'If only we played just 30 minutes'
La. Tech unable to build on first-half momentum
• By SCOTT RABALAIS
• Special to The Advocate
• Published: Nov 15, 2009
Halftime in the Louisiana Tech locker room:
As the saying goes, the joint was jumping.
The Bulldogs had just marched 83 yards on 13 plays to score as time expired, catching the LSU defense flatfooted with a trick-play touchdown Tech simply calls “Jump.”
Louisiana Tech 13, No. 9 LSU 10 at the break. It was the first time the Bulldogs led the Tigers since their lone victory over LSU, a 6-0 triumph way back during the Roosevelt administration.
That would be the Teddy Roosevelt administration. The year was 1904.
“Is that right?” Tech coach Derek Dooley asked his publicist as he sat down for his postgame interview.
“If we only played just 30 minutes.”
But as Dooley well knows, football is a 60-minute game. And as the second half wore on, Tech’s dreams of a program-defining upset were ground down — though not completely erased — by a deeper LSU team in a 24-16 defeat Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
“We ran out of guys,” Dooley said. “(Running back) Daniel Porter and (wide receiver) Phillip Livas were hurt, and it just got tough down the stretch. LSU did a good job of stopping the run in the second half.
“They’re the better football team. They’ve got more guys — right now. We just ran out of guys.”
Tech (3-7) outgained LSU 322-246 overall, including a 178-141 edge in rushing. But the Bulldogs managed just 93 yards total offense and 47 yards rushing in the second half.
Tech’s only points after halftime came on Matt Nelson’s 36-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining, pulling the Bulldogs within a touchdown and two-point conversion of a tie.
Nelson’s subsequent onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds — plus Tech was flagged for being offside — giving LSU (8-2) the ball at the Bulldogs’ 48.
“I think we gave it our all,” said Porter, an Istrouma High graduate. “We didn’t get the result we wanted, but I’m still proud. We’ll go on from here.”
It was Porter who triggered the game’s most spectacular highlight just before intermission.
Starting from its 17 with 4:32 remaining, Tech drove to a fourth-and-goal at the LSU 1 with two seconds remaining.
Passing up on an almost sure field goal that would have pulled Tech within 10-9, Dooley called for “Jump.”
On the play, Porter lined up behind quarterback Ross Jenkins, who was under center. Jenkins slid to his left and pretended to be giving an audible to his left tackle and guard, opening up a direct snap to Porter at the 8.
Porter ran forward to the 5, then leaped up and lobbed a pass to tight end Dennis Morris, who circled in from the right side and camped in the middle of the end zone among three defenders.
“It pretty much works every time” in practice, Morris said. “We get the defense on their toes, then we catch them off-guard with the trick play.”
“We practiced it all week,” said Porter, who rushed 13 times for 64 yards. “I was ready for that. I was excited, and I know Dennis Morris was excited. We did a really good job of executing the play.”
One of the game’s interesting subplots came when LSU had the ball, as Tigers right guard Lyle Hitt went head-to-head with his younger brother, Tech defensive tackle Mason Hitt.
The two figured to be bashing into each other a lot, but their matchup became even more extensive when Mason got the start at right tackle.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Mason, who was credited with one stop. “It was a real special game for us. He got the best of me and I got the best of him sometimes.”
Mason said the two didn’t talk much about the game when they spoke afterward, except …
“I told him he’s a lot better than I thought he was on film,” Mason said with a smile.
The same would seem to be true for Tech against LSU. While the Bulldogs still came up on the short end against the Tigers for the 18th time in 19 tries, it was a significant improvement over their 49-10 loss to LSU in 2003 and their 58-10 drubbing here in 2007.
“This is the best state team we’ve played” this year, said Les Miles, who is now 8-0 as LSU’s coach against Louisiana schools. “They may be better than last year — they just don’t have the record to prove it.”
What Tech does have is four straight defeats by a total of 21 points, including two straight to top-10 teams. No. 5 Boise State beat Tech in Ruston on Nov. 6, 45-35.
“There’s a lot to build on for our program,” said Dooley, an LSU assistant from 2000-04. “I believe there are a lot of encouraging signs.”
If only the most encouraging sign could have lasted another 30 minutes.
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