Updated Oct 26, 2002 18:53:27
Bulldogs Beat Nevada 50-47 in Shootout
RUSTON - There is no place like home. Just ask Louisiana Tech head coach Jack Bicknell.
Whatever had been ailing the Bulldogs during its recent four game losing streak was cured Saturday afternoon as Tech downed Nevada 50-47 before 15,315 fans at Joe Aillet Stadium.
In the second highest scoring game every played at Aillet Stadium since its opening in 1968, the Bulldogs used big plays from its offense, defense and special teams to improve to 3-5 on the season and more importantly 2-2 in Western Athletic Conference action.
"It's just an unbelievably huge game," said Tech head coach Jack Bicknell. "I thought they were a very good football team. I knew our defense was going to have its hands full. I just hoped our offense could match them and we did."
Despite over 1,000 yards of combined total offense on the day, it was a pair of defensive plays by the Bulldogs that made the difference in the outcome. The first came with Tech leading 37-34 late in the third quarter and Nevada possessing the ball around midfield, junior defensive back Corey Brazil stepped in front of a Zach Threadgill pass and returned it 49 yards for a Bulldog touchdown and a 44-34 lead.
"Corey's interception was huge," Bicknell said. "I was saying to myself that it would come down to turnovers. I felt like if we could get a turnover, then that would put us ahead by two scores. That was a great play."
After Tech and Nevada traded touchdowns early in the fourth quarter to make the score 50-41, the Wolfpack took over the football at its own 24 with 12:17 remaining in the game. Eighteen plays and almost 10 minutes later, Nevada found itself facing a fourth down and goal on the Tech one-yard line.
However, B.J. Mitchell's attempt to find the endzone to the outside off the option play was stuffed by Curtis Randall and a host of other Bulldog defenders and Tech took over the football on its own one-yard line with just over two minutes remaining.
"It was gut check time," Randall said. "We hadn't stopped them the whole game. It was make or break at that point."
Nevada failed to prevent Tech from recording a first down while using all of its remaining timeouts. However, just when it looked like the game was over, senior running back Joe Smith, who rushed for 111 yards and three touchdowns, coughed up the football and Nevada had new life. On the ensuing play following the fumble, Threadgill hit Nichir Flowers for a 20-yard touchdown, cutting the Bulldogs advantage to 50-47 and setting up an onside kick attempt.
Tech wide receiver Erick Franklin recovered the onside kick as Tech held on for the win.
"It's a huge weight off of our shoulders," Bicknell said. "I feel as good about this win as any I've been involved in. The guys have fought so hard and tried so hard against some tough situations, and we needed something good to happen. It was a big win."
A back and forth first half saw the Wolfpack enter the halftime locker room with a 27-23 lead thanks in large part to running back Matt Milton who struck paydirt three times in the first 30 minutes of action. On the day, Milton rushed for 141 yards and four touchdowns before leaving the game with an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter.
Tech struck first in the second half when junior signal caller Luke McCown hit senior wide receiver Ahmad Harris on a 73-yard scoring strike on the first play of the third quarter. The reception was a career long for Harris who ended the game with a career-high 118 yards receiving on three catches.
"It was a hard fought game," said Nevada head coach Chris Tormey. "Either team could have won it. They made the plays in crunch time and we didn't."
The touchdown pass was one of three on the day for McCown, who ended up completing 20 of 28 passes for 376 yards and no interceptions. The Jacksonville, native, also hit tight end Major Richmond for a 36-yard score in the second quarter and D.J. Curry on a 14-yarder in the third quarter.
Tech doesn't return to action until Nov. 9 when the Bulldogs travel to San Jose State.