Date: Saturday, September 8, 2018
Kickoff Time: 6 p.m. CT
Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Stadium: Joe Aillet Stadium
Series Record: La Tech leads 1-0
Last Meeting: La Tech won 62-15
Fresh off a road victory against Jaguars, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will play another set of Jaguars as they play Southern in the home opener. This will be just the second-ever meeting between the two in-state foes. The Bulldogs hosted Southern in the 2015 season opener, which still stands as the third-largest crowd in stadium history. Tech will try to challenge that number in their only home game of September.
Louisiana Tech Overview
La Tech defeated South Alabama 30-26 on the road last week, but they will be looking for a better performance against this set of Jags. The defense played well most of the game, and safety James Jackson won conference defensive player of the week honors. They held USA to just 91 passing yards, but surrendered 217 rushing yards. The defense struggled in the fourth quarter, and they’ll be hoping for a more complete performance this time around.
The offense is a bigger question. Jaqwis Dancy stole the show in the first half, rushing for 144 yards and two scores, but was hardly heard from in the second half. He remains the backup to Israel Tucker, who rushed for 82 yards last week. The run game did well, but the passing offense left something to be desired. J’Mar Smith threw for 209 yards and a pair of scores, but his three interceptions are worrisome. Skip Holtz said two of the three were, in his view, mostly on the receivers. Regardless, they’ll hope to clean that up this week.
Southern presents a nice opportunity to get this offense reps and confidence. Skip Holtz has shown in the past a willingness to play as many as three quarterbacks in a blowout against an FCS team, as he did the last time these two played. Should the score allow it, don’t be surprised if that happens again. At the same time, don’t be surprised if Smith and the starting receivers stay in a bit longer than normal so they can get more in-game reps. With the next game coming against LSU, Holtz and offensive coordinator Todd Fitch will want to make sure Smith and company are as ready as possible.
Southern, too, is coming off a road game. However, the Jaguars were defeated 55-7 at the hands of TCU. They’ll make adjustments and hope for a better result, but it will be another tall task as they face their second FBS foe in two weeks.
Offensively, the Jags were stifled by Gary Patterson’s TCU defense a week ago. Southern only amassed 185 total yards, and were held to a dismal 3/14 on third down. Starting quarterback John Lampley threw 5/14 for 101 yards, a touchdown and two picks. Running backs Carlos Stephens and Devon Benn each got seven rushes for 25 and 21 yards, respectively. Their lone score was a 55 yard pass from Lampley to Cameron Mackey, who was the only Jag to record more than one catch. In short, Southern just couldn’t move the ball against TCU. Tech’s defense isn’t quite to TCU’s level, but it’s a stout one that held USA to 91 passing yards. Southern will have to step up big time if they want any offensive success.
Defensively, they weren’t awful against the pass. They held TCU to 264 passing yards, although the Horned Frogs did record four total passing touchdowns and no interceptions. However, they surrendered 235 yards on the ground, which is not a good sign going into a game against a solid Tech run game. If Southern wants to hang around, they’ll have to do much better stopping the rush.
Louisiana Tech isn’t as good as TCU, but it’s fair to expect a similar result for Southern this week. Tech should be able to run the ball at will and J’Mar Smith should have plenty of chances to hone his craft. The biggest threat to Louisiana Tech in this game is themselves should they look ahead to LSU too much. However, the bye week between this game and that one makes that very unlikely. The Bulldogs have struggled with FCS opponents recently, but Tech should win this one going away.