DALLAS….Louisiana Tech picked up its first bowl win since 2008 by beating Illinois 35-18 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Bulldogs win was just the latest for Conference USA, which is having a very nice bowl season as the conference now sits at 4-1.
Story of the game: If you were to look at the box score and not know the final score you’d probably think Illinois won the game. The Illini outgained Louisiana Tech by nearly 100 yards (they had a 200-yard advantage in the third quarter) and held on to the ball 10 minutes longer than the Bulldogs, but it was Louisiana Tech making the big plays that Illinois couldn’t.
The Bulldogs finished with only 361 yards of offense, but 150 of them came on two plays: an 80-yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Dixon and a 70-yard pass to Carlos Henderson that set up another Dixon score. The Bulldogs also had a pick-six courtesy of Xavier Woods, who picked off a Reilly O’Toole pass in the second quarter and took it 69-yards to the house.
Player of the game: It has to go to Louisiana Tech defensive end Houston Bates. Bates was in an odd position in this game, as he spent the beginning of his career with Illinois before transferring to Louisiana Tech for the 2014 season. Bates was not kind to his former team in this one, finishing the day with 6.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He had 3.5 sacks for the Illini in the entire 2013 season.
Highlight of the game: I’ll let you decide. It’s either Kenneth Dixon’s 80-yard touchdown catch and run…