RUSTON, La. - The offense and defense traded blows and the top two quarterbacks continued to match each other as Louisiana Tech held its first fall camp practice in pads Thursday evening on the Tech practice fields.
Momentum swung back and forth between the offense and defense throughout practice with neither side of the ball dominating for any length of time. The interception race between Dave Clark and Justin Goodman continued with Clark registering his fourth interception - picking off a long pass by freshman quarterback Nick Isham - late in practice.
With the team wearing shoulder pads for the first time in camp, the physicality of the game and the players urge to start hitting broke through.
"I'd call it downright WWF match or maybe even a UFC cage match," head coach Sonny Dykes said of Thursday's practice after Wednesday's description of a 'chippy' practice. "It was good and physical and you expect that the first day [in pads]. We have to do a better job of learning how to practice together. There were too many hits today that we can't have or we'll have too many guys go down. We just have to do a better job as coaches educating our players on what we want and they just have to learn how to practice better. We have to practice like pros together but other than that, I was really pleased with what I saw out there today."
Other than that, both sides continued to improve with each side registering a 'wow' factor play. Along with Clark's interception, Colby Cameron drew notice on a 50-yard touchdown pass to D.J. St. Julien> made off balance as he was chased from the pocket.
"Today's practice was a very competitive one. The defense really had the upper hand early on and the offense came back and responded well. Then they traded blows down the stretch. It was a good day and I thought it was a day where we certainly got better. If we keep gradually improving like this, I think we will be a pretty good football team."
While running backs Ray Holley and Lennon Creer succeeded on outside runs (including Holley with a Phillip Livas-like cut for a 20-yard touchdown run), plays up the middle were met with resistance.
"We are just playing good defensively," Dykes said. "I would like to say that our offense isn't doing very well but our defense is playing well. Our challenge is that this time in camp last year our defense was playing well and we all saw the way that ended. We have to practice well, play well and learn to be consistent. We are still giving up too many big plays at times but the offense is really having a hard time consistently moving the ball against the defense and that is good (defensively). It means our defense is making plays."
"I am really pleased with our linebackers and I am pleased with our defensive line," continued Dykes. "A healthy Justin Ellis and Jon'al White make a difference inside for us with size and strength. They can anchor down in the middle a little bit more than we have had in the past and Matt Broha and IK Enemkpali are better. When you mix that in with our group of linebackers and get the kind of play we are getting on the back end, it has a chance to be a good unit. But, like I said, we have to keep it going because we felt the same thing last year and that didn't turn out very good."
Louisiana Tech practices again Friday evening at 6 p.m. on the practice fields and will enter two-a-days beginning Saturday. Fans can meet all of the Tech players and coaches on Sunday at the school's annual Fan Fest held at the Thomas Assembly Center with team members signing autographs from 1-3 p.m.