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Louisiana Tech Preview

I probably should not have posted that picture of the interception last night.  The dead horse had been thoroughly beaten, but the picture was just so good that I thought it would be criminal for it not to be put out there.  The website, like the team, must now move on from a disappointing and somewhat controversial defeat and play the next part of the rest of the season against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

When looking at the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech, two things immediately stick out.  First, they gave media darling Boise State a real scare last week in falling short 45-35.  At one point in the 4th quarter, Boise led the game by a mere 2 points and La Tech had the ball.  They had to punt and Boise scored a touchdown on its next possession and on the possession after that to end the threat, but La Tech was still in that game in the 4th quarter.

The other observation is that La Tech has been terrible the rest of the season.  They are 3-6, and their wins have come against Nicholls State, Hawaii (also currently 3-6), and New Mexico State (again, 3-6).  They've lost to Auburn, Navy, Nevada, Utah State, Idaho, and the aforementioned Boise.  They got blown out by Nevada, Navy, and Auburn.  For the hype that Derek Dooley gets as an up-and-coming coach, La Tech has not really done very much in his tenure.  They had an 8-win season last year, but had a losing record the year before and appear to be headed that way again this year.

So why are they so bad?  Well, it's important to realize that their blowout losses were all early in the season.  This is, perhaps, a team that has improved.  They haven't been blown out in any game recently.  Then again, their 3 games before Boise were against Idaho, Utah State, and New Mexico.  Not exactly a murderer's row schedule and while there were no blowouts, they went 1-2 in those games.

Statistically, their offense appears sound.  Quarterback Ross Jenkins is averaging over 7.0 yards per pass attempt, but he gets sacked quite a lot too.  Their #1 tailback averages 5.0 yards per carry.  What's very unusual for a WAC team is that they run a lot more than they pass.  They have attempted 252 passes compared with 367 runs, against the general trend of college football and in particular the WAC.  As a result, their leading receiver has only 27 catches.  Ross Jenkins has thrown for over 200 yards exactly three times this season, and his high in games not against Nicholls State is 220 yards.  He protects the ball however, throwing only 5 interceptions on the season, compared to 12 touchdown passes.

La Tech is a ball control team.  Their attitude is to run the ball and don't give it away to the other team.  

Defensively, the Bulldogs give up a lot of yards.  Boise State ran up 507 yards of offense.  Idaho had 327.  Utah State had 345.  Nevada ran up 511 yards.  Navy had 393 (NAVY!).  Auburn had 556.  If you're counting, those are 3 games in which Derek Dooley's defense gave up over 500 yards of offense.  The opportunity is there to open up the offense and pour on the yards, but I don't think we will do that.  Given our penchant for playing it safe, it would not surprise me at all if this ends up being a tighter game than people would like.  It could be one of those games where the outcome is never in doubt, but we end up winning it by a pedestrian margin of, say, 24-10 and look kind of blah in the process.  I just think we are going to play this one really conservatively and just try to come out of it with a W, no style points sought.

Given how many yards they give up, it is especially surprising to see that they run the ball almost 60% of the time.  That includes games in which they spent most of the second half way behind their opponent on the scoreboard.

Players to watch for Louisiana Tech include wide receiver and punt returner Phillip Livas, who is a player a lot of observers wanted LSU to recruit.  He is a dynamic punt returner and a big play receiver.  I can't really say he is burning up the stat sheets, as he is only 2nd on the team in receptions and 3rd in receiving yards, but his return game can be spectacular.  For all of Trindon Holliday's press that he gets for his speed, Livas has been the overall better player at both receiver and kick returner during their careers.  He has 2 returns for touchdowns so far this year and 6 over the course of his career, and while La Tech has not thrown much this year he had over 600 yards receiving last year.