Louisiana Tech holds off Arkansas State in New Orleans Bowl
NEW ORLEANS — Kenneth Dixon capped an extraordinary career at Louisiana Tech by setting NCAA touchdown and scoring records, all while leading the Bulldogs to a bowl victory.
Dixon had 215 yards from scrimmage and scored four times to become the NCAA’s career leader with 87 touchdowns and 522 points, and Louisiana Tech snapped Arkansas State’s eight-game winning streak with a 47-28 triumph in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night.
Dixon’s records could fall in a few days; Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds takes his 85 career TDs and 512 points into the Military Bowl against Pittsburgh on Monday. If that happens, Dixon said he’d be happy for Reynolds.
"If he gets the record, it will be great. If I keep it, it’s even greater," Dixon said. "Just to have two people chasing that record at the same time is remarkable."
Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel then interjected light-heartedly that Reynolds "seems like a great guy, but I’m rooting against him."
Driskel, a transfer from Florida, closed out his college career by passing for 458 yards and three touchdowns for Louisiana Tech (9-4), which had 687 total yards in finishing a second straight season with a bowl victory.
The performance gave Driskel 4,023 yards and 27 touchdown passes for the season. Receiver Trent Taylor said the Bulldogs could not have been more pleased to see their QB close out his career with such a flourish after bouts with injuries and inconsistency at Florida.
"He was willing to do whatever it took to be a part of this team," Taylor said. "To see him finish the way he did tonight, it was awesome. All the hard work he’s put in this year, he deserves every bit of it."
Dixon caught six passes for 113 yards and touchdowns of 9 and 59 yards. He carried 21 times for 102 yards, including scoring runs of 8 and 4 yards. He entered the game as the nation’s active leader in yards rushing and finished his career with 4,480 yards on the ground.
Dixon’s No. 28 jersey was ripped on his first TD run. He was allowed to replace it, symbolically, with a No. 1 jersey for the remainder of the game.
Quarterback Fredi Knighten accounted for 179 yards from scrimmage and scored one TD rushing for the Red Wolves (9-4), who won the Sun Belt Conference.
Blaise Taylor had a 98-yard kickoff return TD for Arkansas State in the fourth quarter, but by then it was too late to mount a comeback.
Arkansas State’s success this season stemmed from turnovers. The Red Wolves entered the game with 26 interceptions, most in the nation. But Tech did not turn the ball over, while Arkansas State turned it over three times on two interceptions and a fumble.
"Ultimately, the turnovers were the biggest key for us. It’s not something we’ve done for a while," Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson said. "When we’re playing our best we can play with anybody and when we turn the ball over we can’t."
Arkansas State came in averaging 41 points per game, but did not manage an offensive touchdown after halftime.
"In the second half," Tech coach Skip Holtz said of his defense, "I thought they came out and honestly dominated."
Driskel got the Bulldogs off to a fast start, completing 10 of his first 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He lofted long, accurate passes to set up each of the first two TDs — a 53-yard connection with Carlos Henderson set up the first and a 45-yarder to Trent Taylor led to the second, which put Tech up 17-3.
Arkansas State rallied to tie the score by halftime. Warren Wand’s 1-yard score capped a 14-play, 91-yard drive that cut it to 17-10. Late in the second quarter, Blaise Taylor’s 41-yard punt return gave the Red Wolves the ball on the Tech 25. Four plays later, Knighten ran it in from the 1.
Tech took the lead for good on Dixon’s second TD reception.
Arkansas State linebacker Xavier Woodson-Luster said his unit had a good plan for Dixon, but was done in by fundamentals.
"We just need to play better, need to tackle better and just wrap up," he said.
NOTES: The teams combined for 24 penalties for 263 yards, making it the most-penalized game in New Orleans Bowl history and the fifth-highest combined penalty yardage total in NCAA bowl history. "I think the officials got paid by yards tonight," Holtz said.