Louisiana Tech has a bye week this week and then they face off against UTSA at home before traveling to Hattiesburg to battle Southern Miss the following week. A 4-0 start in conference play is not out of the question; in fact, it's almost expected. The problem is the last time the Bulldogs were expected to win at home coming off a dominant win; they turned the ball over to Northwestern State five times and lost.
Head Coach Skip Holtz has to figure out a way to get his guys used to being the frontrunners. There is talk again of his team winning the western division of Conference USA. His team has played better as underdogs. Tech wasn't supposed to beat ULL or UNT, so they came out and smashed both teams. Everyone was down on the dogs after the Northwestern State loss, so they returned home and smashed UTEP.
"This win puts us in a positive mindset entering the next two weeks," Bulldogs Head Coach Skip Holtz said. "This will give us an opportunity to get some of the two's some more reps this week and also let some guys who are banged up get healthy."
After last season, the Bulldogs weren't used to playing as the favorite. The more they win this season, the more they will be considered a favorite in each game they play. Can they put the pedal down and not look back every week like they did against UTEP?
"We were coming off a loss at Auburn where I felt like we did some really good things," explained Holtz. "The challenge we have continued to talk about is that we have to get better. This (UTEP game) was the most complete game that we have played. The difference between this game and North Texas and ULL, is that when our two's went into the game, they finished the game. If you are going to go out there and represent this team, you have a standard to uphold."
How they got to 3-3 was not what everyone expected. Oklahoma and Auburn were supposed to beat Tech, but Northwestern State was not supposed to come in to Ruston and win. North Texas and ULL were the two big question marks and beating one of them would have been considered a positive to most fans.
The offense has been playing a lot more balanced this season with Holtz calling the plays. Eight different players have touched the ball at least fifteen times.
The bye week will be a good chance for Kenneth Dixon and Paul Turner, two of Tech's biggest offensive threats, to rest and get ready for the stretch run. Dixon leads the team with 519 rushing yards while Sterling Griffin (291 yards) and Trent Taylor (301 yards) lead the way in receiving yards. Five different receivers have at least 185 yards receiving and backup running back Jared Craft 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
"It has been a hard six weeks," added Holtz. "There was a lot said about four of our first five games being on the road. We played two top five teams. We played three games in 13 days. They have answered the challenge we put in front of this team. I am really proud of the way they came out and played."
the Bulldogs have been successful while also being able to work in several true freshmen. Jared Craft, Deldrick Canty, Carlos Henderson, Russell Farris, Roland Dunn, and Marcus Gaines have all made big impacts. Check out the catch that Gaines made against UTEP.
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The guy that makes everything go is Cody Sokol, who has 1398 yards passing with 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Ten of the touchdowns and only two of the interceptions came in the three wins so you can make a case that as Sokol goes, so go the Bulldogs.
The two biggest roadblocks on Tech's schedule may be Western Kentucky and Old Dominion. WKU's Brandon Doughty has thrown for over 2,000 yards with 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions. ODU's Taylor Heinicke has thrown for 1619 yards with 15 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
Tech's defense has been dominant in the three wins. Kentrell Brice leads the way with 39 tackles along with two forced fumbles and an interception. Tony Johnson has 31 tackles including two forced fumbles and three tackles for loss. Xavier Woods had four interceptions. Vernon Butler has 14 tackles and two sacks, while Adarius Barnes has 17 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss.
When the defense is getting pressure, they shut down the run and force the quarterback into bad throws. Northwestern State was able to pick up the blitz and they made the throws necessary to win the game. WKU and ODU have that ability so it will be important for Tech to get to the quarterback in those games.
So before you make your bowl reservations, let these next few games play out. Louisiana Tech has a great opportunity to take control of the western division in October, but they still have to go out on the field and perform. The Bulldogs have certainly made progress and Holtz wants them to see it through to the end.