Date: Thursday, December 26, 2019
Kickoff Time: 3:00 p.m. CT
Location: Shreveport, Louisiana
Stadium: Independence Stadium
Streaming: Watch ESPN
Series Record: Miami leads 4-0
Betting Line: Miami -6.0
On August 28, 2003, the third-ranked Miami Hurricanes hit the road for their season opener.
The Canes, fresh off a 2002 Big East title and controversial loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl with a national championship on the line, would go on to win another conference title that season. “The U” would also win the Orange Bowl and finish the season ranked fifth.
But first, Miami traveled to Shreveport, Louisiana, to face the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in Independence Stadium.
The Bulldogs often hosted home games off campus in Shreveport during those days, and that meeting with Miami still stands as the largest crowd for a Tech home game in school history. The Canes defeated the Dawgs in front of 43,279 fans, well above the capacity of Joe Aillet Stadium.
Fast forward now to 2019. A day after Christmas, Tech and Miami will meet in Shreveport once again in the 2019 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl.
The Bulldogs (9-3) can reach 10 wins for the first time since 1984 if they can defeat the Hurricanes (6-6). It would be the sixth-straight bowl win for Tech and its first win over an ACC opponent since 2012.
The Bulldogs will be led for one final time by senior quarterback J’Mar Smith. Smith saved his best football for his third and final year as the starter for La Tech. He has thrown 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions and needs fewer than 200 yards against the Canes to surpass 3,000 yards for the second-consecutive year.
Tech has the edge on offense. The Bulldogs score more points and gain more yards per game than Miami. The Hurricane rushing offense ranks near the bottom of FBS. However, Miami’s defense knows Tech well.
Miami head coach Manny Diaz spent the 2014 season in Ruston as Tech’s defensive coordinator. When he took over Miami last year, he hired his successor, Blake Baker, to run the Canes’ defense. Although much has changed since Diaz left, Baker will be familiar with most of the players on Tech’s offense.
Miami will be shorthanded, however. Leading rusher DeeJay Dallas is out injured. Meanwhile, four Canes have announced they will skip the game to prepare for the draft. Those players are defensive ends Jonathan Garvin and Trevon Hill, linebacker Michael Pinckney and wide receiver Jeff Thomas.
Miami also hasn’t named a starting quarterback. Jarren Williams is the leading passer with just over 2000 yards and 19 touchdowns with six interceptions. N’Kosi Perry is just shy of 1000 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Ohio State transfer Tate Martell could also be in the mix.
But Tech will be missing a star, as well. Amik Robertson, a three-year starter at cornerback, has announced he will skip the Independence Bowl and enter the NFL draft. That will be a challenging loss for Tech to overcome.
Although Miami is favored, Tech has been a popular upset pick this bowl season. Miami already lost to FIU this season, a team Tech defeated. There’s also the question of how motivated the Canes will be for this game.
Either way, Tech should be plenty motivated for this de facto home game. The Bulldogs have an opportunity to impress the home-town crowd against a well-known brand in college football. As a program trying to grow its fan base, this is an opportunity Tech shouldn’t pass up.