CFN Take: Louisiana Tech Loses Title To Herd
2014 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs ...
Head Coach: Skip Holtz
Dec. 6 Conference USA Championship
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 30 at Oklahoma L 48-16
Sep. 6 at Louisiana-Laf W 48-20
Sep. 11 at North Texas W 42-21
Sep. 20 Northwestern St L 30-27
Sep. 27 at Auburn L 45-17
Oct. 4 UTEP W 55-3
Oct. 11 OPEN DATE
Oct. 18 UTSA W 27-20
Oct. 25 at Southern Miss W 31-20
Oct. 31 OPEN DATE
Nov. 1 WKU W 59-10
Nov. 8 at UAB W 40-24
Nov. 15 OPEN DATE
Nov. 22 at ODU L 30-27 OT
Nov. 29 Rice W 76-31
Dec. 6 Marshall L 26-23
Marshall 26, Louisiana Tech 23
And You Care Because … Marshall overcame a shaky day with a big fourth quarter, finally taking the lead for good in the final minutes on a five-yard Rakeem Cato pass to Deon-Tay McManus, who also caught a six-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. However, the Herd offense stalled too often, having to settle for four Justin Haig field goals from 40, 45, 40 and 24 yards out to stat in the game. Louisiana Tech took a 10-0 lead early helped by the first of three Kenneth Dixon touchdown runs from 33 yards out, adding a 30-yarder in the second quarter and a 19-yard play in the third for a 23-16 lead, but that was the team’s final score. The Bulldogs had the ball late with one final shot, but Cody Sokol’s first pass was picked off by Evan McKelvey to seal the Marshall victory.
What Else? Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 25-of-46 passes for 308 yards and two scores with a pick, and ran nine times for 28 yards
- Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon ran 20 times for 156 yards and three scores
- Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 7-of-20 passes for 72 yards and a pick
- Turnovers: Marshall 4 – Louisiana Tech 2
Game Rating: B+
Nov. 29 at Louisiana Tech 76, Rice 31
And You Care Because … Louisiana Tech claimed the Conference USA West title with an unstoppable performance from the offense. Getting down 3-0, everything worked for the Bulldogs with Kenneth Dixon running for the first of three touchdowns and Cody Sokol throwing two of his four touchdowns – highlighted by a 72-yard Carlos Henderson scoring play – on the way to a 21-3 lead. But Rice bounced back with two Driphus Jackson touchdown passes including a 51-yarder to Zach Wright, and pulled within four on Mario Hull’s second touchdown catch, and then it was all Louisiana Tech with takeaways from the D and big plays from an O that led the way to 42 straight points with two fumble returns for scores and highlighted by two Trent Taylor touchdown catches.
What Else? Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 20-of-32 passes for 387 yards and four scores with a pick. Paul Turner, Trent Taylor, and Carlos Henderson each came up with over 100 receiving yards
- Rice QB Driphus Jackson completed 25-of-40 passes for 337 yards and four scores with three picks, and Jordan Taylor caught ten passes for 136 yards and a touchdown
- Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon ran 17 times for 137 yards and three scores
- Total yards: Louisiana Tech 677 – Rice 371
Game Rating: B
Nov. 22 at Old Dominion 30, Louisiana Tech 27 OT
And You Care Because … Taylor Heinicke found David Washington for an eight-yard touchdown pass in overtime to give Old Dominion the win after Louisiana Tech’s Kyle Fischer started out the extra frame on a 25-yard field goal. ODU needed to rally from down ten at halftime with a 46-yard Satchel Ziffer field goal in the third and a 16-yard Cam Boyd touchdown run late in the fourth to tie it. Heinicke found Washington for a 26-yard touchdown pass late in the first half, and the Monarchs needed it with short touchdown runs from Kenneth Dixon and Marlon Seets after starting out the scoring on a ten-yard Trent Taylor catch late in the first. But the Bulldogs failed to score in the second half.
What Else? Turnovers: Old Dominion 4 – Louisiana Tech 2
- Old Dominion QB Taylor Heinicke completed 29-of-38 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions
- Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon ran 23 times for 106 yards and a score and caught four passes for 32 yards
- Old Dominion WR David Washington caught eight passes for 106 yards and two scores
Game Rating: B+
Nov. 8 Louisiana Tech 40, at UAB 24
And You Care Because … Louisiana Tech got three Kenneth Dixon touchdown runs in the first half and pulled away in the second half with two Cody Sokol touchdown passes. UAB came up with a six-yard Jordan Howard touchdown run in the second quarter, but the offense struggled in the second half needing a 56-yard Jake Ganus fumble return for a score and a Jamarcus Nelson kickoff return for a touchdown to keep it interesting.
