Cody Sokol threw five touchdown passes and Louisiana Tech's offense came alive again as the Bulldogs showed their road grit for the second time in five days by rolling over North Texas, 42-21, in front of 16,998 at Apogee Stadium in Denton Thursday night.
Sokol connected with eight different Bulldog receivers to claim the first Conference USA victory of the season as the senior was 20-for-31 on the night with 243 yards and five touchdowns, including two touchdown passes to Paul Turner, as LA Tech (2-1, 1-0 C-USA) never trailed North Texas (1-2, 0-1 C-USA) in the game. Sokol is the first LA Tech quarterback to throw for five touchdowns since Colby Cameron did so on Oct. 13, 2012 versus Texas A&M.
"Offensively, we got off to a slow start, but Cody Sokol settled down after he got hit a couple time and came out here and played well," head coach Skip Holtz said. "There are some guys that are making some plays on the perimeter and obviously there are some things we have to get better at as well, so we are still a work in progress. We have to continue to develop depth because it is a long season."
Turner ended the night with three receptions for 34 yards and two touchdown receptions, while Trent Taylor reeled in five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown. In Carlos Henderson's first action of the season, the wide receiver caught a team-high six passes for 40 yards. Hunter Lee also reached the end zone with three catches for 52 yards and a score.
Kenneth Dixon ran the ball 19 times, good for 75 yards and a touchdown, which helped the tailback move up to ninth place all-time in LA Tech history with 222 career points. Dixon also cracked the top 10 in career rushing yards in school history, ranking 10th with a total of 2,412 career yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Nick Thomason led the Bulldogs with seven total tackles as LA Tech held North Texas to just two total yards of offense in the first quarter. Tech also held North Texas scoreless in the first half for the first time since the 2012 season.
"We are pretty physical on defense and we can do a lot of things," Holtz said of what he learned from his team tonight. "Right now, I think we can do a lot of things. The defense is playing with some energy and some pride. There is a lot that goes into this defense. I have been going up against it for 30 days and I still can't figure it out."
Both teams were held scoreless in the first quarter before the Bulldogs would mount a 10-play, 60-yard drive on their first possession in the second frame as Josh Gaston caught his first collegiate pass - which just happened to be for a touchdown - on a four-yard gain in the red zone as Tech took the 7-0 lead.
After holding North Texas to a three-and-out, Louisiana Tech quickly drove back down the field going 67 yards in four plays as Sokol found Hunter Lee for a 28-yard score.
After another Mean Green three-and-out, Louisiana Tech went up 21-0 behind a 53-yard drive that ended with Paul Turner's first career touchdown catch on a five-yard reception in the end zone. NT would gain its first non-penalty first down of the half on its last drive of the second quarter, but would still be forced to punt as Tech held an opponent in the first half for the first time since blanking New Mexico State in the first half in 2012.
Tech's defense set up Dixon's 37th career touchdown as Terrell Pinson forced and ran back a fumble to the North Texas two-yard line setting up Dixon's run on the first and only play of the drive as the Bulldogs took the 28-0 lead.
North Texas struck for the first time on its next drive as Josh Greer scored from five-yards out with 4:15 left in the third quarter, cutting Tech's lead to 28-7. UNT was aided by a big play on Greer's pass to Carlos Harris, accounting for 23 of the 59 yards on the drive.
Two big runs for Kenneth Dixon set up Turner's second touchdown catch of the night as he reeled in a 21-yard pass from Sokol to give LA Tech the 35-7 advantage with 1:46 left in the third quarter.
Tech recovered what is technically considered a fumble as Gerald Shouse's punt ricocheted off a North Texas player. Beau Fitte recovered the football which set up Cody Sokol's fifth touchdown pass of the game, this time a 12-yard strike to Trent Taylor on the first play of the drive, pushing Tech's lead to 42-7.
With under four minutes to go in regulation, North Texas running back Antoinne Jimmerson punched it in for a three-yard rushing touchdown for the Mean Green, which capped off a nine play, 71-yard scoring drive to cut LA Tech's lead to 42-14.
North Texas would reach the end zone one final time in the game as Erick Evans capitalized on a five play, 64-yard scoring drive with a nine-yard rushing touchdown with 34 seconds left to give LA Tech a 42-21 victory over the Mean Green.
Louisiana Tech returns to action on Sept. 20 as the Bulldogs host Northwestern State in LA Tech's first home game of the season. Kickoff at Joe Aillet Stadium is slated for 6 p.m. CT.