Dooley sees other side of Tiger Stadium

Louisiana Tech head coach Derek Dooley has seen Tiger Stadium from two different perspectives and from both sidelines.

After serving as an assistant coach under former LSU head man Nick Saban, Dooley watched the Tigers dole out punishment to visiting teams while standing on the west side.

Saturday night, he watched the Tigers heap a 58-10 punishment on his team as he stalked angrily up and down the east sideline.

"I'd like to say we should hold our heads up high because that (LSU) was a great football team," Dooley said. "But, we made too many mistakes. We didn't tackle very well and didn't get any movement up front to run the ball, so there's not a whole lot of good that comes out of it."

The only good that came out of, Dooley said, was the pride he had for what some of his former players along the LSU sideline have accomplished since his departure. It also gave Dooley pause to consider how far his team is from coming close to the likes of LSU.

"Our players (at Louisiana Tech) are like our kids and those guys that I coached at LSU are like my kids," he said. "And it does make you feel good as a coach. I'm proud of them and I pull for those guys and that's what coaching's all about."

According to Dooley, coaching is also all about building and improving from week to week and he saw very little for his team to build upon during Saturday's game.

When asked what positives his team could take away from the game, Dooley simply responded "none."

The Bulldogs fumbled the ball away twice deep in their territory twice in the first quarter, spotting LSU, who needed little help scoring, 10 easy points. The Bulldogs surrendered 595 total yards to a balanced LSU offensive attack, 321 of those on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Bulldog rushing attack that entered the game averaging close to 177 yards per game was able to muster just 67 against LSU.

Louisiana Tech intercepted LSU quarterback Matt Flynn twice in the first half, the first leading to the Bulldog's only touchdown. But, Bulldog quarterback Zac Champion threw two interceptions as well in addition to the fumbled snap that led to LSU's first score and the terrible snap that deep snapper Thomas Graham launched off his own posterior that led to LSU's second score.

Dooley said no matter the opponent or setting, his team had no excuse for making so many mistakes.

"We could have played the Dallas Cowboys and we shouldn't fumble a snap," he said. "Then we go out there and punt and the snapper messed up. He got out there in Tiger Stadium, he got nervous and screwed up. Again, we could have played the greatest pro team of all time and that shouldn't happen."

Despite his disgust with that special teams' gaff, his team's punt and kick return ability was one of the few lights in Dooley's darkness. The Bulldogs averaged 31.8 yards on 10 kickoff returns against the Tigers, highlighted by a 76-yard scamper by freshman speedster Phillip Livas near the end of the first half. The return set the Bulldogs with a first down at the LSU 19 and a chance to cut the Tiger lead to 27-14 heading into the locker room. But, two plays later Champion lofted a pass to Livas in the right corner of the end zone from the 7-yard line that was picked off by Tiger defensive back Jonathan Zenon.

"I thought we were going to score," Champion said. "Phillip is usually a sure-handed guy but he didn't catch that one. You've just got to keep fighting. That's all you can do."

The Bulldogs have displayed some of that fight this year, already bettering last year's three-win campaign with a 4-6 record after the loss to LSU. Three of the six losses have come to BCS-conference schools, including a 42-12 thumping at then eighth-ranked Cal in mid September and a 24-0 loss to Ole Miss October 6.

The other three losses came to the three best teams in Tech's league, the Western Athletic Conference, including a gut wrenching 45-44 defeat to top-15 tanked Hawaii in week two of the season.

The Bulldogs have a chance to finish the season 6-6 with winnable games remaining against San Jose State and Nevada. Six wins would make the Bulldogs bowl eligible, though a bowl invitation seems unlikely with WAC foes Hawaii, Fresno State and Boise State all beating Louisiana Tech this year and all certain to finish with better overall records than the Bulldogs.

Dooley indicated his team had made strides in its ability to compete with the best the WAC had to offer after winning three of its previous four games, all against conference opponents. But, he was quick to point out emphatically that his team is in no way ready to take on the best of the BCS leagues on a weekly basis, nor should it have to.

"If you are wanting to build something and go to bowl games and build a top-25 competitive program I don't think the model is to play three or four (BCS conference opponents)," he said. "One guarantee game, I think that's healthy for the program because it's a good barometer of where you are as a team. But getting some home and away match-ups is more important to building and being committed to championship football."

As it returns to Ruston to take on San Jose State and take another step toward a .500 season record, Dooley said his team's task is very simple.

"The only way we can feel better about this game is to go play better next week," he said.

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