Louisiana Tech Quarterback Ryan Higgins attempts a pass against Kansas (AP Photo)
In the days leading up to the Collegiate Bowl, we will profile several of the players committed to play in the sixth annual showcase. Today’s feature is on Louisiana Tech quarterback Ryan Higgins.
It took four years for Ryan Higgins to finally make good on the promise and hard work he displayed when he first stepped foot on the Louisiana Tech campus. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, it was well worth the wait, as Higgins proved that he deserved to be the starting signal caller in his final year of college eligibility.
As is often the case, Higgins did not see the field immediately as a freshman. In fact, he didn’t even suit up for his first two games. But by the third week of the season, he was pushed into action. He got his feet wet in a game against Tulane, and made his first start out of necessity against Kansas.
Higgins threw the ball well, especially considering he passed the ball 55 times, completed more than percent of his attempts, and threw for a touchdown and an interception. The Bulldogs would end up losing in a close one, and his rookie jitters also got the best of him in a loss to Army the following week. However, Higgins rose to the occasion in a shootout versus UTEP, where he only attempted 18 passes, but showed mobility throughout the game with 31 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in a 38-35 victory.
He put up another strong performance against North Texas (throwing for a season high 343 yards while running for a score) and the following week against Florida International, where he would lead the Bulldogs to victory. Unfortunately for Higgins, this would be the last of his highs for quite a span. The Bulldogs lost three in a row to finish their 2013 campaign, and he would be passed up for graduate transfers in both his sophomore and junior year.
Through it all, Ryan Higgins stayed the course and remained strong. As the program brought in transfers, Higgins himself stayed true to Louisiana Tech, and his senior season was a celebration of that loyalty.
In his first start of his senior year, Higgins threw for 409 yards and four touchdowns against South Carolina State, and would follow that performance up with an impressive two-game stretch against Texas Tech and Middle Tennessee State. Although both of those games resulted in a loss, Higgins excelled with three touchdowns and no interceptions against each team, throwing for 311 yards against Texas Tech and a whopping 504 yards against Middle Tennessee.
Following those setbacks, Higgins and the Bulldogs went on a magnificent tear, starting with a convincing win over UTEP in which Higgins had a 191 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Then came a classic shootout against Western Kentucky. In that game, he had 454 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and completed an absurd 73.3 percent of his 45 attempts. The Bulldogs would need every bit of that offense as they narrowly escaped with a 55-52 win.
Higgins showed no signs of slowing down, throwing for 484 yards and another five touchdowns against Massachusetts while completing over 80 percent of his passes in a 56-28 win. I his nex two games, Higgins recorded a rushing touchdown, followed by back-to-back games of four touchdowns against UTSA and North Texas to cap off a seven-game winning streak for the Bulldogs. By then, he had posted 34 touchdowns to just four interceptions, along with three rushing scores to lead Louisiana Tech to bowl eligibility.
And it was in that bowl game that Higgins shined the brightest. Perhaps it was the culmination of all that time on the sideline, watching others come into the school and immediately pass him by, but Higgins was not about to let his time as the top dog run out that quickly. No. 25 Navy was the opponent, and from the start, this game had all the makings of a heavyweight fight.
The first half ended with Louisiana Tech up 31-24 lead after Higgins found fellow senior Trent Taylor for a 51-yard strike. After each team traded touchdowns, Higgins got the ball one last time with just under four minutes left in regulation and the score tied at 45. The senior calmly and methodically led his team downfield, completing a 21-yard pass on the second play of the drive to kickstart their momentum. At midfield, he found Taylor once again for 23 yards to put his team in field-goal range.
Higgins then erased any doubt with a 9-yard pass on 2nd and 7 to put the Bulldogs at the Navy 14, where they promptly ran out the clock before kicking the winning field goal as time expired. Three points later, the Bulldogs completed their season run with an upset and a crowning achievement for the quarterback who never wavered in his commitment, in his play or in his command of the team.
– David Chough
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Analyst