FRISCO, Texas – Louisiana Tech entered its matchup against SMU in the DXL Frisco Bowl as a touchdown underdog as the Mustangs boasted one of the top offenses in the country.
The Mustangs met their match Wednesday night at Toyota Stadium. Namely, the Bulldogs defense.
Louisiana Tech’s defense forced six turnovers, scored two touchdowns on interception returns and sacked SMU quarterback Ben Hicks four times to lead the Bulldogs to a lopsided 51-10 victory before 14,419 fans.
It marked the fourth straight bowl win for Louisiana Tech and left a savory taste in the mouths of Bulldog fans following a regular season that saw its share of sourness. The Bulldog senior class also recorded its 34th win in four years, the most by any LA Tech senior class since the program joined the FBS ranks in 1988.
Tech scored early and Tech scored often, building a 21-0 first quarter lead and a 42-10 halftime advantage. In its most complete game of the year, the Bulldogs saw contributions in every phase of the game as the Tech offense amassed 357 yards and the Bulldogs special teams added three field goals by Jonathan Barnes and a 65-yard kickoff return by Jaqwis Dancy in the first quarter.
Sophomore quarterback J’Mar Smith was named the offensive player of the game after throwing for 216 yards and three touchdowns. Smith completed 15-of-23 passes and also added a 1-yard rushing TD that gave Tech an early 7-0 lead.
Freshman defensive back Amik Robertson earned the Defensive Player of the Game Award. Robertson totaled four tackles, one tackle for loss and returned a first quarter interception 45-yards for a score, upping the Tech lead to 14-0.
Robertson and his fellow Bulldog defensive backs held a heralded trio of SMU receivers in check all night long. Trey Quinn, Courtland Sutton and James Proche entered the night with a combined 208 catches for just over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
However, the trio did little damage during the game. Quinn finished with eight catches for 45 yards and one score, Sutton added six catches for 68 yards and Proche was held without a reception.
Hicks also had a rough night behind center as he was constantly scrambling for his life. Tech blitzed time after time during the game, forcing Hicks to make quick throws resulting in three interceptions or getting the SMU signal caller to the ground. Hicks completed 19-of-34 passes for a season-low 127 yards and three interceptions. The previous low in passing yards for SMU this season was 218 in a loss to Memphis.
The first play of the game was a microcosm of the entire night. After receiving the opening kickoff, SMU running back Xavier Jones fumbled on the first play of the game and Bulldog defensive end Jaylon Ferguson recovered. Tech would stall out on offense and Barnes’ 37-yard field goal attempt missed wide left as SMU dodged the first bullet.
It wouldn’t matter.
SMU picked up a couple of first downs on the next possession before Scedrick Cooper interception Hicks and returned it 31 yards to the Mustangs 30 yard line. Nine plays later, Smith got into the endzone on a fourth down and 1 quarterback sneak and Barnes’ extra point made it 7-0.
Robertson’s pick six on SMU’s next possession made it 14-0 Tech.
SMU’s fourth drive results in a 25-yard field goal by Josh Williams. However, any momentum the Mustangs might have gained on the drive was doused with Dancy took the ensuing kickoff and galloped 65 yards to the SMU 26-yard line.
This time it took Tech four plays to cover 26 yards as Smith hit Teddy Veal on a quick pass, and Veal made two SMU defenders look silly on the six-yard TD. Barnes PAT upped the advantage to 21-3 and the route was on.
Tech added three more touchdowns in the second quarter. Darryl Lewis returned a Hicks interception 23 yards for a score. Veal then capped an impressive 5-play, 82-yard drive by the Bulldog offense with a 27-yard TD reception from Smith to up the lead to 35-3. Finally Kam McKnight made an acrobatic touchdown reception from 11 yards out following a fumble recovery by Russell Farris that set up the Bulldogs deep in SMU territory.
SMU added a 9-yard TD throw and catch from Hicks to Quinn with 15 seconds to play in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs took a comfortable 42-10 lead into the halftime locker room.
As impressive as the Tech defense was in the first half, it was even more dominating in the third and fourth quarters. After amassing just over 200 yards of offense in the first half, SMU totaled only 91 yards of total offense on 31 offensive plays in the second half as the Tech defense kept the Mustangs off the scoreboard.
With the lead, the Bulldog offense managed the clock in the second half. Senior running back Boston Scott chewed up yards and time as he finished the game with 110 yards rushing on 20 carries, giving him 1,047 yards for the season.
Scott becomes the third Bulldog in the last four years to rush for over 1,000 yards and the 12th all-time.
Barnes contributed the only points by either team after halftime, hitting field goals of 28, 43 and 41-yards. The Baton Rouge native finished his Tech career with 462 points, second all-time and first among a host of NFL caliber Bulldog kickers.
Veal tied his season-high with 118 yards receiving on five catches and two touchdowns.
The 51 points were the most a LA Tech team has ever scored in a bowl game. Tech held SMU to 10 points, the fewest the Mustangs scored this season (the previous low was 22 against Houston).