Louisiana Tech fell to South Carolina 17-16 on Saturday. With no time to hang their heads, the Bulldogs head in to the last game of the month with a chance to be 3-2 heading into the heart of the Conference USA schedule.
Louisiana Tech led South Carolina for most of the game Saturday and had a chance to go up 16-0 in the 3rd quarter. South Carolina scored all of their 17 points in the fourth quarter. Still, Tech looked like they had it in the bag - Jonathan Barnes hit a field goal with 55 seconds left to put Tech back up 16-14. It was a tough last-minute loss for sure, but the Bulldogs have improved tremendously in four weeks and have a chance to have a special season.
Can Tech Win Ten?
Louisiana Tech is favored, as of now, in their remaining eight games. Tech has a great chance to finish strong, with five of those games in Joe Aillet Stadium. The Bulldogs have to be considered a favorite to host the conference championship game. The biggest threats remaining on the schedule are Southern Miss and UTSA, who both come to Ruston. If Tech gets to double-digit wins, where would they bowl? The likely answer is the state of Florida. In 2014, Marshall finished 12-1 and played in the Boca Raton Bowl, where they beat Northern Illinois 52-23. In 2015, Western Kentucky finished 11-2 and played in the Miami Beach Bowl, where they beat South Florida 45-35. In 2016, WKU finished 10-3 and played in the Boca Raton Bowl, where they beat Memphis 55-35. Conference USA swapped the Heart of Dallas Bowl this year for the Armed Forces Bowl, where Louisiana Tech played last year. With Dallas not an option, the Bulldogs could end up in the New Orleans Bowl or the New Mexico Bowl. This might be the year the Bulldogs head east, where they could play a team from the AAC in either the St. Petersburg Bowl or the Boca Raton Bowl. Another possibility could be the Independence Bowl: Tech hasn't played there since 2008 and if the SEC or AAC end up without enough teams, a Bulldog team with double-digit wins could be an attractive option.
In 2015, Louisiana Tech went to Kansas State and lost 39-33 in triple OT. In 2016, the Bulldogs went to Arkansas and lost 21-20. The 17-16 loss to South Carolina was the latest tough loss for the Bulldogs to overcome. On a positive note, Skip Holtz has his program playing on a high level. LA Tech can go on the road to some pretty tough venues and more than hold their own. The talent level and depth in Ruston is at an all time high. Just look at how many former Bulldogs are in the NFL: http://www.espn.com/nfl/college/_/letter/l
Jarred Craft leads the team with 302 yards rushing on 62 carries. J'Mar Smith has over 250 yards passing per game and is completing over 56% of his passes. Teddy Veal leads the team with 25 receptions. Rhashid Bonnette leads the team with 279 receiving yards. Brandon Durman leads the team with 28 tackles, while seniors Russell Farris and DaMarion King each have 23. Farris had 8 tackles and a sack against South Carolina. LA Tech is 5th in the country with fewest penalty yards per game at 30.25 yards per game. The Bulldogs are 26th in Red Zone Defense and 19th in punt returns (Teddy Veal has all six of the Bulldog's punt returns).
New Faces in the Starting Lineup
Juniors Hanner Shipley and Michael Rodriguez have solidified the right side of the offensive line. Both guys are very athletic and have played well in the last two weeks. Aaron Roberson got the start at corner and had 8 tackles and an interception against South Carolina.
Offense Ready to Explode
The Bulldogs are averaging 20 points per game in the last three weeks. South Alabama is ranked 93rd in scoring defense and next week's opponent, UAB, is tied at 100. J'Mar Smith is getting into a good rhythm with Veal and Bonnette, the offensive line is coming together, and Boston Scott and Jarred Craft are playing at a high level. Look for LA Tech to put up some big numbers on offense.