Aug 31, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Louisiana Tech avoided turnovers all last season even while running their offense at a dizzyingly fast pace. The Bulldogs got a reminder Saturday of what can happen when they don't protect the football.
Louisiana Tech lost four fumbles — half as many as it lost all of last season — in the season-opening 40-14 loss at North Carolina State. The first came at the goal line as the Bulldogs had put together their first good drive of the game, while another set up a touchdown for the Wolfpack that helped keep N.C. State in firm control all day.
"I felt like we were talented enough to compete in this game," first-year coach Skip Holtz said. "But we made way too many mistakes."
Louisiana Tech averaged more than 51 points and 578 yards last year under Sonny Dykes, now at California. And while running an average of nearly 88 plays per game, the Bulldogs committed just 13 turnovers — eight fumbles, five interceptions — in 13 games.
By comparison, Saturday's four lost fumbles came on just 60 plays. Top rusher Kenneth Dixon lost two, including the one at the goal line, while backup Tevin King lost one.
"We take total ownership of that," Dixon said. "We weren't coached to hold the ball like that."
For N.C. State, freshman Matt Dayes ran for 84 yards and three touchdowns in the Wolfpack's first game under coach Dave Doeren.
Still, an early left foot injury to starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell put a damper on the afternoon. Mitchell, who beat out Pete Thomas for the job during training camp, broke a bone in his foot after directing N.C. State (1-0) to touchdowns on its first two possessions.
Mitchell left midway through the opening quarter, then returned to the sideline late in the half on crutches and wearing a protective boot. Doeren said Mitchell could miss 4-6 weeks and will have surgery Sunday.
Thomas threw for 212 yards on 15-for-27 passing after Mitchell's injury, while Dayes turned in a performance that showed why Doeren has been high on the rookie from Weston, Florida, during the preseason. Dayes — seeing a bigger role with the one-game suspension to leading rusher Shadrach Thornton — capped his day with an 18-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter that made it 37-14.
Doeren, who spent two seasons at Northern Illinois before replacing fired coach Tom O'Brien, has pushed his team to do everything at a faster tempo, with the no-huddle offense stirring the most fan excitement. That buzz grew with the fast start under Mitchell, an Arkansas graduate transfer revealed as the starter shortly before kickoff.
The Wolfpack marched 65 yards on the opening drive, ending with Creecy bulling his way through Xavier Woods for a 3-yard TD run. On the next drive, Mitchell found Rashard Smith for a 56-yard catch-and-run that set up Dayes' 2-yard score that made it 14-0 less than 6 minutes in.
But Mitchell was stopped on a third-and-1 keeper to end the third series in his final play. He completed all three of his passes for 93 yards and ran five times for 19 yards.
Holtz's Bulldogs moved the football with plenty of no-huddle looks, but they committed those momentum-crushing mistakes, too.
The biggest came when Dixon — who ran for 1,194 yards and an NCAA-freshman record 27 touchdowns last year — fumbled as he tried to cross the goal line late in the first with the Wolfpack already up two scores.
Two possessions later, King lost his fumble as the Bulldogs pushed into the red zone, while defensive end IK Enemkpali fumbled away an interception near the goal line to set up Dayes' second score.
First-time starting quarterback Scotty Young, a transfer from Texas Tech, threw for 178 yards on 15-for-27 passing for the Bulldogs.