Louisiana Tech's freshman quarterback, one of just four true freshman starting QBs in the country, wants to pick up his first victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision team just a day after he turned 18. Isham will lead the Bulldogs (1-4) into the Moscow, Idaho, Kibbie Dome at 4 p.m. today in a Western Athletic Conference game.
Isham has had a solid start to his college career, even if all five games were played while he was still the ripe old age of 17. He's completed 61.5 percent of his passes and has thrown for nearly 250 yards per game thus far.
In order to be successful today, Isham said the Bulldogs must "execute the game plan."
"We have big plays and plays that get us what we need," Isham said. "We trust in Coach (Tony) Franklin's (Tech's offensive coordinator) play calls and ideas for what the best thing to do is and feed off of that."
Tech has played three very close games in its four losses – losing by two points at Southern Miss and in overtime on the road against Mississippi State, as well as a one-point loss to Houston at home. However, the Bulldogs are coming off a tough, 44-26 home loss against Hawaii last weekend.
Tech head coach Sonny Dykes credited Hawaii for its performance last weekend, in which Warriors quarterback Bryant Moniz threw for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Royce Pollard, who caught 10 balls for 216 yards.
"That is a good football team and I think they are going to be a contender for the conference championship and they were the preseason pick," Dykes said. "You can see why. They did a good job of travel and their players were focused. I really did think that they did have a good plan. … I thought they were well prepared."
Dykes hopes the Bulldogs are the team that is well prepared when they enter the Kibbie Dome today.
Unlike Tech, which dropped its WAC opener, the Vandals are 1-0 in conference play after a 48-24 home win over Fresno State two weeks ago, and Idaho (2-3) is coming off an overtime road loss against Virginia.
The Vandals are led by senior quarterback Brian Reader, who has thrown for 1,035 yards and nine touchdowns with only three interceptions. Idaho's defense is giving up nearly 450 yards and more than 30 points per game.
Dykes knows his team faces a tough road challenge today.
"We have proven we can play with the best of them, but we haven't closed the games out," he said. "Anybody that looks at Idaho's record at home sees that they play extremely well at home, and we have not proven anything. Surely our players have recognized that and if they haven't we will point it out to them."
"They do a good job and have good coaches over there that know what they are doing offensively and manipulating you and creating extra lanes in the run game," Dykes added. "Then throw a play action against you. They hurt us last year with their vertical passing game in the middle of the field and that is something we are going to defend against this year."
Tech's defense has been hot and cold all season long. The Bulldogs gave up 19 points to Southern Miss in the season opener, held Mississippi State to just 20 points in regulation and also kept Houston's high-powered offense in check for nearly three quarters.
However, Central Arkansas scored 42 points against the Bulldogs, Houston exploded for 28 second-half points to rally from a 34-7 deficit and Hawaii torched Tech's defense last week to the tune of 494 yards and a season-high 44 points.
Senior middle linebacker Adrien Cole has been one of Tech's defensive stalwarts with a team-leading 47 tackles, including five for loss. Defensive ends Christian Lacey and Matt Broha have provided pressure on the quarterback, combining for 5.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries, and Tech's secondary has combined for five interceptions, including two each by Dave Clark and Quinn Giles.
Isham, meanwhile, has found a go-to receiver in junior-college transfer Quinton Patton. The 6-2, 195-pound junior is one of the top wide receivers in the nation with 36 receptions and five touchdowns. Patton is averaging more than 120 receiving yards per game.
Dykes said that while Patton has become the team's "go-to guy and has played consistently," there still "a lot of room for improvement" for Patton to develop into an even better receiver. Dykes and Isham hope that development continues today, and the Bulldogs hope to get their first WAC win of the season.
Cole said despite the 1-4 start, Tech's players haven't gotten down on themselves and still believe they can compete for a conference championship.
"We will see a bright future at the end of the road even though we have had some dark moments," Cole said. "We are still trying to reach where we want to be at the season by being bowl eligible and hopefully have a shot at the WAC title."