What Else? Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon ran 15 times for 79 yards and three touchdowns
- UAB RB Jordan Howard ran 27 times for 148 yards and a score
- Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 19-of-33 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns with a pick
- UAB QB Cody Clements completed 22-of-36 passes for 186 and a score
Game Rating: C
Nov. 1 at Louisiana Tech 59, WKU 10
And You Care Because … Louisiana Tech turned it over three times, but WKU gave it up five times – but the Bulldog offense didn’t need any help. Kenneth Dixon scored twice, starting out with a 48-yard run, and Trent Taylor caught three touchdown passes from seven, 19 and nine yards away. WKU had a bright spot at the end of the first quarter on a 46-yard Taywan Taylor touchdown catch, but Carlos Henderson answered with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Bulldogs scored 31 unanswered points on Cody Sokol’s fifth touchdown pass of the game and a three-yard touchdown run.
What Else? Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 30-of-42 passes for 335 yards and five touchdown with a pick, and ran for a score
- WKU QB Brandon Doughty completed 14-of-35 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions
- Louisiana Tech WR Trent Taylor caught nine passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns
- Total yards: Louisiana Tech 507 – WKU 297
Game Rating: D
Oct. 25 Louisiana Tech 31, Southern Miss 20
And You Care Because … It was a nip-and-tuck game until midway through the fourth when Carlos Henderson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass to help Louisiana Tech pull up 24-13, and Kenneth Dixon put it away on a one-yard score. Dixon scored on pass plays from 84 and five yards out in the third, but USM hung around on two Corey Acosta field goals and an 18-yard George Payne touchdown dash. But the Bulldogs took over in the fourth.
What Else? Rushing: Louisiana Tech 26 carries for 30 yards – USM 26 carries for -31 yards
- Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon ran 19 times for 41 yards and a touchdown, and caught six passes for 124 yards and two scores
- Southern Miss QB Cole Weeks completed 28-of-45 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown with two picks
- Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 27-of-46 passes for 423 yards and three touchdowns
Game Rating: B-
Oct. 18 at Louisiana Tech 27, UTSA 20
And You Care Because … Kenneth Dixon ran for a three-yard score, Sterling Griffin caught a 19-yard touchdown pass and Terrell Pinson returned a fumble for a score as Louisiana Tech took control in the third quarter and held on from there. UTSA scored ten unanswered points, with Brady Jones finding Kenny Harrison for a 35-yard touchdown and Sean Ianno hitting his second field goal of the game, but turnovers and mistakes were too much to overcome.
What Else? Penalties: Louisiana Tech 10 for 85 yards – UTSA 8 for 85 yards
- Turnovers: UTSA 4 – Louisiana Tech 1
- Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon ran 28 times for 121 yards and a score
- UTSA QB Austin Robinson completed 18-of-29 passes for 138 yards and two picks
Game Rating: C
Oct. 4 at Louisiana Tech 55, UTEP 3
And You Care Because … Louisiana Tech scored the first 28 points highlighted by Cody Sokol running for a 32-yard score and finding Carlos Henderson for a 69-uard pass play, and Le’Vander Liggins returned a blocked field goal for a score. UTEP only managed a 36-yard field goal, but turned it over five times and got destroyed in the second half as the Bulldogs scored 27 unanswered points with Sokol throwing two more touchdown passes and Jonathan Barnes hitting two field goals. Jarred Craft finished it off with an 18-yard touchdown run.
What Else? Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 6-of-16 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and he ran five times for 60 yards
- UTEP QB Jamiell Showers completed 15-of-28 passes for 143 yards and three picks
Game Rating: D
Sept. 27 at Auburn 45, Louisiana Tech 17
And You Care Because … Auburn’s offense wasn’t always sharp, but the team didn’t have any problems on the way to a 24-0 first half lead helped by two Nick Marshall touchdown passes – with both scores through the air coming in just over a minute - and a five-yard Cameron Artis-Payne run. Quan Bray caught touchdown passes from 44 and 37 yards out, and he put the game well out of reach with a 76-yard punt return for a score. Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon was held in check, running for just 29 yards, but he scores twice.
What Else? Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 10-of-17 passes for 166 yards and three scores, and he ran 13 times for 105 yards
- Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 20-of-35 passes for 216 yards and an interception
- Auburn WR Quan Bray caught three passes for 91 yards and two scores and returned two punts for 98 yards and a touchdown
- Total yards: Auburn 473 – Louisiana Tech 321
Game Rating: C-
Sept. 20 Northwestern State 30, at Louisiana Tech 27
And You Care Because … NSU’s Chris Moore nailed two field goals in the final 1:05 including a 47-yard shot in the final seconds for the shocking win. Louisiana Tech imploded, with a Kenneth Dixon fumble leading to a 29-yard Moore field goal, and a pick led to the game-winner as part of a run of 13 unanswered points. Louisiana Tech was up ten late helped by three Dixon touchdowns on a 38-yard catch and scoring runs from three and five yards out, but NSU stayed in it on Garrett Atzenweiler touchdown runs from four and ten yards out.
