Monday, October 8, 2012
First glance: Breaking down La. Tech
By Sam Khan Jr.
Campus location: Ruston, La.
Record vs. Texas A&M: 0-9* (Louisiana Tech has lost all 10 meetings it has had with the Aggies but Texas A&M vacated a win in 1998 because of use of an ineligible player).
Last week: The Bulldogs are coming off a 58-31 home win over UNLV on Saturday. Louisiana Tech compiled 306 rushing yards, including 139 and a touchdown from Ray Holley and 102 and and four touchdowns from Kenneth Dixon. Quarterback Colby Cameron was 31-of-45 passing for 316 yards and a touchdown.
Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton is one of the nation's top wide receivers.
Last meeting with Texas A&M: The teams met in the second game of the 2010 season in College Station and Texas A&M struggled early, committing five fumbles and missing a field goal, but rode a strong defensive effort to hold a 21-10 halftime lead, eventually rolling to a 48-16 victory over the Bulldogs. Current Aggies Christine Michael (107 rushing yards) and Dustin Harris (54-yard punt return) both had an impact that night while then-quarterback Jerrod Johnson (349 passing yards, four touchdowns) and receiver Jeff Fuller (10 catches, 160 yards, touchdown) exploded. Louisiana Tech's starting quarterback this week, Cameron, went 15-of-31 for 115 yards and threw two interceptions.
Key player: Senior receiver Quinton Patton. In the UNLV win, Patton caught nine passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. For the season he has 34 catches for 532 yards and five touchdowns. He's averaging 106.4 yards per game, which is good for 11th nationally. "The General" is on the Biletnikoff Award watch list and was the preseason WAC Offensive Player of the Year selection.
Why Louisiana Tech might win: Confidence is riding high in Ruston and the Bulldogs' offense has been as good as just about any in the nation this season, averaging 53.2 points per game (third nationally) and averaging 523.4 yards per game (11th). The game's not a home game but is in their neck of the woods (Shreveport, La.) and there is plenty of experience that returns for Sonny Dykes' squad from a year ago, which gave a Kevin Sumlin-coached Houston squad a run for its money. Sumlin, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and several other staff members that are now with the Aggies were part of a game in which the Cougars trailed the Bulldogs 34-7 before rallying for a 35-34 win. Dykes is familiar with what the Aggies do offensively, because of that meeting and the fact that there are similarities in the Bulldogs' attack as well. And the Aggies will be without at least two key defensive players, linebacker Steven Jenkins and safety Howard Matthews, who both were given one-game suspensions by Kevin Sumlin in the offseason. Those suspensions were set for the season opener when the Bulldogs originally occupied that spot on the schedule, and since the game got moved, so did the suspensions. The Bulldogs have eyes on a BCS-busting season and the no. 22 Aggies are the only ranked team left standing in their way of that journey, so there's plenty at stake. If Louisiana Tech is hitting on all cylinders, it could get interesting.
Why Louisiana Tech might lose: If the Aggies weren't going to lose on the road in a charged environment against a Southeastern Conference team after turning the ball over six times, which they did against Ole Miss, it's hard to believe they'll find a way to lose this one. Any talk of the Bulldogs possibly being a "trap" game with the Oct. 20 date against LSU looming is thrown out the window because A) The Aggies' struggles against Ole Miss will get their attention and B) The Bulldogs are no slouch, ranked in the top 25 now (no. 23), meaning they'll have the Aggies attention and respect and won't be overlooked. Louisiana Tech may be a better team than the Rebels (its record and ranking certainly reflects that) but at the end of the day, the Aggies have more talent and have plenty of confidence of their own that they're operating with. A&M's offense has been similarly prolific (516.8 yards per game, 12th in the nation and 44.6 points per game, good for eighth). The Bulldogs' success against Sumlin and staff last year is notable, but the Aggies have been surprisingly good on defense and have are coming off their best running performance of the season. The key will be the Aggies -- and particularly quarterback Johnny Manziel -- taking care of the ball, which didn't happen against the Rebels.