The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7-1) head into week 10 of the college football season wearing the no. 22 ranking in the nation. The Bulldogs will face off with provisional WAC member the University of Texas - San Antonio Road Runners (5-3). The Bulldogs return to Ruston for homecoming, and are looking to improve on the sluggish play against the Aggies of New Mexico State.
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Last week, the Bulldogs got off to a very slow start after their first score, and had a hard time finding any rhythm on offense. Despite the uncharacteristic lack of offensive output, the defense did a great job holding one of the nation's top passing attacks to only 14 points. On paper La. Tech is heavily favored but must live up to those expectations this week if they hope impress the voters and Bowl committee.
KNOW YOUR OPPONENT
The Road Runners are coached by former Miami Hurricane head man Larry Coker. Despite being a new program to the FBS, the Road Runners started the season 5-0 before losing to Rice. This season they are apart of the WAC, but are set to join La. Tech next year in Conference USA. The Road Runners are extremely young with only six seniors total, the starting line-up is littered with underclassmen. Just like Coker's Miami squad, this Road Runner team prides itself on defense and balanced offensive attack. They definitely represent a team on the rise; therefore, it is not far fetched to see this team making a lot of noise next year.
The Road Runners' leading receiver is sophomore Kam Jones, and is their x-factor on offense. He occasionally runs the ball from multiple formations but must have a big night to help his team succeed. Quarterback Eric Soza has missed the last two weeks with a hip injury and us questionable Saturday. To be competitive, they also need a consistent game from junior Soza by simply keeping his team in a manageable down and distance. Should freshman quarterback Ryan Polite play Saturday he needs to cut down on the interceptions for his team to be successful. The Road Runners are a multiple-spread look team, but must execute to take advantage of a sub-par Bulldog defense.
Defensively the Road Runners operate a 4-2-5 defense, which sacrifices a linebacker for a safety who plays in the box. This defense will be tested early by Tech's potent running game. The secondary is patrolled by sophomore safety Triston Wade and junior cornerback Erik Brown who have combined for seven interceptions on the year. They will need to play their best games this year to slow down the Bulldogs' receiving corps highlighted by Quinton Patton and Myles White. Senior Brandon Reeves leads the linebacking corps with 56 tackles, but is complemented by junior Steven Kurfehs. Last week, the Road Runners gave up 522 yards of total offense to WAC foe Utah State. They must improve in a hurry if they expect to slow down the Bulldogs and their no. 2 ranked scoring offense.
LEARNING FROM THE PAST
Despite the Bulldogs' lack of points last week in Las Cruces, expect the offense to be back on track this week. Coach Sonny Dykes said his team not being ready to play starts with him.
"I think it is always our jobs to get them ready to play," Dykes said. "It all starts with me. I just felt like we did not have that same pop we have been having. We went into halftime and challenged them a bit."
The Bulldogs have slayed some giants this year, and were seconds away from taking down the biggest one of them all in Texas A&M. However they must avoid overlooking their opponent or risk giving the Road Runners their first monumental win in program history.
BRING HOME THE BONE
This year Tech has been very successful rushing the ball. They are the 11th ranked rushing offense in the nation and average 246 yards per game on the ground. Their primary weapon is the "Big Bone" formation which has caused opponents fits this year. Freshman Kenneth Dixon has looked phenomenal rushing the ball since becoming the starter and averages 104 yards per game. Last week the Big Bone was not featured as often as previous games but had more so to do with the looks the Aggies were giving.
"What we tried to do was get a look at how they were playing certain situations and how they are playing us," Dykes said. "A lot of it has to do with match-ups. Are we getting match-ups favorable to us?"
Expect to see a heavy dose of the run game from the vaunted Big Bone formation, and Dixon to once again exceed the century mark in rushing.
Tech is just too powerful offensively and should get back to their rapid scoring ways this week. Senior quarterback Colby Cameron looked out of sync early last week but rebounded to a decent performance. Expect Cameron and his receivers to return to old form and get things going early in the first half. Look for senior Ray Holley to also have a big day, and help hand the Road Runners their fourth straight loss of the season.
La. Tech Bulldogs 52 - UTSA Road Runners 10