By Ryan Nelson (@TheRyanNelson_)
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Louisiana Tech (9-5) held on to win their ninth game of the season, defeating No. 25 Navy (9-5) 48-45 in the Armed Forces Bowl.
La. Tech’s explosive passing offense squared off against Navy’s demoralizing rushing attack to make for one barnburner of a bowl game. This game had all the makings of a shootout, and that’s exactly what fans got on Friday.
These teams traded haymakers in the second half, with each score holding the potential to be the definitive knockout blow. The final score didn’t come from an aerial attack or ground gain, but a foot. La. Tech K Jonatahn Barnes nailed a 32-yard field goal with three ticks left on the clock to seal the deal for the Bulldogs.
La. Tech QB Ryan Higgins was his usual self, passing for 409 yards and four touchdowns on the day. Higgins found his favorite target, WR Trent Taylor, 12 times for 233 yards, and two touchdowns. Junior WR Carlos Henderson had two scores as well.
For the first time in La. Tech football history, the Bulldogs have won nine games in three consecutive seasons. The Bulldogs have also won three straight bowl games under head coach Skip Holtz. Conference USA teams are 4-1 in bowl games in 2016.
The Midshipmen came into the game without their starting quarterback Will Worth, who is out for the season after suffering an injury against Temple.
The Midshipmen relied on QB Zach Abey to make an impact, and he delivered. Abey finished with 159 yards passing, one passing touchdown, 114 yards rushing, and two rushing touchdowns.
Abey left the game in the fourth quarter after an illegal hit to the ribs from La. Tech defensive tackle Jordan Branford. Branford was ejected following a targeting penalty.
Navy fell short of consecutive ten win seasons. The Midshipmen finished 11-2 in 2015, their best record under head coach Ken Niumatalolo.