SAN ANTONIO – Adairius Barnes’ 25-yard interception return for a touchdown was the lone highlight of the day for Louisiana Tech as UTSA downed the Bulldogs 30-10 Saturday afternoon at the Alamo Dome.
Playing without the services of sophomore running back Kenneth Dixon, who missed his second straight game due to injury, Tech (4-8, 3-5 C-USA) failed to crack the end zone offensively.
“The inconsistencies on offense whether on 1st, 2nd or 3rd down were too much to overcome,” said Tech head coach Skip Holtz. “The dropped passes; missed opportunities. I thought the defense competed. (Eric) Sousa did a nice job (for UTSA), but we had way too many deep balls where we were confused with our safeties. The bottom line is our (193) yards to their (475) yards … we couldn’t get anything going on offense, sustain drives and keep the defense off the field.”
The Roadrunners (7-5, 6-2) entered the game knowing that a win against LA Tech combined with a Rice loss to Tulane would put them in the Conference USA championship game. UTSA played like it from the opening kickoff.
UTSA took the opening possession of the game and wasted little time in scoring, driving 70 yards on only three plays to take a 7-0 lead on an Souza 31-yard touchdown pass to Jarveon Williams. The drive began on a 36-yard completion from Souza to running back Evan Okotcha on the first play of the game.
“We gave up too many deep balls that were uncontested,” Holtz said. “They hit a wheel route early on the first drive. They hit another wheel route later. They threw a deep corner route that was uncontested. I can deal with it if they are better than us … but some of it was like they were throwing against air.”
Following punts by each team on the next four offensive series, LA Tech took over on its own 40-yard line after a 24-yard punt return by freshman Trent Taylor. On the second play from scrimmage, Tech quarterback Scotty Young found senior Richie Casey for a 34-yard pass play to the Roadrunner 25-yard line. A 13-yard personal foul penalty on the back end of the play gave the Bulldogs the football on the UTSA 12-yard line.
However, Young’s third down pass to Casey at the UTSA goal line was stripped away, forcing a Kyle Fischer 24-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 7-3 with 4:28 to play in the opening quarter.
UTSA then added to its lead on the ensuing possession. After a 28-yard pass completion to Cole Hubble on a third down play gave the Roadrunners the ball inside the LA Tech 30-yard line, Souza faked a handoff and scored on a 20-yard quarterback keeper. The extra point gave UTSA a 14-3 lead with 1:25 to play in the first quarter.
Following a three-and-out by the Tech offense, UTSA mounted a 15-play, 72-yard drive that ate 8 minutes and 12 seconds off the clock. Sean Ianno capped the drive with a 21-yard field goal and a 17-3 lead.
After Tech recorded a couple of first downs and entered UTSA territory on its next drive, the Bulldogs were forced to punt and pinned UTSA on its own five-yard line. On a third down play with under two minutes remaining in the first half, Barnes snared a tipped pass and raced 25 yards to pay dirt as the Bulldogs cut the deficit to 17-10 at the half. The interception was the fourth of the season for Barnes and Tech’s first defensive touchdown on the year.
The Bulldogs had an opportunity early in the third quarter to tie the game as Hunter Lee returned the opening second half kickoff 43 yards. After moving the ball down to the Roadrunner 34 yard line, Tech faced a fourth down and one when running back Tevin King was tackled a half yard short of the first down, ending the drive.
Okotcha then capped another UTSA touchdown drive with a one-yard run, giving the Roadrunners a 24-10 advantage. The run capped a six play, 53-yard drive that was highlighted by a 32-yard pass play from Souza to Okotcha.
Late in the third quarter, Young – who completed 13-of-24 passes for only 80 yards – gave way to redshirt freshman Ryan Higgins.
Higgins and the Bulldog offense weren’t able to move the football as UTSA added a couple of field goals to push the lead out to 30-10.
Tech mounted one final drive late in the fourth quarter as Higgins hit Eddie Johnson for 29 yards and Lee for 19 yards, moving the ball inside the red zone. However, a sack and three incomplete passes ended the threat.
“It will be a long off season with the way we finished it,” Holtz said. “We need every day of it. We need to recruit and get some players in here from a speed stand point to help on the perimeter. We need to develop some of our young guys. I feel bad we weren’t able to get it done for this senior class. They gave everything they had.
“There is a lot of emotion in the locker room … a lot of guys who played their last game. The finality their career is over and they have played their last game of college football. They love this school and they gave everything.”
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