The 22nd-ranked team in the nation hits the field in Ruston this weekend, as the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs match up against the Roadrunners of Texas-San Antonio in Western Athletic Conference action
Not only are the Bulldogs among ranked in the most recent AP Poll, but they are also rated 25th in the most recent BCS poll as well for the first time in history.
Last weekend, LaTech struggled a bit on the road, especially when you consider the team thrashed Idaho (70-28) just a week earlier, but still managed to come away with a 28-14 win over New Mexico State in Las Cruces. The win was the second in a row and the seventh in eight games overall this season for the program, not to mention their first ever as a ranked team.
"Any time you go on the road and win, I think it is a positive," stated LaTech head coach Sonny Dykes during his weekly press conference. "It is hard to play on the road. I think we have done studies before, looked at some stuff, and I think about a third of the teams that went on the road this week in college football won. As the season progresses, I think road trips get more and more difficult."
The team playing on the road this weekend facing the Bulldogs just happens to be the Roadrunners of UTSA. The squad started off the 2012 campaign well enough with five straight wins, but none of those really came against tough competition. Granted, the program did take out New Mexico State in the conference opener on the road, 35-14, but since then the Roadrunners have bowed in three straight outings. Last weekend, the team was pummeled by Utah State at home in the Alamodome, 48-17.
With the Roadrunners being new to the WAC and this being just their second year with a football program, it should not come as a surprise that this is the first-ever meeting between these two teams.
At least for the first 15 minutes against Utah State, the Roadrunners might have thought they stood a chance, trailing 7-3 heading into the second quarter, but 34 straight points by the Aggies put an end to that soon enough. Defensively, UTSA gave up a whopping 522 yards of total offense and allowed USU to convert 10-of-17 on third down, which forced the unit to stay on the field even longer.
From an offensive standpoint, UTSA tried to ride the arm of Ryan Polite who hit on 21-of-36 passes for 248 yards and a score, but he was also picked off twice and sacked two times by an aggressive USU defense that ranks among the best in the nation in sacks to this point in the campaign. Polite also paced the team on the ground as well, but having a mere 19 net rushing yards is nothing to brag about.
Polite, who is filling in for an injured Eric Soza, has appeared in a total of four games now, completing 61.3 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and just as many interceptions. Evans Okotcha leads the program with seven rushing touchdowns, half of their entire total, but he is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry as a part-time starter who has a long of only 13 yards on 73 attempts.
The combination of Triston Wade and Erik Brown has been a major reason why this team isn't being blown away on a more consistent basis, the two having combined for seven interceptions and 19 passes defended overall.
For a team that now ranks second in the country in scoring with 52.6 ppg, the Bulldogs were not prepared for the slow start they had against New Mexico State on the road last weekend. Up until they scored their second TD of the game at the 9:13 mark of the third quarter, the Bulldogs missed a total of three field goals and had to punt three times. Luckily the second half was much better to the visitors as they picked up the 14-point win.
Ray Holley ran for a game-high 130 yards and a score, while Colby Cameron converted 29-of-44 passes for 292 yards and one TD, adding a second on the ground during one of his seven carries.
Defensively, Louisiana Tech permitted 405 yards on just 65 snaps to a team that should not have been even within four touchdowns at the end of the meeting. Chad Boyd stood his ground though as he registered a team-best seven tackles and logged an interception.
Boyd now has one of the team's nine interceptions and when you add that to the squad 14 recovered fumbles, it is easy to see how the group ranks second in the country in turnover margin with a plus-2.13 per game. It also doesn't hurt that Cameron has yet to throw a single pick which means LaTech and Alabama are the only schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision that have not tossed an interception.
With Cameron playing flawlessly and the running attack generating 246.5 ypg it is easy to see how this group is pounding the competition with a massive 575.1 ypg in total offense.
While coach Dykes had some nice things to say about the Roadrunners, that doesn't mean he won't run up the score on the visitors in an effort to improve their own standing in the national polls.