Vowing to wipe the embarrassment of the 2014 loss to Northwestern State, the Bulldogs wanted to win big, but the Demons weren’t going to let that happen without a fight, which is exactly what they gave the Bulldogs.
To start, simply looking at the 52-24 final score will not tell the full story. The first quarter began as stunned Bulldogs fans watched Northwestern State make a three play, 75-yard drive in the opening possession of the game within 1 minute and 33 seconds, which showed they weren’t going to be an easy foe. After going into halftime with a 24-10 score, the Demons quickly surged to score two touchdowns, both within one minute 55 seconds of the 3rd quarter. Through most of the third quarter, J’Mar Smith and the Bulldogs continued to make more sloppy plays on both sides of the ball that reawakened nightmares of the 2014 game. Luckily for the Bulldogs, sloppy plays and an injured starting quarterback for NSU gave an opportunity for Tech to make a comeback with four unanswered touchdowns and a scoreless quarter for the Demons.
Star players to note for the Bulldogs come on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs. Junior LB Dae’Von Washington had a big game, as he ended two of Northwestern State’s drives with interceptions, both of which led to a touchdown for Louisiana Tech. Cancer-survivor Sophomore RB Jaqwis Dancy ran four yards for his first career touchdown in college football. Senior RB Jarred Craft had a good showing as well, with an 86-yard game with two touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
For the Demons, Senior QB J.D. Almond had a 162-yard game with an impressive 52-yard pass to Jaylen Watson for an early touchdown in the game.
Watching J’Mar Smith play had Bulldogs fans confused as to where the quarterback that played against Arkansas last year was. It seemed to take him a while to read the field and make smart passes. He totaled 276 yards for a less-than-impressive 51.4% completion rate and had trouble making quick decisions in the passing game. Smith seemed to favor passing to Tulane-transfer WR Teddy Veal, who had a few hiccups in the game as well, only completing three receptions for 40 yards. If the Bulldogs plan to bring the usual air-raid offense into Conference USA play, Smith and his receivers will have to learn to click quickly, or this could end up being a rough season for Louisiana Tech.
The defense looks like they still need a lot of work in order to make the stops needed to slow other offenses in Conference USA. It was a rather quiet game for defensive superstar Jaylon Ferguson with only three tackles and no sacks like fans were expecting. The pass defense was reminiscent of last season’s 116th-ranked pass defense, and receivers were left wide open which led to the quick drives that put the Demons in the end zone.
Though the Bulldogs avoided a disastorous game with an FCS upset in the late third and fourth quarters, improvements need to be made quickly if Skip Holtz and Louisiana Tech want to be taken seriously as Conference USA contenders. Louisiana Tech will host the Mississippi State Bulldogs next Saturday (9/9) at Joe Aillet Stadium.