Oct. 16, 2010
RUSTON - Behind career performances from Ross Jenkins and Lennon Creer, Louisiana Tech found its offensive rhythm Saturday in a 48-35 homecoming victory over Idaho before 19,750 fans at Joe Aillet Stadium.
Jenkins torched the Vandals (3-3, 0-1 WAC) for a career-high 422 yards through the air, completing 31-of-44 passes and three touchdowns. The senior, who also rushed eight times for 34 yards and another score, didn't throw an interception in the game.
While Jenkins and nine Tech receivers were doing their jobs through the air, Creer was chewing up the Vandals on the ground to a tune of a career-high 179 yards and two scores. As a team, the Bulldogs rushed for 261 yards and averaged almost five yards a carry.
"It felt good to get the second home win," said Tech head coach Sonny Dykes. "We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. Idaho is a really good football team.
"I'm really proud of our team. Two weeks ago, people were writing us off, but we've got a lot of fight in us. Our players never had a sense of panic."
As a team Tech racked up 683 yards of total offense, the fourth most in Bulldog history. It marked the first time since 2003 that a Bulldog team had eclipsed the 600-yard plateau (623 against Hawaii).
Jenkins 422-yard performance was also the first time a Tech quarterback had passed for more than 400 since Luke McCown torched Hawaii for 403 yards on Oct. 18, 2003. It was also the 30th 400-yard passing performance in Bulldog history.
"Coach (Tony) Franklin and I have a good relationship," Jenkins said. "I understand what he's trying to do, and he trusts that I understand. He's given me a little more freedom than some of his quarterbacks in the past, and I feel comfortable with it."
With Tech trailing 14-10 with less than a minute to play before the half, Dykes opted to pass on an opportunity for a 49-yard Matt Nelson field goal on a fourth-down and nine play with 38 seconds to play. Instead Jenkins dropped back and under an all-out blitz, hit Ahmad Paige for a touchdown and a 17-14 Tech halftime lead.
"I felt like that was critical," Dykes said. "Ross did a great job of staying in the pocket and giving Ahmad a chance to get it."
The score seemed to ignite the Bulldogs heading into the second half as Tech came out in the third quarter and scored three touchdowns. Jenkins opened the third quarter with a four-yard run with 11:15 to play that capped a nine-play, 45-yard drive.
Ten minutes later, Jenkins struck again through the air as he hit Paige for a 7-yard score on a pass into the flat as Paige broke a tackle and weaved his way into the endzone for a 31-14 lead. The score capped an impressive 10-play, 72-yard drive.
Idaho answered quickly though as on the first play from scrimmage following the ensuing kickoff Vandals quarterback Nathan Enderle hit Justin Veltung on a 76-yard scoring toss down the left sideline, pulling the Vandals to within 10 points.
However, once again Jenkins and the Bulldogs had the answer. After Phillip Livas mishandled the kickoff and Tech took over at its own seven-yard line, Jenkins and Creer drove Tech to the 48-yard line. On a first down and 10-play, Jenkins capitalized on a free play as hit found Livas for a 52-yard strike as the defensive offside penalty was declined. Tech led 38-21 after three quarters.
Livas was just one of a number of Bulldog receivers who had a big day, including Richie Casey who totaled career highs with nine receptions for 117 yards.
"Everybody is more relaxed and has a better feel for the offense," Casey said. "We're playing like we know how. As the season goes on, you learn as you play. It's going to continue. As long as we keep working on details, like coach Franklin says, when it happens, it's going to happen."
Idaho never pulled any closer than 10 points in the final quarter as Nelson 39-yard field goal and a Creer 1-yard plunge ended the Bulldogs scoring.
"We didn't play well; they did ... bottom line," said Vandals head coach Robb Akey. "They played better than we did. We gave ourselves opportunities, but we didn't capitalize. Louisiana Tech played a better game than we did today."
Tech returns to action Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. when it faces third ranked Boise State on ESPN2.