RUSTON — Louisiana Tech survived a scare at Joe Aillet Stadium, defeating FCS opponent Southeastern Louisiana 45-42 on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs (1-1) squandered a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Southeastern quarterback Cole Kelley, an Arkansas transfer, moved the Lions (1-1) to within three points as 4:22 remained.
Cedric Woods recovered Kelley’s fumble with 52 seconds left to seal the victory.
Tech improved to 8-1 under coach Skip Holtz in home openers and has won nine of the last 10 overall. Here are five takeaways from the home opener.
Garner answers for the Bulldogs
Tech only put the ball in running back Greg Garner’s hands seven times, but three of those carries were for touchdowns. He caught a 33-yard pass from wide receiver Kyle Maxwell on a trick play for the first points of the second half.
Garner finished with six carries for 14 yards and two touchdowns.
Austin Kendall, a West Virginia transfer, completed 20 of 28 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Southeastern outgained Tech 556 to 435.
Cole Kelley carves Tech’s secondary
The last time Kelley faced an FBS team, North Texas embarrassed Arkansas 44-17 in Fayetteville during the 2018 season.
The transfer fared much better against the Bulldogs.
Kelley was 43-of-59 for 453 yards and three touchdowns. He threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Tim Wilson Jr. to tie the game in the first quarter. His 1-yard run cut Tech’s lead to 24-21 at halftime.
Lions catch Bulldogs sleeping
Southeastern fooled Tech with a fake punt for a critical first down in the fourth quarter. Austin Dunlap’s 15-yard run converted a fourth-and-13 at the Bulldogs’ 47.
Kelley went to back to work moving the Lions to Tech’s 4 after three completions. His second rushing touchdown covered 4 yards and cut the lead to 45-42.
BeeJay Williamson shines for struggling defense
Williamson’s 45-yard pick-six pushed Tech to a 7-0 lead. He intercepted Kelley again in the second quarter. That led to a 44-yard Jacob Barnes field goal and a 10-point lead.
Despite forcing three turnovers, the Bulldogs once again struggled in pass coverage. Mississippi State threw for 370 yards and scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of last week.
Reunion at the Joe
Tech hosts former coach Sonny Dykes and SMU next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Dykes led the Bulldogs to a 22-15 record in three seasons with one bowl appearance and a WAC championship in 2011.
Despite a 9-3 record, Tech didn’t not appear in a bowl game in 2012 after turning down an Independence Bowl invite. Dykes left Ruston for Cal that offseason.
The Bulldogs defeated SMU 51-10 in the 2017 Frisco Bowl — Dykes’ first game coaching the Mustangs.
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