LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Phillip Livas' 68-yard touchdown reception with less than four minutes to play gave Louisiana Tech the lead and the Bulldog defense came up with a huge stop as Tech defeated New Mexico State 35-31 Saturday night at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
With Tech trailing 31-28, Tech's defense forced an incompletion on fourth down at the Bulldog 32 with just over four minutes to play.
On the second snap from scrimmage on the ensuing possession quarterback Ross Jenkins found Livas streaking down the left sideline for the score.
"It was all verticals and we had one crosser coming," Jenkins said. "Coach said zone, look for the crosser. But they manned up and we were going to take a shot. They were blitzing and they pressed our receivers. (Livas) is the fastest guy we have, and I just threw it up and gave him a chance. He made the play."
It was Tech's first passing touchdown of the year to a Bulldog wide receiver.
"I told Dave (Nitz) that we weren't going to (throw a touchdown to a wide receiver) until we needed it," joked Tech head coach Derek Dooley. "We weren't running the ball in the second half and there wasn't a better time. That was the time to pull out the trick play to the wide out. We might run it again next week."
However, the game was not decided until freshman defensive end Christian Lacey recorded a sack on Aggie quarterback Chase Holbrook on a fourth down play with less than one minute remaining and New Mexico State inside the Bulldog 40-yard line.
"It was a disastrous third quarter for us," said Dooley who saw his team give up a 28-10 second quarter lead before coming back. "I was disappointed in how we came out of the locker room. What a great job defensively by our guys on New Mexico State's last two possessions. We got behind again and got our character tested one more time and we responded."
Porter gave the Bulldogs an early lead on a one-yard touchdown run on a sweep to the left with 4:05 to play in the opening quarter as Brad Oestriecher's extra point made it 7-0.
The run culminated an eight-play, 51-yard drive that took 4:15 off the clock with the key play being a 17-yard run by Porter down inside the New Mexico State five-yard line. Porter ended with 130 yards rushing on 17 carries, his fourth straight 100-yard game. He also eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau for the year, only the eighth play in Tech history to record that feat.
On NMSU's ensuing possession, Tech linebacker Brannon Jackson forced a fumble around midfield that Terry Carter recovered at the Aggies 46-yard line. On second down following the turnover, Tech quarterback Ross Jenkins overthrew a wide open Philip Beck streaking down the sideline and the Bulldogs eventually had to punt.
The Aggies tied the game on the first play of the second quarter as Chase Holbrook connected with Chris Williams for an 80-yard strike down the middle of the field as Williams outraced Carter for the final 50 yards.
Tech came right back as the Bulldogs marched 80 yards on seven plays -- all rushing plays -- with Phillip Livas taking a reverse and covering the final 14 yards to paydirt.
After a Kyle Hughes 22-yard field goal with 4:26 to play in the second quarter cut the lead to 14-10, Patrick Jackson capped a five-play, 59-yard drive with a 10-yard run, giving the Bulldogs a 21-10 lead with 2:30 to play in the first half.
The Tech special teams then struck next as Keith Brown blocked an Aggie punt and Alex Anderson scooped it up and ran the final two yards for a touchdown as Tech led 28-10 with 1:55 to play in the second quarter.
However, New Mexico State wouldn't go away quietly as Holbrook then drove the Aggies 67 yards in five plays and cut the lead to 28-17 on a 12-yard pass to Ronald Opetaia with 0:44 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs tried to muster one final scoring drive before the half but Oestriecher's 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right, ending the first half with Tech leading 28-17.
Both defenses stood tall most of the third quarter until New Mexico State used a six-play, 56-yard drive to cut the lead to 28-24 as Holbrook fired his third touchdown pass of the day on an eight-yard pass to Marcus Anderson in the back of the endzone with 1:28 to play.
After the Bulldogs were stopped on their next offensive possession, the Aggies went on a nine-play, 81-yard drive which took 3:31 off the clock and took a 31-28 lead on a 34-yard touchdown pass to Williams.
The Tech offense then went on a mini-drive and moved the football to the NMSU 35-yard line before stalling. Oestriecher's 52-yard field goal attempt barely missed wide left as the Aggies maintained their 31-28 lead.
Louisiana Tech has now won six straight WAC games in the month of November dating back to 2006. Tech ends the regular season Saturday at home against Nevada and a win would give the Bulldogs sole possession of second place.