For their first and only Western Athletic Conference matchup, the 19th-ranked Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and the Texas State Bobcats gather in San Marcos this weekend.
Louisiana Tech, which has a road win streak that's been stretched to nine games, is enjoying its highest placement ever in the AP Poll and won for the first time ever as a ranked program just a few weeks ago with a 28-14 triumph over New Mexico State on the road in Las Cruces. Last week, the Bulldogs continued with their winning ways by destroying Texas-San Antonio in Ruston by a score of 51-27.
The Bulldogs, who will be heading to Conference USA next season, have now put together a three-game win streak overall and if not for a 59-57 loss versus Texas A&M in a rescheduled meeting on Oct. 13, the squad could easily be among the elite and undefeated programs. Interestingly enough, even though LaTech has the best overall winning percentage among WAC teams, it is still in second place in the standing with a 3-0 mark due to the fact that Utah State is 4-0.
As for the Bobcats, a squad which is only making a pit stop in the WAC before jumping to the Sun Belt Conference next season, they've had a rough transition to their new league and the stronger competition in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The team started off with a surprising 30-13 win over Houston in the opener, although the Cougars are still a team playing below .500 so maybe the decision shouldn't be considered so stunning anymore.
More recently, Texas State was dumped by Utah State on the road last weekend in a 38-7 final, the team's second straight loss and the fourth in the last five outings which means it is just 1-2 in league competition.
Even before the Bobcats knew what hit them, USU was up by two touchdowns barely 11 minutes into the first quarter and eventually led by 35 points at the half before calling off the dogs. Clearly the Texas State defense missed their wake-up call as they surrendered 593 yards of total offense to the Aggies, forcing the hosts to punt just one time.
From an offensive standpoint, the Bobcats logged only nine first downs and a meager 158 yards of total offense, averaging less than three yards per snap. Running back Marcus Curry scored the only touchdown as he gained 46 net yards on nine carries, while quarterback Shaun Rutherford was credited with only 10 net rushing yards on 11 attempts because he was sacked three times. Rutherford connected on only 8-of-15 passes for 71 yards, with a long of 14 yards, while tossing one interception.
Through eight games, Rutherford has completed close to two-thirds of his pass attempts, but his average yardage is just 152.5 per game and he has only nine touchdowns to his credit. Andy Erickson and Chase Harper, each have three TD catches, although the former has 30 grabs for 401 yards and the latter just 16 for 188 yards.
Against the other new member to the WAC, the Bulldogs were caught in a bit of a struggle through the first 10 minutes or so as they sat tied at 14-14 with UTSA at Joe Aillet Stadium. Then Louisiana Tech turned up the heat on both sides of the ball and eventually sprinted to the 24-point win.
Kenneth Dixon, who was recently added to the Doak Walker Award Watch List, responded with 18 carries for 72 yards and three touchdowns, while Colby Cameron had another sensation game as he completed 30-of-39 passes for 348 yards and three scores of his own. Quinton Patton showed once again why he needs to be considered one of the most dangerous players in the league as he turned 10 receptions into 152 yards and a score for the hosts.
While punters rarely get much press, Ryan Allen won WAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors as he averaged 62 yards on his two punts and now leads the nation in that department at 48.8 yards per kick.
Clearly, the Bulldogs have all facets of their attack working at peak performance, although there are some moments when the defense can be shaken up and that's something head coach Sonny Dykes has to keep an eye on. Surely coach Dykes is also hoping that his team's 15 penalties for 157 yards is also something that is merely a blip.
"I'm not sure what was going on with all the penalties or why," said Dykes. "That's not our team. I wasn't real fired up about some of the stuff happening out there...It was one of those games where we had to forge ahead and keep driving. We missed some tackles we'll have to make next week and we have to do better (defensively) on third downs."
Obviously it is easier to try and look beyond some of those breakdowns that seem to be few and far between when a team like Louisiana Tech is second in the nation in scoring with 52.4 ppg and is third in the country in turnover margin with a plus-1.89 per outing as well.
Granted, the squad is giving up a massive 344.1 ypg through the air which is the second-most in the entire country heading into this week, but somehow that only makes sense since most opponents have been playing from behind and are forced to throw the ball more than they might like anyway.