What Else? Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon ran 22 times for 103 yards and two scores, and caught two passes for 41 yards and a score
- Turnovers: Louisiana Tech 5 – Northwestern State 2
- Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 20-of-34 passes for 280 yards and a score with three picks, and finished second on the team with ten rushing yards on five carries
Game Rating: B+
Sept. 11 Louisiana Tech 42, North Texas 21
And You Care Because … Louisiana Tech stunned North Texas with a 28-0 lead that held up into the third quarter. Cody Sokol finished with five touchdown passes including two to Paul Turner, and Kenneth Dixon ran for a two-yard score in the rout. The Mean Green were down 42-7 in the final few minutes before scoring two late touchdowns.
What Else? This is the second straight game Louisiana Tech has looked solid. The offense game out humming with Cody Sokol spreading the ball around well, while the defense came up with a gem. However, the North Texas offense helped the cause.
- The North Texas performance against Texas was a disaster, but that was slightly expected. This was awful in the first half with the O not able to move. It finished with 279 yards total with one good drive before late – 135 of the yards came in the final eight minutes when the game was a rout.
- Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 20-of-31 passes for 243 yards and five touchdowns with a pick.
- North Texas QB Josh Greer completed 13-of-27 passes, but they only went for 77 yards. The passing game didn’t move.
Game Rating: C-
Sept. 6 Louisiana Tech 48, at Louisiana-Lafayette 20
And You Care Because … Kenneth Dixon opened up the scoring with a bang running for a 99-yard score in the first quarter and added a 32-yard touchdown run in the fourth on the way to a 41-7 Bulldog lead. Cody Sokol threw two touchdown passes and Xavier Woods added a 46-yard interception return for a score – ULL couldn’t keep up. The Ragin’ Cajuns tuned the ball over three times, but they moved the ball a bit with quarterbacks Terrance Broadway and Brooks Haack combining to complete 29-of-44 passes for 237 yards and two scores with a pick. Dixon ran 12 times for 184 yards and two scores for Tech, and Cody Sokol completed 22-of-33 passes for 295 yards and two scores.
Game Rating: C-
Aug. 30 at Oklahoma 48, Louisiana Tech 16
And You Care Because … Oklahoma came out roaring with 31 straight points helped by two Keith Ford touchdown runs from 22 and five yards out and a 16-yard touchdown catch from Sterling Shepard. Alex Ross ran for two touchdowns and Samaje Perine added a seven-yard scoring dash.
What Else? Trevor Knight threw a pick, but he completed 19-of-34 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown with a pick. OU was razor-sharp from the start – it picked up where it left off from the Sugar Bowl.
- Louisiana Tech didn’t go anywhere on the ground running 29 times for 54 yards. The Sooner pass rush and defensive line controlled the game.
- The Sooners spread around the wealth. Keith Ford ran nine times for 51 yards and two scores, and caught four passes for 65 yards.
- Kenneth Dixon did what he could for the Bulldogs, but he was bottled up for most of the game with 42 yards on 16 carries.
Game Rating: C-
Skip Holtz is looking for a do-over in his second year in Ruston.
Holtz picked up where he left off at South Florida, which was not a good thing for the coach or his Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech went from a nine-win team in 2012 to one that won just four games a season ago. To be fair, the program lost a ton of talent to graduation and was essentially starting over in a number of key departments. A lack of experience will be less of a concern in 2014, so Holtz and his staff will have fewer excuses if a winning record cannot be achieved.
No one was going to thrive at Louisiana Tech last year. Not Sonny Dykes. Not Maxie Lambright. No one. But inheriting a challenging situation won’t get Holtz off the hook. Going back to his final two seasons at USF, the coach is 12-24 in his last three years, denting a reputation that was forged at East Carolina from 2005-2009. Hey, Holtz has plenty of time to turn things around, but he sure could use a rebound year in 2014.
The staff’s biggest concern this offseason revolves around a passing game that ranked 116th nationally in passing efficiency. While both quarterbacks return, neither Ryan Higgins nor Scotty Young played well enough to command much respect in the locker room, and the latter has since retired form football. Too bad, too, because the running game is set. Backs Kenneth Dixon, Tevin King and Blake Martin are not the reason why the Bulldogs averaged just 19.2 points per game last year. In fact, without the trio, Tech would have been held to single-digits in half of its games.
When former defensive coordinator Kim Dameron took the head coaching job at Eastern Illinois, it created an opportunity for Holtz to earn his first win of the offseason. On Jan. 21, the Bulldogs landed Manny Diaz, whose experience in the ACC, SEC and Big 12 ought to help a Tech D needing to rebuild up front. The Bulldogs return seven defensive starters, with the greatest concentration of talent residing in the secondary.
