RUSTON, La. – Kenneth Dixon earned freshman All-American honors last year after shouldering the majority of the Louisiana Tech rushing load last following a season-ending injury to Tevin King.
On Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium, the roles were reversed. With Dixon serving as a spectator after being held out for precautionary reasons after taking a hit early in the second quarter, King rushed for 182 yards to lead Louisiana Tech to a 27-14 win over Lamar before 16,372 fans.
"As I said to the team in the locker room after the game, there is no such thing as a bad win," said Tech head coach Skip Holtz. "There are such things as ugly wins, but never a bad win. It was nice to get a W in the win column. It makes everything a little bit better. You grade film a little bit better. It puts everyone in a better mood."
Despite King's impressive performance, the Bulldogs (1-1) weren't able to put the pesky FCS Cardinals away until Andrew Guillot's 19-yard run with 1:51 to play in the fourth quarter.
"Offensively, I thought the second half – the running game really showed up. Tevin King stepped in and did an excellent job. I was really proud of what he did, stepping in with Kenneth (Dixon) going down with an injury. I thought the offensive line and the running game certainly pulled us out of a whole in the second half."
While King was running in, through and around the Lamar defense, red-shirt junior quarterback Scotty Young had a work-man like performance. Young completed 22-of-32 passes for 166 yards and his first two collegiate scores – a 3-yard fade route to Jacarri Jackson in the first quarter and a 34-yard seam route to Guillot in the second.
" It was efficient when you look at our numbers and talk about completion percentages and things like that, but when you look at our productivity, there are not enough big plays in the passing game," Holtz said. "We are completing two passes and looking at third and three. It cannot be that way. We can run it twice and look at third and three. Tonight, it was looking at first and 10 when we ran it twice, so it is not near as efficient as it needs to be and we have to be able to make big plays down the field when we are put into some one-on-one situations."
However, maybe the most impressive – and clutch performance – came off the right foot of sophomore placekicker Kyle Fischer, who split the uprights with 44- and 49-yard field goals with the game on the line.
Fischer's first attempt came with 3:03 to play in the third quarter as the 44-yard field goal gave Tech a 17-7 advantage. It capped a 5-play, 72-yard drive that was highlighted by King's 64-yard burst that took the Bulldogs from the shadows of their goal posts into Lamar territory.
His second kick was even more challenging. His 49-yarder with 9:04 to play in the game capped a 44-yard, seven-play drive that gave the Bulldogs a 20-14 advantage. It was the longest field goal by a Bulldog kicker since Brad Oestriecher's 50-yarder against Mississippi State in 2008.
Lamar had one final chance to pull yet another upset by an FCS team over and FBS team as the Cardinals drove down to the LA Tech 31-yard line with just over six minutes to play. However, linebacker Daniel Cobb sacked Lamar quarterback Caleb Berry and forced a fumble that the Tech defense recovered with 6:00 to play.
Tech then marched 65 yards on nine plays – all rushing – and sealed the win with Guillot's 19-yard scamper around the right side, as Marlon Seets threw the key block that allowed his teammate to score.
"I want to thank all the people that came out tonight to support the team," Holtz said. "I thought the atmosphere was really great. The student section was awesome. I have never been in front of a student section, but they made some noise tonight. They were loud. They were into it. They were rowdy. The passionate fans that were here early for the walk; I think that really creates a great atmosphere for not only our players and the new guys who have never been through that. I think it creates a great atmosphere for recruiting; for people to see the passion in our fan base."
For the game, Tech recorded 439 yards of total offense, including 273 on the ground. Lamar totaled 362 yards with 272 coming through the air.
Dixon, who rushed for over 1,200 yards and an NCAA Division I record 27 touchdowns last year, went down awkwardly early in the second quarter and did not return.
"I think it is a knee," Holt said. "I really do not know at this point other than he was out the rest of the game today. I don't know yet what is going to happen on Thursday night with the quick turn-around and how that is going to work, but we will have a much better idea and maybe report a little bit more tomorrow when the doctors have a chance to look at it."
Defensively, Kentrell Brice led Tech with nine tackles while Cobb added 3.5 tackles for loss and Levander Liggins registered three pass break ups and his first interception of the season.
Tech returns to action Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. when it hosts Tulane.
"We are excited now to get into Conference USA-play," Holtz said. "A lot has been made about stepping into Conference USA since July. It has been talked about since that decision has been made. I am really excited it is almost here and we are five days away from kicking off the conference with Tulane here at home."
|AUG 31||11:30am CDT||at NC State|
|SEP 7||6:00pm CDT||Lamar|
|SEP 12||6:30pm CDT||Tulane|
|SEP 21||TBA||at Kansas|
|SEP 28||2:30pm CDT||Army|
|OCT 5||6:30pm CDT||at UTEP|
|OCT 19||2:30pm CDT||North Texas|
|NOV 9||6:00pm CDT||Southern Miss|
|NOV 16||6:00pm CDT||at Rice|
|NOV 23||6:00pm CDT||Tulsa|
|NOV 30||2:30pm CDT||UTSA|