by JASON GORDON
Despite scoring 14 points more than they had all season, it still wasn’t enough as Texas State fell to No. 18 Louisiana Tech 62-55 in a wild Western Athletic Conference shootout last Saturday at Bobcat Stadium.
For awhile, it looked like the Bobcats, who pulled a huge upset to begin their first season in the Football Bowl Subdivision at the University of Houston, was going to shock the college football world again.
Louisiana Tech (9-1, 4-0 WAC) was able to squeak by the Bobcats (3-6. 1-3) using the nation’s second-ranked scoring offense. The win was the Bulldogs tenth straight overall in the WAC as well as the tenth straight road victory – a team that would be undefeated this season if not for a 59-57 home loss to Texas A&M earlier in the year.
“What a game,” Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione said. “It seems like it lasted a year in a half. I’m really proud of our players. I thought they played and fought their tails off.”
Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes said he expected a difficult contest at Bobcat Stadium.
“We knew going in it was going to be a hard-fought game,” Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes said. “Coach Franchione does a good job of building these games up. We knew with it being a home game against a ranked team, we would get their best shot. They were well prepared.”
The two teams went toe-to-toe the entire game.
Texas State got off to a good start, taking the opening drive right down the field. The Bobcats covered 75 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 12-yard option down the right sideline as Shaun Rutherford pitched the ball to Terrence Franks, who ran it in for his second touchdown of the year.
It took Louisiana Tech five plays to answer with a score of their own, but Marcus Curry broke the 7-7 tie on the ensuing drive when he ran the ball straight up the middle for 55 yards for his eighth touchdown of the season.
Jaifus Gaines helped the Bobcat offense out with a big special teams play, returning a kickoff to the Bulldogs’ 35 after a Louisiana Tech touchdown.
It took Texas State just four plays to get back into the end zone from there, capped by a Bradley Miller 19-yard touchdown reception from Rutherford.
Louisiana Tech took its first lead of the day with 7:19 to go in the second quarter. On a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Kenneth Dixon plunged straight ahead and at first glance appeared not to get in. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the official review ruled that he indeed scored and gave the Bulldogs a 28-21 lead.
One of the highlights of the night came on Texas State’s next drive when former quarterback-turned-wide-receiver Tim Hawkins took a pitch from Rutherford and launched a 47-yard pass to Marcus Curry for the Bobcats’ fourth touchdown of the night. It briefly tied the game at 34 with 48 seconds remaining until the break, before the Bulldogs scored right before the half to take a 41-34 lead.
Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron hit D.J. Banks with a 49-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left to post the final score of a back-and-forth first half.
The fireworks continued in the second half.
Kenneth Dixon’s 16-yard run gave the Bulldogs what appeared to be a cushion with a 48-34 lead, but the Bobcats wouldn’t go away.
Franks scored option pitch down the left sideline when he raced in from 22 yards out to cut the lead to 48-41 late in the third quarter.
Texas State tied it at 48 on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Miller snared a 12-yard touchdown pass from Rutherford.
The juggernaut that is the Louisiana Tech offense, which was averaging nearly 54 points per game coming in, would not go away.
Ray Holley scored from six yards out, with 12:51 to play in the game, and Cameron made it 62-48 when he capped an 11-play, 85-yard drive to increase the Bulldogs’ lead to 62-48 with 3:23 left.
The Bobcats came right back, as Rutherford’s one-yard dive trimmed the lead to 62-55, with just over a minute to play.
Texas State would ultimately run out of time, however, as Louisiana Tech recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock from there.
“We were fortunate to win,” said Dykes. “Were very fortunate to get a couple stops in the second half and play well enough on offense to get the victory. We were disappointed we gave up as many points as we did, but any time you go on the road and win it’s always a positive.”
The 117 combined points scored were the most ever in the history of the Bobcat football program. Louisiana Tech had 627 total yards in the game to Texas State’s 577.
Miller said that despite Texas State’s 3-6 record, the Bobcats have announced their presence in the FBS.
“We are here,” Miller said. “We can go toe to toe with any team. We put in the work and we proved that tonight.”
Next up the Bobcats will travel to Annapolis, Md. to take on Navy on Saturday.