PREVIEW: La. Tech Looking For Redemption

The 2007 season has not been good to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

In former LSU assistant Derek Dooley's first year as head coach in Ruston, Tech has a 4-5 overall record, is 3-3 in the WAC, lost by three touchdowns to Central Arkansas, and at 22.4 points per game is going through its third-worst offensive season of the millennium.

In addition, is alive and kicking, calling for the dismissal of Director of Athletics Jim Oakes due to, among other things, the "slow and steady decline" of the athletic department and Tech's repeated failure to become a member of Conference USA.

The cure for all of life's woes is winning, but unfortunately for Oakes and Dooley, wins are still proving hard to come by at Joe Aillet Stadium. Tim Rattay, Troy Edwards, Willie Roaf, and Terry Bradshaw are long gone, and the Bulldogs rank 77th nationally in total offense, 90th in scoring offense, and 59th in total defense – not the kind of numbers you want to see one week out from a clash with national championship contender LSU.

The last time these two teams met, in 2003, LSU was ranked No.7 and won handily 49-10. The Tigers blew the Bulldogs out of the park almost from the opening whistle, as Matt Mauck, Devery Henderson, Michael Clayton, and Justin Vincent rolled up 653 yards of total offense in the rout.

Running back Ryan Moats, currently on injured reserve with the Philadelphia Eagles, rushed for 124 yards on 16 carries, while Luke McCown, now a backup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, completed 11 of 28 pass attempts for 152 yards with one touchdown.

These Bulldogs don't have anywhere near the same caliber players, but their "spread it around" philosophy has led to back-to-back road wins for the first time since 2003.

Granted, their opponents were 0-9 Utah State (116th-ranked offense in the FBS) and 1-9 Idaho (107th-ranked total defense), but, as any coach will tell you, you have to beat the teams in front of you.

Senior quarterback Zac Champion is completing 59 percent of his passes for 1,657 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he averages a shade above 184 yards per game through the air.

As for his favorite targets? He doesn't have any. Champion is an equal opportunity passer, completing at least one pass to 15 different targets. No receiver averages more than 34.2 yards per game, but six average over 20. Phillip Livas and Philip Beck have been the beneficiaries of Champion's downfield throws, with long receptions of 70 and 46 yards respectively. Livas' reception was a long touchdown toss in the fourth quarter of the Idaho game, a score that put Tech ahead for good in the come-from-behind 28-6 win.

Beyond that, however, his long completions are all between 15 and 30 yards – he isn't going to kill you with long strikes, but he will dink and dunk his way downfield and throw long enough to pick up long first downs when he has to. Six different receivers have caught touchdown passes, though nobody has more than two.

Not surprisingly, given that he was the running backs coach during his time in Baton Rouge with the Tigers, Dooley's Tech running backs are the main scorers for the Bulldogs. Patrick Jackson has carried the ball 156 times for 765 yards and eight touchdowns this season, while Daniel Porter has 88 rushes with 577 yards and six scores.

The duo each rushed for 100 yards against Utah State's 100th-ranked rush defense, giving Tech its first dual 100-yard rushers in a game in 15 years.

The ground game is where Louisiana Tech does most of its damage, and its national ranking of 35 in rushing offense is testimony to Dooley's coaching abilities. At 1,589 total yards, the running backs have almost half of the team's offense; and with 16 touchdowns, the backs have almost twice the number of touchdowns as the receivers (technically they have more than double: Jackson has one touchdown receiving, meaning the running backs have accounted for 17 of Tech's 25 touchdowns).

Defensively, The Bulldogs' strength is defending the run as they give up 109 yards per game. Four opponents have been held below 68 yards rushing, while only two – Cal and Fresno State – have gone over 137. Weakside linebacker Quin Harris is second on the team with 78 tackles while also adding 3.5 sacks, one interception, eight pass breakups, and one forced fumble to his personal stat sheet.

Defensive tackles Josh Muse and D'Anthony Smith have six and 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 and two sacks, respectively.

Right end Chris Pugh is the leading disruptor in the team's 101st-ranked pass defense with 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, and one forced fumble. Free safety Antonio Baker leads all tacklers with 91 total tackles, and his three interceptions are second only to cornerbacks Weldon Bryan and Tony Moss.

At 25th in the nation with a 6+ total, the Bulldogs are at least competitive in the turnover battle. Seventeen of their 21 takeaways have been interceptions – including one returned for a touchdown to open the scoring last time out against Idaho – while their 15 giveaways are split between fumbles (8) and interceptions (7). The Tigers, on the other hand, are just as opportunistic with 21 takeaways but are more secure with the ball, giving it to the opposition just 11 times for a 10+ margin.

Louisiana Tech runs a balanced offense, keeping the ball on the ground 55 percent of the time. When push comes to shove, however, they are often found lacking, converting just 29 percent of third-down attempts and 33 percent of fourth-down attempts.

With numbers like these, not even the staunchest Bulldog supporter will be expecting a win in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night. But if they can keep the ball on the ground and complete enough short passes to move the chains, they may be able to limit LSU's possessions enough to keep the score more respectable than it was last time. If nothing else, with Dooley calling the shots Tech should at least be relatively competitive. They are light years away from the Tigers in terms of talent and execution, but the way 2007 is going for both teams, improving upon 2003's 39-point loss is certainly possible.

Just don't confuse "possible" with "probable."

Tiger Blitz Top Stories