(photo: Trey Smith)
After thoroughly dominating Fresno State Saturday night – the game wasn’t nearly as close as the 41-21 score indicated – the Bulldogs won their fourth straight game to improve to 5-4 on the season. More importantly, though, Tech moved to 4-1 in Western Athletic Conference play and maintained control of its destiny in search of a conference championship.
The Bulldogs travel to Oxford, Miss., this weekend to play an Ole Miss team that is wondering when head coach Houston Nutt is going to be fired. With that distraction hanging over the Rebels’ heads and the fact that they’ve struggled all season, Tech might actually be the favorite to win that game.
Following that final non-conference game, the Bulldogs face a key road game on Nov. 19 against WAC leader Nevada for what likely will be the conference title game. If Tech can win that game, it has a home date against New Mexico State on Nov. 26 to wrap up a conference championship.
Two months ago, when this season began, only the most optimistic Tech fans would have given the Bulldogs a realistic shot of being in this position.
The Bulldogs entered the season starting a 17-year-old true freshman at QB, with major question marks at WR and a defense that featured only two real playmakers. Then, they started the season 1-4, dropping winnable games to Conference USA foes Southern Miss and Houston by a combined three points, losing in overtime at Mississippi State and getting blown out at home by Hawaii in the WAC opener.
At that point, some Tech fans began questioning the future of head coach Sonny Dykes and openly calling for the head of offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. Strangely enough, Tech’s defense, constantly maligned, has been the consistent stalwart.
The season started to change with a 24-11 road win against Idaho on Oct. 8, and the Bulldogs took the next step the following week, defeating Utah State 24-17. Freshman quarterback Nick Isham suffered an injured shoulder early in that game, opening the door for junior Colby Cameron, who has seized his opportunity and taken Tech’s offense to another level.
In his two games as a starter, Cameron has nearly 300 yards per game with six touchdowns and no touchdowns in wins over San Jose State and Fresno State. He’s hooked up with junior star receiver Quinton Patton 11 times for 203 yards and four scores.
Cameron was absolutely brilliant on Saturday against Fresno. He threw three first-half touchdowns and another on the opening drive of the second half as Tech opened up a 41-7 lead before coasting to victory. In the game, Cameron threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns, including three of more than 20 yards and a 75-yarder to junior Myles White.
Perhaps an even bigger star was the Bulldogs’ run defense, which limited Fresno running back Robbie Rouse to just 96 yards, a year after Rouse blistered Tech for 286 yards. Tech’s run defense ranks in the top 15 in the country, giving up just 102 yards per game.
That defense – led by senior linebacker Adrien Cole, defensive ends Matt Broha and IK Inemkpali, and defensive tackles Jon’al White and Justin Ellis – will need to be the key for the Bulldogs over the next three games, too. Tech has a chance to finish the year 8-4 with losses to No. 11 Houston, which is undefeated, No. 25 Southern Miss, which has just one loss, and at Mississippi State.
That’s a far cry from 1-4, and it would be the most impressive year at Louisiana Tech in more than a decade.