RUSTON — Louisiana Tech captured the school’s first Western Athletic Conference championship since 2001 with a 44-0 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday.

The Bulldogs (8-4, 6-1) also accepted a bid to the Dec. 21 San Diego County Poinsettia Bowl. The bowl bid is the fifth in school history and Louisiana Tech’s first since an Independence Bowl victory over Northern Illinois in 2008.

Heading into the day tied with Nevada in the league standings, Tech’s lopsided win, coupled with the Wolf Pack’s 21-17 loss at Utah State gave the Bulldogs the outright league championship.

“It’s been a fun ride for this football team,” Bulldogs coach Sonny Dykes said. “It certainly feels great to win a championship. We started the season off kind of rough and I was proud of how our players hung in there. They have been a fun group to coach.

“We are excited about going to San Diego for the bowl game. It will be a great experience for our players.”

After Matt Nelson’s 32-yard field opened the scoring, Louisiana Tech extended its lead to 9-0 on Colby Cameron’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Taulib Ikharo.

Following Hunter Lee’s 1-yard touchdown run, Adrien Cole intercepted a Travaughn Colwell pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown and a commanding 23-0 lead.

A walk-on who was put on scholarship by the coaching staff this week, Lee finished the game with a career-high 148 yards on 26 carries to go along with three touchdowns on the ground.

“It’s been a phenomenal feeling to work my way up the ladder like I have this season,” Lee said. “We have had guys go out and new guys step in and now it was just my turn. To be here and win a WAC Championship; I am just so overwhelmed right now. I am so happy.

“The offensive line did a fantastic job tonight. Holes were opening up left and right. I just ran through the holes that they opened up for me. You can feel when we start to make plays as an offensive unit. We got into our hurry-up offense and finished drives how we wanted.”

Colby Cameron passed for 217 yards and one score, including eight receptions for 105 yards and one touchdown to Taulib Ikharo.

After starting the season 1-4, Louisiana Tech has won seven straight games. The Bulldogs now await their opponent in the Poinsettia Bowl to be announced. A Louisiana Tech release said the Bulldogs will face either TCU or Boise State.

Linebacker Adrien Cole had 12 tackles to lead the Tech defense. Cole’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown with seven seconds to play in the first half blew the game open as Tech took a 23-0 lead at halftime.

Tech put the game away in the third quarter as Lee added a pair of rushing touchdowns, and Craig Johnson returned a punt 83 yards for a score.

Tech’s defense held the Aggies, who entered the game averaging over 27 points per game, to 279 yards. The Bulldogs defense registered seven sacks.

The victory was the seventh straight for the Bulldogs. The eight wins is the most since the 1999 Tim Rattay-led Bulldogs went 8-3 in 1999.

New Mexico State (4-8, 2-4) concludes its season next week against Utah State.