Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz details where his team needs to start to get better inside the red zone.
Cory Diaz/The News-Star
RUSTON —The red zone might as well be the white zone. As in white-knuckle zone for Louisiana Tech coaches, players and fans.
Tech had four tries inside Florida Atlantic’s 20 in the opening half, managing just nine points. While the red zone further poked at the Bulldogs’ deficiencies, the Owls (7-3, 6-0), led by head coach Lane Kiffin in his trip to Ruston, connected on big plays as well as finishing drives for its program-record sixth straight win, 48-23, in the Conference USA contest Saturday at Joe Aillet Stadium.
Coming into Saturday, Louisiana Tech held a 54 percent red zone touchdown rate, but negative plays on second-and-goal inside the 5 doomed the offense which couldn’t match its average, going 0-for-4 in the first half. Senior place kicker Johnathan Barnes provided the red zone points, making three of the four field goals, all kicks 26 yards or under — he missed from 26, making a 22-yarder as time expired in the first half when FAU led, 20-9.
Tech averages scoring a touchdown 50 percent of the time in the red zone, notching 21 touchdowns in 42 trips on the season.
FAU (7-3, 6-0) drove the ball in 13 plays on its opening drive, speeding through 88 yards, capped by C-USA leading sophomore running back Devin Singletary plowing it in from 3 yards out. Singletary, who Tech’s defense bottled up for 22 yards in the first half, finished the night with 18 rushes for 104 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bulldogs (4-6, 2-4) moved the ball all night, outgaining the Owls 512 to 415 and quarterback J’Mar Smith racked up a career high in completions (30) and attempts (48) and rolling up 393 total yards. His lone touchdown came from outside the red zone, connected with junior transfer wide receiver Teddy Veal for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 4:21 left in the third.
Have a day, J’Mar
Smith had a career night against the Owls, with 402 total yards, including his best passing and rushing performances on his 11 starts, going 30-for-51 for 326 yards and ran the ball 17 times for 78 yards.