FRISCO, Texas (AP) — A fumble by SMU on the first snap of the game set the tone for Louisiana Tech in a 51-10 victory in the Frisco Bowl on Wednesday night.
"Oh yeah, it had us pumped," freshman Amik Johnson said. "I was so pumped I was about to run to the end zone, but Coach reminded me I had to celebrate with my team. At the end of the day that was kind of a big boost for us."
J'mar Smith threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score, Louisiana Tech's defense scored twice and the Bulldogs ended their fourth straight season with a bowl victory.
"It feels great," Smith said. "Defense put us in some great situations and they scored the ball when they caught interceptions, and we got to go out there with great field positions. It gives our offense a boost of confidence."
Smith completed 15 of 23 passes for 216 yards, and Teddy Veal caught four passes for 84 yards for Louisiana Tech (7-6). The Bulldogs led 42-10 at the half.
SMU (7-6) fumbled on its first offensive snap and turned it over on its first three drives and six times overall.
It was a disappointing debut for SMU coach Sonny Dykes against his former school. Dykes was 22-15 at Louisiana Tech from 2010 to 2012 before leaving for California in 2013. Dykes was fired by Cal a year ago, and spent this season as an offensive analyst at TCU before SMU hired him to replace Chad Morris on Dec. 11.
With most of the staff joining Morris at Arkansas, Dykes elected to coach the bowl game and installed graduate assistant G.J. Kinne as offensive coordinator for the bowl game.
It didn't have the desired effect.
"Clearly we didn't put our best foot forward," Dykes said. "We've got to give Louisiana Tech a lot of credit. They were ready to play, you could see they were a team that's been to bowl games and had a formula to get their team ready to play."
Smith gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard sneak with 7:43 remaining in the first quarter. Louisiana Tech had a short field to work with after Secdrick Cooper returned an interception 31 yards to the SMU 30.
Amik Robertson returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown less than a minute later, pushing the lead to 14-0.
"At the end of the day we knew (their quarterback) was going to make mistakes," Robertson said. "We just had to stay focussed dialed in and we knew eventually those plays would come."
SMU held onto the ball on its fourth drive, but couldn't reach the end zone and settled for a field goal after stalling at the 8.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jaqwis Dancy had a 65-yard return, setting up a 6-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Veal for a 21-3 lead.
Louisiana Tech returned another interception for a touchdown early in the second quarter. This time, Darryl Lewis had a 23-yard return down the sideline for a 28-3 lead.
"Once things spiraled out of control we tried to tell each other to stack up good plays on top of each other," SMU quarterback Ben Hicks said. "But that didn't really work."
Smith added touchdown passes to Veal and Kam McKnight, helping Louisiana set a school record for first-half points in a bowl game.
Trey Quinn scored SMU's touchdown on a 9-yard pass late in the second quarter. Hicks completed 19 of 33 passes for 127 yards.
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs have won four straight bowl games. Three of those four bowl victories have come in the state of Texas.
SMU: SMU fell to 7-8-2 in bowl games and had its worst bowl loss since it lost the the 1983 Sun Bowl to Alabama 28-7.