Louisiana Tech football couldn’t come up with an answer to UTEP’s strong defense in a 19-3 loss Saturday night in El Paso, Texas.
“It was probably one of our worst performances offensively we’ve had in a long time,” La Tech coach Skip Holtz said. “We were very good on third down – we struggled. On defense, I thought the front seven played their tails off. But offensively it was a poor effort, and poor coaching on my part. I give UTEP a lot of credit.”
Here are our takeaways from the Bulldogs’ loss.
UTEP hit the ground running
The Miners (6-1, 3-0 Conference USA) didn’t waste any time putting up points on the board. UTEP was able score on both of their opening drives. The Bulldogs (2-4, 1-1) struggled to contain Miners freshman running back Deion Hankins. Hankins recorded two touchdowns in the first quarter and easily found gaps in the defense.
The Miners were further helped by sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison, who was efficient in gaining first downs and allowed UTEP to keep the ball out of La Tech’s hands.
Unfazed by La Tech’s best defensive efforts, the Miners were able to beat their one-on-one coverages and easily gain yards. Hardison finished 19-for-29 passing for 283 yards and one interception.
La Tech’s offense shut down
The Bulldogs struggled to get going against the Miners and were limited to just one field goal. The Miners entered the game with the No. 1 defense in C-USA and 16th best in the nation.
The Miners were able to minimize the Bulldogs’ run game holding them to 2.8 yards per rush in the first half. The Bulldogs finished with 92 yards rushing.
Quarterback Austin Kendall faced constant pressure in the pocket. While Kendall tried to scramble and find his receivers, he was never able to pick up much yardage. The Bulldogs had four sacks. Kendall was intercepted three times and finished 13-for-27 passing with 164 yards.
Missed turnover opportunities
On multiple drives the Bulldogs failed to come up with big plays that could have changed the momentum of the game. Both linebacker Ezekiel Barnett and safety Khalil Ladler were within inches of getting interceptions in the second quarter.
UTEP lost three fumbles and and committed four turnovers, but the Bulldogs couldn’t covert them into points.
Second half effort not enough
In many of La Tech’s games this season, the Bulldogs were able to catch their second wind going in the second half. The Bulldogs only trailed by 13 points going into the third and have shown they can overcome bigger deficits.
The defense did everything they could to keep themselves in the game, but the offense couldn’t put up points to show for it. In the third quarter they were able to limit the Miners to just a field goal while also recording an interception. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the interception by Jaiden Cole resulted in a turnover on downs.
Louisiana Tech’s defense was able to come up with yet another turnover in the fourth quarter, but an intercepted pass gave the ball right back to the Miners. By the time the Bulldogs would get the ball back it was too late to mount the comeback.
“We’ll have to bounce back- we play again next week,” Holtz said. “We’re 2-4 right now, it’s unfortunate with all the close loses we’ve had. Tonight, we didn’t play well enough to win we didn’t couch well enough to win. We got to do better as an offensive staff of putting our players in a position to win. Right now, we got to roll out our sleeves and prepare for UTSA next week.”