RUSTON, La. – In a game that featured over 1,000 yards of offense, Louisiana Tech held off No. 13/14 Southeastern Louisiana University, 45-42, in nonconference football action Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.
SLU (1-1) gave the Bulldogs (1-1) all they could handle in the first meeting between the two in-state rivals since 2008. The Lions came up just short of ending its 26-game losing streak versus FBS opponents. Ultimately, 10 penalties for 100 yards and three turnovers were too much for Southeastern to overcome in its upset bid.
“Turnovers and penalties got us tonight,” Southeastern head coach Frank Scelfo said. “It put us into many bad situations on both sides of the football.”
The Lion offense rolled to 598 total yards and 32 first downs against the Conference USA member Bulldogs. Reigning Walter Payton Award winner and SLU senior quarterback Cole Kelley threw for a career-high 495 yards on 44-for-59 passing, throwing for three touchdowns and two interceptions. Kelley’s single-game yardage total was the second-highest in program history, with only Martin Hankins’ 588 yards versus Arkansas-Monticello in 2.
Austin Mitchell (nine catches, 89 yards), CJ Turner (8-131) and Tim Wilson Jr. (7-72) were the top targets for Kelley, as all three members of the trio caught touchdown passes. Turner’s performance marked his eighth 100-yard receiving performance of his career – a new program record. Kelley also rushed for a pair of touchdowns, while Taron Jones also found the end zone on the ground for the second straight game.
Alexis Ramos led SLU with 10 tackles, while Tainano Gaulua collected a sack for the second time in as many games. Zy Alexander recorded his first interception as a Lion.
The Bulldogs finished with 448 total yards, including 198 on the ground. Marcus Williams Jr. led LTU with 99 yards on 18 carries, while Greg Garner recorded a pair of rushing touchdowns. Austin Kendall finished with 217 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception on 19-of-27 passing for Louisiana Tech.
After the two teams traded three-and-outs to start the game, Louisiana Tech took the lead with a defensive score. After the Lions had picked up several first downs to get out of the shadow of their own goal posts, BeeJay Williamson stepped in front of a Kelley pass and brought it back 45 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.
Kelley bounced back by leading SLU on a 12-play, 91-yard scoring drive to knot the score. Wilson Jr. hauled in a five-yard swing pass from Kelley to cap the drive and tie the score at 7-7 with 4:06 left in the first quarter.
Louisiana Tech answered with a 12-play, 86-yard scoring drive to retake the lead. Garner powered in from four yards out to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
SLU tied it back up, as Kelley and Turner hooked up on a pair of long passes to highlight a 10-play, 75-yard scoring march. Jones found the end zone from two yards out to tie the score at 14-14 with 12:11 to go in the opening half.
The Bulldogs came right back to take the lead with a 75-yard touchdown drive that took 10 plays. Kendall scored untouched from two yards out to give Louisiana Tech a 21-14 lead with just over eight minutes left in the opening half.
Louisiana Tech finally held serve, as Williamson picked off Kelley for the second time to give the Bulldogs the ball at the Lion 35-yard line. Southeastern’s defense stiffened and limited LTU to a 44-yard Jacob Barnes field goal that extended the lead to 24-14 with 4:33 remaining in the second quarter.
The Lions closed out the half by cutting the lead down to three. A 26-yard catch and run by Damien Dawson on a fourth-and-one from their own territory highlighted a 14-play, 91-yard scoring drive. Kelley bulled in from a yard out to pull SLU within, 24-21, with 22 seconds left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Tahj Magee took the return inside the SLU 10-yard line. However, Alexander recorded his first career interception to keep the halftime deficit at 24-21.
Louisiana Tech stretched the lead back to double digits on the opening drive of the second half. Kendall threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to Kyle Maxwell who stepped into a 33-yard scoring throw to Garner to give the Bulldogs a 31-21 lead less than three minutes into the third quarter.
