Louisiana Tech 19, Tulsa 7
Saturday, November 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Louisiana Tech's passing finesse put it at the top of the Western Athletic Conference, but its running game made it the outright champion Saturday.
Joe Smith ran for 188 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Bulldogs (7-4, 7-1) secured the WAC title with a 19-7 victory over Tulsa (1-10, 0-8).
It was no easy victory, however, even against a Golden Hurricane team tallying its 10th-straight loss. A howling wind and a persistent Tulsa defense thwarted the Bulldogs' passing game from the start.
``It was tough to do a lot of things we like to do offensively,'' said Bulldogs coach Jack Bicknell. ``We finally figured we needed to run the ball.''
Louisiana Tech already had claimed a share of the championship in its first season in the WAC. But it needed Saturday's win to be assured sole possession of the title and a bowl bid.
The Bulldogs struggled early, but then Smith smashed through Tulsa's defense in the second half. He scored his first touchdown on a 6-yard run and the second on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Luke McCown with 1:44 to play.
Josh Scobee added two field goals of 42 and 30 yards for Louisiana Tech.
``My hats off to Louisiana Tech,'' Tulsa coach Keith Burns said. ``They had to hang in there and fight against a scrappy team that brought all they had today, and they were still able to make the plays when they had to make them.''
The win capped the best single-season turnaround for the Bulldogs since the 1984 season, the last time Tech won a conference championship. The team was 3-9 last year.
The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 3, but was moved because of rescheduling tied to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Tulsa held Louisiana Tech scoreless in the first quarter, something that hadn't happened since the Golden Hurricane's season opener. The Bulldogs had to settle for the two field goals in the second quarter.
The Golden Hurricane took a 7-6 lead midway through the third quarter when Ken Bohanon scored on a 2-yard touchdown run.
With a 21-yard run in that drive, Bohanon surpassed his season total of 86 rushing yards. He finished with 132 yards on 27 carries.
Smith's first touchdown came after five carries totaling 52 yards in a 58-yard Louisiana Tech drive. His touchdown reception _ the first of his career _ came on 39-yard drive, led by his short bursts.
Smith savored the victory, pointing out that in pre-season polls his team had been picked to finish near the bottom of the WAC.
``The game today was a perfect game,'' he said. ``The offensive line was blocking and the wide receivers were blocking all day. Luke made a lot of good decisions on his checks.''
McCown, who had averaged 332.3 yards offense a game, finished with 158 total yards against Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane had a chance to score in the first half, but quarterback Josh Blankenship's touchdown pass attempt went out of bounds and Chris Earnest missed a 25-yard field-goal attempt.
Tulsa's 1-10 record is the worst finish in school history since a 0-11 record in 1954.