Headed into the bye week, Louisiana Tech finds itself in the driver's seat of Conference USA's West DivisionRice (4-1 CUSA) travels to Marshall on Saturday, before hosting UTEP on the following Friday. If Rice drops one of those games (the Owls are an underdog by three touchdowns) then the Bulldogs will be able to clinch the west with a win over Old Dominion.
Louisiana Tech is outscoring their conference opponents by an average of 26 points per game, and much of that success is due to the defense. Head Coach Skip Holtz was pleased with his defense after a 40-24 win over UAB last week.
"I thought the defense played really well," he said. "There were some times the defense, they were able to run the ball. They got down in the red zone a couple times early, we were able to hold them to field goals. In the second half I thought they really stepped it up. I thought in the second half they really challenged up front and made some adjustments in the running game and did a much better job."
The Bulldogs are 27th in the country in Total Defense, 28th in Rushing Defense, and tied for 16th in Turnover Margin. Xavier Woods leads the team with five interceptions. "Five interceptions (on the year) is a lot of them," explained Holtz. "We've talked a lot about what a phenomenal young man to play. He's started every game since he's been here, came in here as a true freshman a year ago, played every game, started every game at safety, is a 3.8 student, is one of those guys you hope your son grows up to be, the type of young man Xavier Woods is."
UAB managed just 324 yards against the Bulldogs and their offense managed just 10 points. Tech did give up a touchdown on a kickoff return and Holtz will certainly address special teams in the second half.
You look at some of the special teams blunders we had, it seemed to certainly make it very difficult to gain any momentum in the second half," he added.
Tech has won six conference games in a row for the first time since 2011, when the Bulldogs won their last six WAC games en route to an appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl. After missing out on a bowl game in 2012, this group of Bulldogs have a chance to finish the season strong and make it to a nice bowl.
In the meantime, Tech players like Kenneth Dixon, Sterling Griffin, Kentrell Brice, and Paul Turner will use the extra rest to get healthy and make a big push to finish the regular season undefeated in conference play. A potential date with Marshall in the Conference USA Championship Game is on the line.
The offense is coming around. Combined, the Bulldog offense scored 55 points against UAB and Western Kentucky in the first half. That's a huge improvement over the 9 combined points they scored in the first half in their previous two wins over UTSA and Southern Miss.
If the Bulldogs can get healthy, everything seems to be coming together for a special end to the season. It all starts with the defense and the Bulldogs are playing their best for Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz. They create so much havoc for the opposing team and set their own offense up with great field position and momentum.
Louisiana Tech is playing disciplined football as well. Give credit to Holtz and company for their team playing very clean football. The Bulldogs are 32nd in the country in fewest penalties with just 5.2 committed per game. They had just two penalties for 15 yards against UAB. That discipline also carries over to their success in turnover margin.
Holtz has rebuilt this team in one short year and they are flexing their muscles in Conference USA. Getting Rice at home was a big deal, but it may not matter if Tech can take care of business elsewhere. The Bulldogs are on a collision course with Marshall; a potential game that could be a great offensive showcase for Conference USA.