After the smoke settled on a thrilling shootout at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, Louisiana Tech squeaked by Navy 48-45 on a last-second field goal to capture the 2016 Armed Forces Bowl.
These two teams were tied 24-24 at the intermission as Louisiana Tech's aerial assault was picking apart Navy's defense, while the Midshipmen's triple-option attack overwhelmed the Bulldogs.
Things did slow down, briefly, in the third quarter with just one Navy touchdown before chaos ensued over the final five minutes in the fourth quarter.
Of course, that offensive firepower shouldn't have been surprising to anyone who paid attention during the regular season, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
The Armed Forces Bowl between La. Tech & No. 25 Navy (4:30 ET, ESPN) features 2 teams in the Top 10 in offensive efficiency this season: https://t.co/uRxgwW3vog2016-12-23 21:25:01
Louisiana Tech's success came thanks to the unstoppable connection between quarterback Ryan Higgins and wide receiver Trent Taylor. Higgins finished 29-of-40 for 409 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
Taylor, a senior who finished second in the nation with 124 receptions and third with 1,570 receiving yards entering the Armed Forces Bowl, put on a clinic with 12 receptions for 233 yards and two touchdowns. He also made school history in the process, per Louisiana Tech's official Twitter account:
LA Tech Football 🏈 @LATechFB
Trent Taylor just became the second player in Louisiana Tech history, joining Troy Edwards, to top 4,000 receiving yards in a career! https://t.co/Uo47SbFrWs2016-12-23 23:10:10
The numbers don't stop there for Taylor or Louisiana Tech, which did something no other program in the nation was able to accomplish in 2016:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Louisiana Tech now has 2 players with multiple games with 200 receiving yards and 2 TD; the rest of FBS has 1 such player (Dede Westbrook)2016-12-24 01:02:04
Sean Fox of ESPN 97.7 had a not-scientific-but-still-accurate description of what Taylor did on the field for the Bulldogs:
Sean Fox @fox4espn977
Trent Taylor is good at football..go ahead and retweet that2016-12-24 00:19:02
While it's easy to give Taylor a lot of credit, Higgins more than did his part. On the drive that put Louisiana Tech up 45-38 late in the fourth quarter, he scrambled twice with no one open to try to create time before wisely throwing the ball away to avoid losing yards and keep the drive alive.
Jacob Weindling of Paste magazine offered this true, yet silly, summary of what Higgins pulled off on those two plays:
Jacob Weindling @Jakeweindling
Ryan Higgins just threw two of the most exciting incomplete passes you'll ever see. Louisiana Tech is fun.2016-12-24 00:42:44
On 3rd-and-10 after those two incompletions, Higgins threw a pass up for Carlos Henderson that drew a pass interference penalty to get the ball down to Navy's 11-yard line.
Three plays later, Higgins perfectly placed a fade pass to Henderson, who made a fantastic grab with a defensive back draped all over him, to put the Bulldogs ahead.
Henderson's performance is another one that shouldn't get overlooked, as he finished with 10 catches, 129 yards and two touchdowns. He also had three kick returns that totaled 137 yards, including an 82-yarder on the opening play.
Unfortunately, Louisiana Tech still had to play defense to preserve the win. Navy needed just two plays to go 60 yards, capped off by Malcolm Perry's 30-yard score to even things up with less than four minutes remaining.
If Perry's name sounds familiar, Dr. Saturday of Yahoo Sports has a friendly reminder of where you know him from:
Dr. Saturday @YahooDrSaturday
Malcolm Perry — the QB Navy pulled from the stands in Week 1 — is now in the game. This bowl game has it all.2016-12-24 00:56:40
Taylor had the big play on Louisiana Tech's ensuing possession, avoiding a defender to turn a potentially short gain in to a 23-yard pick up that put the ball at Navy's 26. Higgins would position the ball in the middle of the field at the 14-yard line where kicker Jonathan Barnes won the game.
Navy didn't play a bad game, at least offensively. Under most circumstances, running for 300 yards and throwing for 159 yards is a good formula for success. The Midshipmen just needed to get a stop on defense at some point but couldn't do it, and this literally turned in to the game where the team that has the ball last wins.
Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz has steadily built this program into a national power on offense. He took over prior to the 2013 season, with the offense going from 112th in scoring offense in his first season to fifth in 2016, per Sports-Reference.com.
Holtz's success with the offense has translated into results for the program. The Bulldogs have now won three consecutive bowl games for the first time in program history, with no signs of slowing down heading into the new year and next season.
Holtz took time during his postgame press conference to make a joke about Taylor's "ho-hum" effort in the win, per Mark Lane of KKTK 1400.
On a more serious note, per Lane, Holtz gave praise to Conference USA as a whole for going 4-1 in bowl games so far this season. Western Kentucky, Old Dominion and Southern Mississippi are the other teams from the conference to earn a postseason win.