Nov. 12, 2011
OXFORD - Walk-on running back Hunter Lee rushed for 127 yards and Louisiana Tech's defense recorded a pair of second half scores as the Bulldogs dominated Southeastern Conference foe Ole Miss 27-7 Saturday night at the Rebels homecoming game before 44,123 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
With the victory, LA Tech (6-4, 4-1 WAC) becomes bowl eligible after recording its fifth straight win of the season. It also sets up a showdown next weekend in Reno against Nevada.
Tech, which posted its eighth win all-time against an SEC team and its first since defeating Mississippi State 22-14 in 2008, got another stellar defensive effort from a unit that has spearheaded the Bulldogs recent success.
In its usual opportunistic fashion, the Bulldogs defense came up big with the game still on the line. With Tech holding onto a 13-7 lead late in the third quarter, safety Chad Boyd picked up a fumble and raced 33-yards untouched to the end zone - taking the air out of the remaining Ole Miss fans and energizing the more than 3,000 Bulldog fans that made the road trip.
The fumble recovery for a score by Boyd was the first by a Tech player since Carlin Thomas returned a fumble for a TD in a 30-23 loss at Oklahoma State in 2001.
It didn't take long for Tech to put the final nail in the proverbial coffin as safety Javontay Crowe recorded his first career interception and raced 26 yards for a touchdown with 11:08 to play in the game. It was the fourth interception return for a touchdown of the year for Tech, which ranks as the third most in the country behind only UL-Lafayette and Southern Miss.
Although the final score was lopsided, it could have been much worse.
In the opening half, Tech missed on numerous scoring opportunities. Ole Miss took an early 7-0 lead on a Randall Mackey 34-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Bolden with 8:53 to play in the opening quarter. It woke up the Bulldog defense which held the Rebels to only 51 more total yards the rest of the first half.
While the Bulldog defense dominated, the Tech offense misfired. Colby Cameron dropped two perfect downfield throws into the hands of receivers D.J. St. Julien and Myles White, but neither was able to make the would-be touchdown reception.
Junior kicker Matt Nelson also had his first half troubles, missing field goals of 40 and 35 yards. He would redeem himself hitting a 43-yarder at the end of the half and a 35-yarder early in the third quarter.
Even the Bulldog special teams misfired on a great fake punt call as punter Ryan Allen - earlier this week named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award - hit defensive end Matt Broha on a pass play picking up a first down inside of Ole Miss territory. However, Tech was flagged for a penalty and the play was negated forcing a Bulldog punt.
Cameron did finally make the play of the first half for Tech's offense as he eluded an Ole Miss defender in the backfield on a scramble on third down and lofted a perfectly thrown pass over four Rebel defenders into the back of the endzone for a 22-yard scoring strike to Taulib Ikharo with 3:32 to play in the first half.
It appeared as the teams would enter the halftime locker room tied after Ole Miss failed to move the football on its next possession passed midfield as the Rebels punting unit pinned Tech back on its 5-yard line with 35 seconds to play.
However, instead of kneeling on the ball to run out the clock, Lee took a handoff and raced 48 yards to the UM 47-yard line. A pair of Cameron completions - one of 13 yards to Quinton Patton and one of nine yards to Ikharo - set up Nelson for the 43-yard field goal and a 10-7 Tech advantage.
Lee recorded his impressive outing after starting tailback Lennon Creer left the game in the first quarter with an injury. Creer was questionable to return but the Tech coaching staff didn't need the bruising tailback as Lee carved up the Ole Miss defense on the ground.
Adrien Cole led Tech with 10 tackles while Christian Lacey, Matt Broha, Justin Ellis and IK Enemkpali each registered sacks. The Tech defense also recorded three takeaways and had eight pass breakups in the game.
Tech returns to action Saturday when it travels to Reno to face Nevada at 3:05 p.m. CT.