joe Aillet Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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