Dec 26, 2014 4:01 PM
DALLAS (AP) - Kenneth Dixon scored one of his two touchdowns on an 80-yard reception and Xavier Woods scored on a 69-yard interception return to help Louisiana Tech beat Illinois 35-18 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Friday.
The Bulldogs (9-5) also got touchdown runs of 16 yards from Jarred Craft and 28 yards from Blake Martin on a dark, overcast day at the Cotton Bowl stadium.
Illinois (6-7) struggled early with penalties and missed field goals, but got within three points on David Reisner's 43-yard field goal early in the fourth quarters. But Dixon scored his second TD from one yard out with six minutes left to make it 28-18 and the Illini couldn't answer.
Illinois appeared to have gotten a break when LaKeith Walls sacked Cody Sokol, causing him to fumble. But Jihad Ward returned it 19 yards and fumbled, letting Sokol recover. That drive was capped by Dixon's TD.
Dixon became Louisiana Tech's career leader in yards rushing, finishing with 63 for a total of 3,410 in three seasons.
He is also the only FBS player with both a run and a reception of at least 80 yards this season.
Tech's Houston Bates was chosen the game's most valuable player, recording 4½ sacks against his former school. The defensive end graduated from Illinois with a year's eligibility remaining and wanted to finish his college career close to home.
Tech led 21-9 lead at halftime after Reilly O'Toole's pass was returned for a touchdown by Woods midway through the second, but Illinois responded with a 3-yard scoring run by Donovonn Young. The 2-point conversion failed, though, but Reisner banked in a field goal to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 3.
O'Toole threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jon Davis early in the second quarter. He was 24 of 39 for a season-high 295 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Taylor Zalewski kicked a 27-yard FG in the first quarter for Illinois, which committed eight first-half penalties for 53 yards and missed two field goals attempts and and extra point.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)