By: Kane McGuire
RUSTON – Louisiana Tech racked up 299 yards on the ground, anchored by Marquis Crosby who amassed 196 in the first half alone, as the Bulldogs routed Stephen F. Austin by a final score of 52-17 on Saturday night inside Joe Aillet Stadium.
LA Tech (1-1) and SFA (1-2) were tied up at 7-7 in the early going, but the home team proceeded to score 45 unanswered points in route to Sonny Cumbie’s first career victory as head coach of the Bulldogs.
While the ‘Dogs were putting up points left and right, the defense was keeping the Lumberjacks at bay with forcing three turnovers and allowing just four third-down conversions out of 15.
Smoke Harris gave the Bulldogs their first points of the game, capping off an opening drive with a 7-yard touchdown reception that he snuck into the end zone at the right pylon.
The Lumberjacks evened things up though three minutes later, utilizing special teams and defense to get on the scoreboard. After a 56-yard punt pinned the Bulldogs at their own 4-yard line, SFA picked off Parker McNeil on the very first play. Ja’Terious Evans snagged the INT and returned it 17 yards down to the goal line. Quarterback Trae Self punched it in on the keeper on the very next play.
The tie was short-lived though as the Bulldogs scored on the ensuing drive, needing just two plays to get it done. First, Crosby took the handoff 68 yards down to the 11-yard line. On the next possession, fellow running back Charvis Thornton went the remaining 11 yards off the left side for the touchdown.
After the LA Tech defense forced a three-and-out, the squad tacked on another quick score as McNeil found Tre Harris up the left sideline for a 40-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs up 21-7 with 5:24 to go in the first quarter.
Crosby continued his running ways in the second quarter, producing back-to-back touchdown runs of three and 42 yards. Capping off the first half was Jacob Barnes who converted a chip shot from 18 yards to give LA Tech a 38-7 advantage at halftime.
The Bulldogs were not done offensively in the third quarter as McNeil hooked up with Griffin Hebert for a 63-yard touchdown. It was the defense’s turn to put up points next as Myles Brooks forced a fumble and J’Dan Burnett did a scoop and score for 30 yards to make it a 52-7 lead with 6:46 remaining in the stanza.
LA Tech totaled 515 yards of offense and were a perfect 4-for-4 inside the red zone. McNeail finished with 197 passing yards on 11 completions with three touchdowns. Tre Harris led all receivers with 91 receiving yards on five receptions.
Head coach Sonny Cumbie
“I am really pleased with how our team responded after last week’s loss. I was encouraged with the effort our team played with. We knew we had a good team coming in here to play. I am proud with how we ran the football and how our defense played, creating takeaways and tackling better. Hopefully this the first of many victories at the Joe this season. We were very excited about the atmosphere.”
Defensive lineman J’Dan Burnett
“There was a lot of energy and excitement built up. We tried to stay together and capitalize on our chances. The scoop and score was the best feeling in the world. I saw the ball and took it to the house. Coach Power had a great scheme set up to put ourselves in position to make plays. We came into the game to be a factor defensively.”
Running back Marquis Crosby
“I am happy we got the win. We knew we could move the ball so we kept running. I think the game slowed down for me compared to last week. It was great to get coach Cumbie his first win.”
· With the 52-17 victory, LA Tech now leads the all-time series over Stephen F. Austin, 5-1.
· The Bulldogs have won eight straight home openers.
· LA Tech rushed for 299 yards, the most since Oct. 12, 2019.
· Quarterback Parker McNeil got his first start as a Bulldog, completing 11 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns.
· Running back Marquis Crosby put up 196 rushing yards, the most by a Bulldog since Kenneth Dixon ran for 207 yards against Southern Miss on Nov. 9, 2013.
· Smoke Harris registered his 15th career touchdown reception. He has at least one touchdown reception in every season since 2018.
· This marked the seventh straight game the Bulldogs have forced at least one turnover.
· The fumble return for a touchdown was the first since Trey Baldwin had one against Southern Miss on Nov. 19, 2021.
LA Tech heads back out on the road on Saturday, Sept. 10 to take on nationally-ranked Clemson. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT and will be televised on the ACC Network.