CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Louisiana Tech continued its record-setting season scoring 31 unanswered points in the second half and handing Illinois its worst non-conference regular season loss since 1996 as the Bulldogs defeated the Illini 52-24 at Memorial Stadium.
With the victory the Bulldogs improved to 3-0 on the season and scored 50 or more points for the third consecutive game, marking the first time a LA Tech football team has accomplished the feat. It also marks the first time since 1997 that Tech has opened the year with three straight victories.
While the Bulldog offense was racking up six touchdowns and the first field goal of the year, the LA Tech defense forced six turnovers and the special teams unit recovered a muffed punt for a score. Tech is plus 21 in turnover margin during its 10-game regular season winning streak - the third longest in the country behind only LSU and Georgia.
After Louisiana Tech built a 21-7 first quarter lead thanks to a pair of Tevin King touchdown runs and the first of four Colby Cameron scoring strikes, Illinois fought back behind backup quarterback Reilly O'Toole who led the Illini to a touchdown and field goal to cut the Bulldogs lead to 21-17 at the half.
Tech gained 132 yards of total offense in the opening quarter but was held to only two total yards of offense during the second quarter. Illinois' success defensively in the second quarter wouldn't last into the second half.
Cameron opened the second half by finding Quinton Patton for a 78-yard touchdown on only the second play of the stanza as Tech pushed the lead to 28-17. Patton finished the game with six receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
After a three-and-out by the Tech defense, the Bulldog offense struck again as Cameron found Patton for a 21-yard score, capping a nine-play, 73-yard drive. Matt Nelson - who became Tech's all-time leader in extra point attempts and makes - connected on one of his seven extra points on the day as Tech led 35-17.
Tech's defense rose once again as Vontarrius Dora recorded a 12-yard sack of O'Toole on a fourth-down-and-three play to give the football back to the Bulldog offense. However, the Bulldog offense stalled and Ray Guy Award winner Ryan Allen punted inside the Illini 10-yard line where the ball hit an Illinois player and bounded into the endzone where Antonio Mitchum recovered for a score and a 42-17 lead with 4:27 to play in the third quarter.
On Illinois' ensuing possession, Mitchum recovered his second fumble of the night which led to a 32-yard Nelson field goal with 1:42 to play in the third quarter as Tech led 45-17.
Tech scored one final time in the fourth quarter as Cameron hit Myles White on an inside receiver screen and White found the hole and outran the Illinois defense for a 37-yard touchdown reception.
Illinois scored one final time in the fourth as Tech posted its first win over a Big Ten team since defeating Michigan State 20-19 in East Lansing in 2003.
Illinois opened the game with the first score. After Cameron was sacked and fumbled, the Illini took over on the Tech 18-yard line where Nathan Scheelhaase found Ryan Lankford for an 18-yard score. Taylor Zalewski's extra point gave Illinois a 7-0 lead with 8:30 to play.
Cameron, who finished the night 15-of-22 for 284 yards and four touchdowns, then led an eight-play, 74-yard drive that tied the game as D.J. Banks hauled in a 27-yard score - his first as a Bulldog.
Following a Solomon Randle interception - the second of his career - Tech took its first lead as King scored on a nine-yard run with 4:37 to play in the first quarter. King - who was helped off the field in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury - scored just over three minutes later as his five-yard run gave the Bulldogs a 21-7 lead. The second touchdown run was set up after Dora recovered a fumble by Steelhaase which was forced by Rufus Porter.
Tech has now outscored its opponents 56-13 in the first quarter of its three games this year.
The Bulldogs, which entered the game ranked in the Top 10 in the nation in scoring and total offense, finished with 403 total yards of offense. The Bulldog defense held Illinois to 324 yards of total offense.
Tech, which has been one of the most penalized teams through the first few weeks of the year, was only penalized five times for 39 yards in the game.
The Bulldogs return to action next Saturday at Virginia. Kickoff time will be released by the ACC office tomorrow.