Holtz is getting his second chance to make a first impression in Ruston. He better make the most of it by leading the Bulldogs back to the .500 mark. Anything less is sure to incite the ire of a fan base that questioned the coach’s hiring in the first place.
What to watch for on offense: The arm’s race. Who gets the ball from Skip Holtz? If the Bulldogs are going to turn things around, it’ll have to start with the play of the quarterbacks. Neither Ryan Higgins nor Scotty Young was efficient in 2013, combining to throw 10 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. Higgins made too many mistakes, while Young, who’s hung up his cleats, lacked accuracy. Former Iowa Hawkeye Cody Sokol becomes Higgins’ competition now that he’s earned his degree. Tech might be a run-first team, but solving the passing game crisis is high on the to-do list.
What to watch for on defense: Manny blitzes. Manny Diaz wants to attack the opposition, provided his defensive backs are capable of handling the rigors of man coverage. Fortunately, the new defensive coordinator is inheriting a veteran secondary led by five returning starters. While Diaz may want to tug on the reins a bit after his system flopped at Texas, corners Le’Vander Liggins and Adairius Barnes will afford him the flexibility to liberally turn the linebackers and safeties loose.
This team will be far better if … the offense achieves a
much higher degree of efficiency. Louisiana Tech isn’t going anywhere unless it becomes more prolific, especially through the air. In 2013, the Bulldogs ranked 91st in third-down efficiency and 113th in red-zone touchdowns. Even when paired with an elite defense, those offensive numbers will produce no better than a .500 team. Tech has to be more than a one-dimensional, ground-based attack that punts an average of six times per game.
The Schedule: Seriously, what more could the Bulldogs possibly ask for
... at least after September? Okay, so starting out the season at Oklahoma isn't fun, and going to Louisiana-Lafayette could be a nightmare - the Ragin' Cajuns really are that good - and kicking off the Conference USA season at North Texas is a fight. Yeah,
going to Auburn is going to be painful, but that's about it for the problems.
There's a week off before dealing with Southern Miss, and while road games at
UAB and Old Dominion might be challenging, they have to be wins if there's any
hope of having a big season. So why is the schedule so good? No Marshall or
Middle Tennessee from the East, and the showdown against Rice is at home.
Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Kenneth Dixon. Skip Holtz wants to establish the running game in Ruston. Dixon is the kind of power back who can be ridden for a very long time. The 220-pound junior will once again be the focal point of an unbalanced Louisiana Tech offense in desperate need of a more consistent passing game. While Dixon won’t be alone in the backfield, joined by talented backups Tevin King and Blake Martin, he’s the guy the staff wants to feed 20-25 times each weekend.
Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Le’Vander Liggins. Liggins is the front man of a Bulldog defensive backfield that will be the spine of the 2014 D. He’s experienced, athletic and prone to forcing opposing passers to consider the other side of the field. Liggins does a particularly good job of jumping routes and getting his hands on the ball. As long as he and fellow corner Adairius Barnes continue to excel in man coverage, it’ll allow new coordinator Manny Diaz to attack with the frequency that he prefers.
Key players to a successful season: The offensive linemen. Sure, the quarterbacks will be vital to the success of the Bulldogs in 2014. But their development won’t matter if they don’t get more time to find an underrated corps of receivers. A year after replacing four starters, Tech is being forced to build around massive OT Mitchell Bell and OG Tre Carter. The passers aren’t the only Bulldogs begging for more assistance from the blockers. The backs, too, need support to carry out the staff’s plan of running the ball with an attitude.
The season will be a success if ... the Bulldogs grind their way to six wins and the school’s third bowl game since 2008. Now that Holtz is in his second year, he and his staff will be in a better position to craft a .500 team out of the mix of returning players. The non-conference schedule is thorny, including trips to play Oklahoma, Auburn and UL-Lafayette. However, Conference USA has thinned out just enough for Louisiana Tech to scrape out the six wins needed to keep playing in December.
Key game: Sept. 6 at UL-Lafayette. The Bulldogs and the Ragin’ Cajuns are renewing for the first time in a decade an in-state rivalry that’s been played 85 times. Beyond the obvious bragging rights, Louisiana Tech will need to capture this road trip to avoid a potentially brutal opening month of the season. It begins the year in Norman, and it ends September at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Before the schedule softens, the Bulldogs must survive a first-half game it’s not supposed to win.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Yards per catch: Louisiana Tech 9.7 – Opponents 12.6
- Sacks: Louisiana Tech 23 – Opponents 30
- Third-down %: Louisiana Tech 36% - Opponents 45%
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