WAC football has plenty of fireworks | NevadaAppeal.com

WAC football has plenty of fireworks

There were fireworks aplenty last weekend in the Western Athletic Conference, and the Fresno State-Louisiana Tech game supplied most of them.

The teams were involved in a nasty pre-game brawl, and then Louisiana Tech went out and upset No. 17 Fresno State 28-21 to grab its third straight home win of the season.

According to a Louisiana newspaper report, a Fresno State player ran through one of the Louisiana Tech drills during pre-game warm-ups.

“I didn’t see it,” Fresno State coach Pat Hill said in the weekly WAC teleconference. “I never come out to the field early. I was still in the locker room with the offensive linemen. When I came over the hill, it looked like a war. We quickly broke it up.”

Both Hill and Louisiana Tech coach Jack Bicknell didn’t believe the pre-game antics affected either team during the game.

Bicknell was happy with the way his team hung in after giving up 13 quick points.

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“I felt like it was a great effort,” Bicknell said. “It was a very physical game. We started out by getting pounded. I thought we might be in for a long night. The guys hung in there and turned it around. We didn’t turn the ball over once, and of course, Ryan Moats had an outstanding game.”

Moats ran for 236 yards and scored all four of Louisiana Tech’s touchdowns. His efforts earned him the WAC Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season. He scored the game-winning TD with 3:20 left in the game.

“It takes something special to do that to Fresno State and their defense,” Bicknell said. “He’s got a good combination of speed and power. He’s a very humble guy.”

Hill was disappointed with his team’s execution throughout the game. He’s not worried about how the loss will affect his team.

“I have to give Louisiana Tech a lot of credit,” Hill said. “We had some great opportunities early in the game and didn’t capitalize. They took our best shot and we couldn’t knock them out.

“This is only the second time in eight years we’ve come out of September with a winning record. The kids know how to handle adversity.”

— It doesn’t get any easier for Bicknell’s club. The Bulldogs visit Auburn, the fourth ranked opponent they have played this season. A good showing by Louisiana Tech is important for the WAC as a whole.

“Any time you play an out of conference game, you want to represent the conference well,” Bicknell said. “I take great pride in this league. It’s important to show we’re a very good football team.”

Louisiana Tech is 3-2, its losses coming against Miami of Florida and Tennessee.

— The other big game in the conference involved Rice and San Jose State. Trailing 34-7, San Jose State wound up winning 70-63, getting an interception with about two minutes left to seal the outcome of the wild contest played before a paltry crowd of fewer than 5,000.

The teams combined for 1,089 yards total offense, and San Jose State scored 10 touchdowns despite having the ball for only 18 minutes.

“Most of our games (with them) go down to the wire,” Rice coach Ken Hatfield said. “The offense played one of the finest games. We snapped the ball 100 times. Marcus Rucker gained 200 yards for the first time, and our quarterbacks, Greg Henderson and Joel Armstrong, played great games. We just made too many mistakes.”

Hatfield was displeased with the coverage on kickoffs and punts. The Owls gave up two big returns, one of which led to a touchdown.

“It was a very unique game to say the least,” San Jose State coach Fitz Hill said. “It was my earthly version of the Red Sea parting. I’m so proud of the football team. They could have packed it up and quit playing, but they responded.”

Hill was especially pleased with the play of Dale Rogers, who didn’t take a snap all week because of a hamstring injury, but had a tremendous game, throwing for 359 yards on a 10-for-17 effort.

— Boise State coach Dan Hawkins had no reaction when he heard that Fresno State lost, spoiling the much anticipated showdown between the two WAC powers. Many around the conference were hoping that both teams would be undefeated when they hooked up later this month in Boise.

“We didn’t focus on that,” Hawkins said. “We just try to keep to the task at hand. We have enough things to attend to.

“It (Fresno State’s loss) didn’t surprise me. Louisiana Tech is a better team than people give them credit for.”

— Besides Moats, who had his third 200-yard game of the season, UTEP linebacker Godwin Akinduro was honored as the top defensive player and Hawaii kicker Justin Ayat was the top specialist.

Akinduro, a senior, had a team-high 12 tackles and a fumble recovery in the Miners’ 45-0 win over New Mexico State. It was UTEP’s second shutout of the season and fifth over the Aggies since 1987.

Ayat made all three of his field goal attempts and all five of his PAT attempts in the Rainbow Warriors’ 44-16 win over Tulsa. He tied a school record with a 56-yard field goal in the first quarter, tying the record of former Hawaii star Jason Elam in 1992. Ayat is now the seventh-best in WAC scoring with 306 points.

Darrell Moody can be reached at moody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281.