RUSTON — On a night where Louisiana Tech struggled to do much right, the Bulldogs almost pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
Noah Rauschenberg’s 31-yard field goal with just three seconds remaining lifted North Texas to a 40-37 win over Louisiana Tech Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.
It was the end to a roller coaster night for both teams in a game that saw the Mean Green never trail, build a 17-point fourth quarter lead, see Tech rally to tie it in the final 90 seconds, and then ultimately respond by driving into position to kick the game-winning field goal.
Tech (2-2) suffered injury after injury and ultimately a heart-breaking loss.
“I know our guys really fought hard down by 17 points,” said Tech head coach Cumbie. “They didn’t stop. They didn’t lose belief and they continued to fight and make plays all the way to the end. We just couldn’t get them off the field on third down.
“And I just made, you know, really some critical coaching decisions in terms of kicking the field goal versus going for it. And it really hurt us. So that is about as sickening a feeling as you can have for our team and for our program right now. Our kids played hard and it’s a football game that we really we should have won.“
North Texas dominated time of possession in the first half, building a 13-0 lead and taking a 23-14 advantage into the halftime locker room. Although in many ways the Bulldogs were fortunate to not be down more than nine, Tech also had an opportunity late in the second quarter to have all the momentum.
After Hank Bachmeier hit Smoke Harris for a 19-yard TD pass with just over a minute to play before halftime, the Bulldogs appeared poised to get the football back with a chance to take the lead. However, North Texas QB Chandler Rogers completed a 29-yard pass on third down and seven and then drove the Mean Green the remaining 56 yards to paydirt to push the lead back to 23-14.
It was a sign of things to come.
“You got to give credit to their quarterback,” said Cumbie. “He put the ball in a couple of tight spots on third downs and made some good throws at the end of the first half. He was accurate throwing the football. He did a good job.”
Rogers completed 24-of-41 passes for 313 yards and one score and used his arm and his feet to consistently convert third downs for the Mean Green. North Texas was 13-of-20 on third and fourth downs in the game as the Bulldogs defense couldn’t get off the field, including on the final drive.
Trailing 37-20 with less than seven minutes to play and Bachmeier sidelined with a shoulder injury, sophomore Jack Turner drove the Bulldogs down the field and scored on a one-yard QB keeper with 6:27 remaining to close the cap to 37-27.
After the Bulldogs forced only the second punt of the night, Turner and Co. drove down the field and Jacob Barnes kicked a 30-yard field goal with 1:32 remaining to make it 37-30.
Tech’s special teams then came up with a big play, recovering the onside kick at the Bulldogs 47-yard line.
Three plays later, Turner hit Harris in the flat and Harris made numerous Mean Green defenders miss on a 36-yard TD pass and catch. Buck Buchanon’s extra point tied the game at 37-37 with 1:04 to play.
Following the kickoff, North Texas marched 61 yards on nine plays, highlighted by a 24-yard pass and catch and a 21-yard run to set up the 31-yard game-winning field goal.
Tyre Shelton rushed for 152 yards and a TD on 16 carries for the Bulldogs. Harris caught four passes for 77 yards and two scores while Cyrus Allen added 82 yards and one score.
The Bulldogs defense had been solid through the first three games but struggled all night, allowing 313 yards through the air and 249 yards on the ground. North Texas totaled 32 first downs and ran 88 offensive plays.
Myles Heard totaled 14 tackles and Cecil Singleton added 11 tackles for Tech, which visits Nebraska next Saturday.