RUSTON, La. - Trey Watts put Tulsa on his shoulders and literally carried the Golden Hurricane to a 24-14 win over Louisiana Tech before 16,037 frozen fans at Joe Aillet Stadium Saturday night.
Watts toted the pigskin 40 times while running for 189 yards and all three Tulsa touchdowns as the Golden Hurricane (3-8, 2-5 C-USA) won for only the third time in the 10-game series history.
In a game that was played as temperatures dipped into the 30s, the Louisiana Tech defense forced four turnovers in the game - including three interceptions - but the Bulldog offense struggled to move the ball consistently.
"It is frustrating to come out here on senior day with the respect that I have and this team has for this senior class and not get a win," said Tech head coach Skip Holtz. "We had been talking about the opportunity to play for something in November, and I think this football competed hard. We just made too many mistakes, especially in the second half.
"We talked about the turnover bug, really the Achilles heel for this football team at this point. We had four turnovers in the second half that made it very difficult to overcome. Our defense was able to make some nice stops to get off the field. The bottom line offensively we were not able to get enough productivity together to get the ball in the end zone and score some points. We just have to get better as an offensive football team."
Playing without All-American running back Kenneth Dixon who was sidelined with an injury, sophomore tailbackTevin King rushed for 111 yards on 21 carries but took a back seat to the performance of Watts.
In a first quarter that saw Tech fail to record a first down, Watts gave Tulsa a 7-0 lead on a 6-yard touchdown run that capped a five-play, 53-yard drive which was aided by a 15-yard targeting penalty on Bulldog safety Thomas McDonald, who was ejected on the play.
After recording only 22 yards of offense in the first quarter, the Bulldog offense finally found its rhythm late in the second stanza. Behind the running attack of King and Blake Martin, the Bulldogs marched 81 yards on nine plays and tied the game on a 10-yard run by Martin with 3:06 to play in the first half. The drive was highlighted by a 35-yard run by King, setting up the Bulldogs inside the Golden Hurricane red zone.
Tulsa responded by driving down to the Tech 4-yard line right before the half. Carl Salazar hit a 26-yard field goal 39 seconds before the half as TU took a 10-7 lead into the halftime locker room.
The Bulldogs second half was riddled with turnovers as Bulldog quarterback Ryan Higgins threw four interceptions over the final two quarters of play.
Higgins, who completed 22-of-43 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown, threw the first interception on Tech's first possession of the second half as Shawn Jackson returned it to the Bulldog 20 yard line. Two plays later, Watts hit paydirt for a second time on an 11-yard scamper as Tulsa upped its lead to 17-7.
"He is a good running back," said Tech linebacker Tony Johnson. "He has a good offensive line. They came and executed and did what they had to do. He is a patient runner and very smart."
The Bulldogs responded as Johnson recorded his first career interception and returned it 16 yards to the Tulsa 26-yard line. Tech took eight plays to score as Higgins found Jon Greenwalt in the back of the endzone for a 4-yard scoring strike to cut the deficit to 17-14.
Tulsa wasted little time in countering Tech's score as the Golden Hurricane marched 62-yards on 11 plays and retook a 10-point advantage on Watt's 5-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes to play in the game. All 11 plays on the drive were runs, including eight by Watts.
Tech drove into Tulsa territory two more times in the fourth quarter but Higgins was intercepted on both drives to end the threats.
In addition to his interception, Johnson led Tech with a career-high 13 tackles while Xavier Woods added eight tackles. Beau Fitte and Bryson Abraham also added interceptions for the Bulldog defense while Kentrell Briceadded six tackles and one fumble recovery.