RUSTON – On a night where Louisiana Tech celebrated the first 50 years of Joe Aillet Stadium, the Bulldogs hung 50-plus on the scoreboard in a 54-17 rout of Southern before 22,926 fans on a rainy Saturday night.
J’Mar Smith recorded 434 yards of total offense and three scores, including a career-high 380 through the air, while Jaqwis Dancy ran for two more scores and freshman Smoke Harris caught two long touchdowns. The Bulldog rolled up 613 total yards of offense, the most since recording 735 yards in a win over Rice on Oct. 29, 2016.
“Growth from week one to week two was the biggest thing we wanted to see tonight,” head coach Skip Holtz said. “I think there was growth in a lot of areas. I thought in a lot of areas we improved. I thought offensively we played really well in this game. I thought J’Mar (Smith) had some poise. I thought he was patient in the pocket. He was very in control of his game tonight. I thought the offensive line did some really good things. Adrian Hardy and Rhashid Bonnette really stepped up – both went for 100 yards tonight as receivers. They did a really nice job. Jaqwis Dancy continues to be electric every time you put the ball under his arm. I thought offensively we played really well.”
Tech (2-0) ran out to an early 21-0 lead before Southern (0-2) scored a pair of touchdowns in a six-minute span to close the deficit down to one score. Smith and the Bulldog offense rallied, marching 85 yards on seven plays and scoring on a 17-yard strike from the Tech signal caller to Rashid Bonnette to push the advantage back to 28-14.
Bonnette led all Tech receivers with seven catches for 103 yards and one score while sophomore Adrian Hardy added a career-high six receptions for 111 yards, including a high-light reel 50-yard diving grab in the second quarter.
Bailey Hale connected on a 24-yard field goal with 5 seconds to play in the first half, giving LA Tech a 31-14 halftime advantage.
The Tech defense stiffened in the second half. After allowing 194 yards in the first half, the Bulldogs allowed just 92 yards on 29 offensive plays after halftime as Southern mustered just a 22-yard Cesar Barajas field goal early in the third quarter that closed the gap to 31-17.
Tech responded quickly. Dancy scored his second touchdown of the night on a 32-yard scamper off left tackle, outracing a Southern defender and diving for the near pylon for the score. Dancy ended the night with 67 yards rushing and two scores on just five carries.
Harris, a highly-touted rookie playmaker, scored his first career touchdown on the final play of the third quarter, getting behind the Jaguars defense to haul in a 34-yard strike from Smith to up the advantage to 44-17 at the end of the frame.
Tech pulled the starters in the final 15 minutes, allowing a number of second and third teamers to see some series playing time. Freshman quarterback Aaron Allen completed 3-of-5 passes for 47 yards, including a 30-yard TD strike to Harris with five seconds remaining in the game.
Justin Henderson was productive in his late-game action, rushing for 55 yards on nine carries as Tech amassed 186 yards on the ground and 427 through the air.
Tech’s defense recorded five sacks of Southern quarterback John Lampley, who completed 17-of-24 passes for 179 yards and one touchdown. The Bulldogs defense held Southern to just 70 yards rushing on 40 carries.
In addition to the five sacks, Tech totaled nine tackles for loss, including two by Willie Baker and one each by Jordan Bradford, Jordan Baldwin, Immanuel Turner, Matt Ydarraga, Daryl Lewis, Charles Adeola and Keonatye Garner. L’Jarius Sneed led Tech with eight tackles followed by Collin Scott and Bradford with seven each.
Tech bolted out to a 21-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the contest.
Israel Tucker scored on a 1-yard run while Dancy hit paydirt from 25-yards out less than two minutes later. Smith then added the third rushing score of the opening quarter on a 19-yard scramble.
“We’ve got an open date this week, and we certainly need to sit down and take some hard looks at these first two games and where we need to improve, because after this we’ve got 10 weeks of tough sledding,” Holtz said. “We’ve got eight conference games and LSU and Mississippi State are our two non-conference games, so nothing is going to get easier as we move forward.”
The Bulldogs return to the gridiron in two weeks when LA Tech travels to Baton Rouge to take on LSU at Tiger Stadium.
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