RUSTON, La. – The Bulldogs gave Louisiana Tech fans a preview of the 2017 season on Saturday afternoon as both sides of the ball took turns showing out at LA Tech’s Spring Game, which was presented by Dairy Queen at Joe Aillet Stadium.
Fans in attendance saw the White Team (Visitor) take on the Blue Team (Home), while the Blue Team came away with a 26-17 comeback victory to earn bragging rights on Saturday. The two teams selected through a draft by the Louisiana Tech coaching staff, who ran more than 140 plays on the day combined.
“There was some great work done out here today,” head coach Skip Holtz said. “This was a great evaluation putting guys in game-like situations just to see how they would respond. I thought some guys did some really good things today. I thought the crowd was great. I appreciate everybody coming out and it was a beautiful day for it. We still have a long way to go, but I really like the attitude, the energy and the way they are playing together.”
On the opening drive, J’mar Smith showed off his arm and speed after four pass completions and a pair of quarterback keepers led to the first score of the game, a 10-yard connection to Teddy Veal to give the Blue Team a 6-0 lead. The chemistry between Smith and Veal continued throughout the scrimmage with the duo linking up for gains of 10 or more yards on five different occasions during the two-hour game.
“J’mar Smith has done a great job of picking up the offense more and more and making good decisions,” Holtz said. “He is definitely a weapon with his feet as well as his arm. I think as he continues to train his brain to be able to read it, throw it and also run with his feet, it potentially has the makings of a really dangerous quarterback for opponents.”
In addition to Veal showing out, LA Tech utilized a wide variety of receivers ranging from redshirt freshmen such as Adrian Hardy to veteran seniors, including Marlon Watts and Marcus Gaines. Watts was the recipient of a 40-yard touchdown reception for the White Team in the third quarter on a double-reverse that saw the pass come from the hands of Cee Jay Powell, a redshirt freshman receiver for the Bulldogs. On that same drive, Watts hauled in a 19-yard reception with a one-handed grab on a pass from Jack Abraham.
“We talked about how when Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson were gone, somebody has to step up and pick up that slack,” Holtz said of the performance of the receivers on Saturday. “I thought Marlon Watts made some big plays out there today. I thought Javonte Woodard went up in some 1-on-1 situations and came down with some balls. Teddy Veal made a bunch of catches and Alfred Smith did a good job. Marcus Gaines made some catches today, so I think it is going to be much more by committee with a group of wide receivers rather than have just one or two targeted like the last couple of seasons.”
In addition to several standout plays by the Bulldogs’ offense, LA Tech’s defense showed out as well on Saturday in the team’s final practice session of the spring. Deldrick Canty recorded two sacks on the afternoon, while Jaylon Ferguson also registered a sack and tackle-for-loss. The only turnover of the day came from Ephraim Kitchen, who cut in front of a receiver in the fourth quarter for the interception returned 10 yards for the Blue Team.
“We were really vanilla today but did not have a lot of mental errors out there, so overall it was really good,” defensive coordinator Blake Baker said. “There were a lot of coachable moments out there and that is what I told the defense. Overall, we are pleased with the scrimmage and glad everyone came out healthy. This spring, we worked hard on simplifying things, so I am encouraged and I think we are heading in the right direction.”
After Veal’s touchdown catch early in the game, the Blue Team added to its lead with 23- and 36-yard field goals off the foot of Brady Farlow, but Boston Scott made it a five-point game for the White Team before halftime after the senior broke away for a 57-yard rushing touchdown to make it a 12-7 lead for Blue entering the break.
In the second half, the Bulldogs involved some trickery as it was the double-reverse pass from Powell to Watts that gave the White Team a 14-12 lead, which was later extended to 17-12 thanks to a 33-yard field goal by Jonathan Barnes.
The Blue Team began its comeback with a 26-yard field goal by Curphey Hardin before Jarred Craft’s 1-yard rushing touchdown and a two-point conversion made it a six-point deficit for the White Team. Later in the final quarter, Farlow connected on his third field goal of the day, this one a 20-yard boot that sealed a 26-17 victory for the Blue Team.
One of the feel-good moments of the day came early on when Bulldog fans got their first glimpse of running back Jaqwis Dancy, who has made his return to the field this spring after begin diagnosed of Hodgkin lymphoma in October. The sophomore was deceptive on a run play that was eventual called back due to a penalty, but later in the first half, Dancy had a 24-yard reception on a pass from Price Wilson before halftime.
“It was great to see Jaqwis out here,” Holtz said of the return of Dancy to the field. “You got to see a little bit of his elusiveness. I know nobody was happier to be on the field than he was today. With the battle he has fought, he is down about 15 pounds right now, but he is going to gain his weight back and he had the opportunity to get out there and get in a couple plays. We tried not to give him more than two or three plays at a time, but when he has the ball under his arm he has the chance to be really explosive.”
The 2017 LA Tech Spring Game marks the conclusion of spring practice sessions for the Bulldogs, but season tickets are available now for Louisiana Tech fans to purchase or renew for the upcoming 2017 football season.
Fans can purchase season tickets online at www.LATechSports.com/tickets or by calling the LA Tech Ticket Office at 318-257-3631. The renewal deadline is set for June 1, while fans will also have the opportunity to save up to $84 by becoming a season ticket holder rather than purchasing single-game tickets next season.
All new and renewed season ticket buyers will be invited to an exclusive tour of the new press box at Joe Aillet Stadium next fall at a date to be determined during the 2017 season. The press box is expected to reach completion by the start of the 2017 football season.
For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow Louisiana Tech on social media at @LATechFB (Twitter), /LATechFootball (Facebook) and @LATechFB (Instagram) or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.