Just over a minute later, Southeastern answered right back. Kelley found a wide open Turner from 48 yards out to pull SLU within, 31-28, with 11:12 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs came right back themselves, driving 75 yards on nine plays to stretch the lead back to 10. Garner bulled in from a yard out to put Louisiana Tech up, 38-28, with 8:10 remaining in the third period.
Southeastern mounted another scoring drive on its ensuing trip. Kelley found Mitchell for a 10-yard scoring toss to cap a 12-play, 75-yard drive and cut the lead to 38-35 with just under two minutes left in the third quarter.
The SLU defense came up with a stop on the ensuing drive, as a sack by Gaulua highlighted a three-and-out as the game moved into the final quarter. However, Southeastern could not take advantage, as the Lions were forced to punt for just the second time in the contest.
Louisiana Tech drove the ball 93 yards on nine plays, as Kendall found Tre Harris on a 21-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs up, 45-35, with 9:51 left.
Southeastern just wouldn’t go away. A 15-yard run by Austin Dunlap on a fake punt kept the SLU drive alive and Kelley walked in from four yards out to cut the lead to 45-42 with 4:22 remaining in the contest.
The Lions got the ball back after forcing a Louisiana Tech punt with 1:20 remaining. However, Kelley fumbled to end Southeastern’s last chance, as a big hit by Ezekiel Barnett jarred the ball loose and Cedric Woods fell on the ball to clinch the win for Louisiana Tech.
Saturday was the first of five straight games away from home. Next Saturday, SLU travels to Central Connecticut State for an 11 a.m. (CDT) contest.
SLU – 7 14 14 7 – 42 (1-1)
LTU – 14 10 14 7 – 45 (1-1)
LTU – Williamson 45 interception return (Barnes kick), 8:16
SLU – Wilson Jr. 5 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 4:06
LTU – Garner 4 run (Barnes kick), 0:33
SLU – T. Jones 2 run (Rengifo kick), 12:11
LTU – Kendall 2 run (Barnes kick), 8:04
LTU – Barnes 44 FG, 4:33
SLU – Kelley 1 run (Rengifo kick), 0:22
LTU – Garner 33 pass from Maxwell (Barnes kick), 12:19
SLU – Turner 48 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 11:12
LTU – Garner 1 run (Barnes kick), 8:10
SLU – Mitchell 10 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 1:33
LTU – T. Harris 21 pass from Kendall (Barnes kick), 9:51
SLU – Kelley 4 run (Rengifo kick), 4:22
FIRST DOWNS 32 23
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 27-103 43-198
PASSING YDS (NET) 495 250
Passes Att-Comp-Int 44-59-2 20-28-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 86-598 71-448
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 1-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 4-36 3-58
Punt Returns-Yards 0-0 2-8
Interception Returns-Yards 1-3 2-17
Punts (Number-Avg) 2-50.5 3-38.3
Fumbles-Lost 4-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 10-100 5-45
Possession Time. 32:48 27:12
Third-Down Conversions 7-of-14 7-of-13
Fourth-Down Conversions 2-of-2 2-of-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 5-5 3-4
RUSHING: SLU – Kelley 14-42, Jones 7-23, Dunlap 1-15, Johnson III 2-13, Britt 3-10. Totals – 27-103. LTU – Williams Jr. 18-99, Dixon 7-57, Garner 7-29, Kendall 7-10, Brooks 2-5, Team 2-(-2). Totals – 43-198.
PASSING: SLU – Kelley 44-59-2-495-3. Totals – 44-59-2-495-3. LTU – Kendall 19-27-1-217-1, Maxwell 1-1-0-33-1. Totals – 20-28-1-250-2.
RECEIVING: SLU – Mitchell 9-89, Turner 8-131, Wilson Jr. 7-72, T. Jones 5-60, Carter 4-50, Givan 3-20, Kovacs 3-33, Dawson 2-32, Magee 1-6, Johnson III 1-2. Totals – 44-495. LTU – T. Harris 4-72, S. Harris 4-45, Emilus 4-34, Means 3-37, Garner 1-33, Magee 1-16, Williams Jr. 1-5, Dixon 1-4, Maxwell 1-2. Totals – 27-250.
A – 15,328.