RUSTON — The kickoff of the season opener between Southern and Louisiana Tech was delayed 12 minutes because of lightning Saturday night.
That’s about the same amount of time it took the Bulldogs to use their own lightning strikes to remove any doubt abut the outcome.
Tech needed less than 10 minutes to score the first 17 points and had touchdowns covering 55, 45, 22, 27, 58 and 65 yards in rolling to a 44-point halftime lead. When the season opener for both teams at Joe Aillet Stadium came to a merciful end, the Bulldogs had thrashed the Jaguars 62-15.
“I feel like we lacked effort,” Southern cornerback Danny Johnson said. “We missed tackles, and some of us didn’t do our assignments. We’ve got to get better.”
Johnson said coach Dawson Odums “stayed positive so we can stay positive.”
But an hour after the game ended, Odums still hadn’t been made available to speak with reporters.
Jeff Driskel made his first start after transferring from Florida; he threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score. Kenny Dixon scored on a 55-yard pass play and a 65-yard run; he finished with 171 total yards.
The Bulldogs also scored on special teams: Former LSU receiver Paul Turner returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown.
Their defense appeared to score when Nick Thomason grabbed Austin Howard’s second interception and ran 38 yards to the end zone. The touchdown was nullified by a personal foul penalty, but on the next play Driskel threw a 27-yard TD to Marcus Gaines.
It was that kind of night for Southern — and for Tech. The Jaguars open Southwestern Athletic Conference play at Mississippi Valley State on Thursday, the same night that the Bulldogs open Conference USA play at Western Kentucky.
Driskel didn’t need to finish the first half to complete 12 of 15 passes for 274 yards.
Southern got a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Willie Quinn and a 1-yard TD run by Lenard Tillery.
“It’s all a mind game (this week),” Quinn said. “Beginning (Sunday) morning we just have to go back to working hard.”
The Jaguars have high hopes for this season, coming off a second consecutive SWAC West Division championship and having been picked a narrow second to Grambling in the West this season. They expect to have a high-scoring offense, a relatively inexperienced but talented defense and a dynamic return game.
Other than Quinn’s returns and Johnson’s two interceptions, there was little evidence of the other attributes.
Aside from a trip to Southeastern Conference power Georgia in three weeks, Southern doesn’t figure to face another mismatch like the one it experienced Saturday night. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the Jaguars hoped to show improvement over their 45-6 season-opening loss at Louisiana-Lafayette last season, which was disrupted by a delay in the bus leaving campus for the game while university officials tried to academically certify several players. Five starters were ultimately left behind.
This year, there was no such distraction, but the Jaguars looked even less competitive in Ruston than they had in Lafayette.
Howard completed 9 of 17 passes for just 66 yards as the Bulldogs swarmed Jaguars receivers, the most talented and deepest unit on the team. Eventually Deonte Shorts and Jarrad Hayes would also get snaps at quarterback, but Southern never managed an offensive rhythm.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” guard Anthony Mosley said. “Those are things we can control.”
The Jaguars’ best sequence was an 85-yard drive that ended with Tillery’s touchdown in the third quarter.
At that point, Tech had long since gone deep into its roster, preventing the final margin from being even worse than it was.
“We’ve got to get better in every aspect of the game,” linebacker Daniel Brown said.
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.