Louisiana Tech-Navy Preview

Ricky Dobbs (AP)

On the surface, the offenses run by Louisiana Tech and Navy, who play each other Saturday in Ruston, La., couldn't be more different.

But if you ask Sonny Dykes, there's a lot of similarities between the pass-happy scheme the first-year Bulldogs coach is trying to instill and the run-based option attack the Midshipmen have been executing for years.

"I think in some ways," Dykes said, "the way we throw the football is a little bit like the way Navy runs their offense in terms of it's kind of read progression. If this guy does this, you do this. If this is covered, go to here. "So it's different -- instead of handing it off and reading somebody, you're dropping back and reading somebody -- but it's still about being disciplined and executing and going through progressions."

Dykes also said the extremity of Navy's offense reminds him of what Texas Tech was doing about seven or eight years ago when he was a part of that coaching staff.

Whereas Navy runs significantly more than almost every other FBS team, that Texas Tech team threw far more than most any team did when Mike Leach was first hired to run the Red Raiders offense.

Of course, now it seems every team in college football, except Navy and the other service academies, is running some sort of spread offense like Louisiana Tech, which has its roots in what Dykes learned at Texas Tech and under Hal Mumme at Kentucky before that.

That progression leads Dykes to think there is a place in the future for a return of the triple option to the college game.

"College football is probably the most cyclical thing in the world," Dykes said, adding that the option is so hard to prepare for, he thinks more programs will eventually start adding more wrinkles into their offense based on what Navy does almost all game.

As for this week, however, Dykes is just hoping to find a way to get his Bulldogs to stop that option a little better then they did in a 2009 loss that saw the Midshipmen gain 290 yards on the ground.

NOTES, QUOTES --For the second consecutive week, QB Colby Cameron will get the start for Louisiana Tech. Head coach Sonny Dykes hopes the decision will bring with it a solid performance that could start shutting the door on the quarterback controversy in Ruston, La. That controversy has included Dykes naming three different starters through the first two games, one of whom -- Steven Ensminger -- has yet to take a snap under center and has since been moved to wide receiver.

Cameron, meanwhile, is replacing Ross Jenkins, who had started 21 straight games at quarterback for La. Tech until last week's loss at Texas A&M. Then came last week's emergence of junior college transfer Tarik Hakmi to muddy the waters even more.

"We have to get better quarterback play; that's pretty obvious if you watch us play," Dykes told the Shreveport Times. "It's wait and see. We'll see how he plays, but I would expect him to be our quarterback -- play the whole game."

--Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes was on the Texas Tech coach staff in 2003 when the Red Raiders defeated Navy in the Houston Bowl, 38-14. That was the first of seven consecutive bowl games for the Midshipmen.

--Though he has yet to show the same type of explosiveness he showed in the return game in the past two seasons, La. Tech WR Phillip Livas has still been solid as a kick returner. So much so, in fact, he was selected this week as the Louisiana Sports Writers Association's Special Teams Player of the Week.

Livas returned seven kicks for 186 yards, including one for 48 yards, in last week's loss to Texas A&M.

The effort pushed Livas over 2,000 career kick return yards, making him the first Louisiana Tech player to reach that plateau. His 2,082 yards is 700 yards shy of the WAC record of 2,782 set by UTEP's Cedric Johnson (1993-96).

SERIES HISTORY: Navy leads Louisiana Tech 1-0 (last meeting, 2009, 32-14 Navy).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: It hasn't taken flight yet, but Louisiana Tech is at least settling in, apparently, at quarterback. With QB Colby Cameron getting his second straight start, it would seem the rhythm and timing between quarterback and receivers would finally start taking form. To this point, it has been nonexistent. Cameron will still have to look over his shoulder, though, as junior college transfer QB Tarik Hakmi looked good last week and will likely get a few more looks this week against Navy. In either case, the Bulldogs will be facing a Navy team that has yet to be tested in the secondary. Through two games (vs. Maryland and Georgia Southern), Navy opponents have attempted just 19 passes. Louisiana Tech, while not always as successful with its passes as it would like, has attempted 72 passes.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Bulldogs are just hoping they don't repeat what happened to them last year against Navy. In 2009, the Midshipmen rushed for 290 yards against a Bulldogs defense that at the time was still thinking pretty highly of its ability to stop the run. So far this year, Louisiana Tech is far more middle of the road, allowing 159 rushing yards per game, good for 79th among 120 FBS schools. That certainly isn't going to win La. Tech any championships, but it's a much better start to the season than in 2009. Whether the Bulldogs truly are any better against the run will be determined Saturday.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "In terms of high quality execution, we're just not there yet." -- Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL THIS WEEK'S GAME: Navy at Louisiana Tech, Sept. 18 -- Despite falling behind 14-0 to Louisiana Tech in 2009, the Midshipmen still had their way running the ball against the Bulldogs. The 290 yards they racked up were demoralizing for La. Tech. The Bulldogs hope to finally get their offense going against a Navy team that hasn't faced any passing offenses like the one they'll see Saturday.

KEYS TO THE GAME: As always, Navy can win if it is executing its option offense at a high level. Louisiana Tech hasn't proven it has the defense to consistently stop the run, so why not go at Navy early and often. As far as defense against the Bulldogs, just keep the pressure on sophomore QB Colby Cameron. No La. Tech QB has looked comfortable yet this year, why let them get that way this week?

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Tarik Hakmi -- Sophomore QB Colby Cameron will get his second consecutive start, but it's Hakmi who might have the largest say in whether the Louisiana Tech quarterback controversy is finally quieted this week. He'll get some opportunities and, regardless of how well Cameron plays, Hakmi will still be in the mix as long as he keeps creating offense like he did last week against Texas A&M.

DE Matt Broha -- He won't keep up his sack pace -- he has 3.5 through two games after registering a team high 4.0 in 2009 -- this weekend against Navy, but that doesn't mean he won't need to get into the backfield on a consistent basis to cause trouble. Navy runs so much, sack opportunities aren't always there, but Broha's penetration can disrupt the option before it starts.

LB Adrien Cole -- Against Navy, there will be plenty of tackle opportunities for any linebacker. Cole, who leads the team this season with 17, will have every opportunity to get 12-14 more this week.

ROSTER REPORT: --Sophomore QB Colby Cameron has been named the starter for Saturday's game against Navy. It will be his second consecutive start after opening-game starter Ross Jenkins saw his consecutive start streak snapped at 21 last week.

--WR Tim Molton, the LSU transfer who sat out the season opener while serving a suspension, had just three receptions for 36 yards in his Louisiana Tech debut last week against Texas A&M. Count on him and WR Phillip Livas to be given plenty of opportunities this week against Navy to finally produce some big plays for the Bulldogs.

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