The defense has led the way for Louisiana Tech during the win streak and Saturday's win over Ole Miss was no different. Ole Miss scored just 7 points and spent most of the game trying to avoid the Tech defensive line.
Justin Ellis (photo: Dean Hare/AP)
Justin Ellis and Jon'al White have been two huge additions to the Louisiana Tech defense. Ellis played a big part in keeping Ole Miss from running the ball up the middle. With the new found presence inside, the Louisiana Tech defensive ends have been able to really put pressure on the quarterback.
Ellis had 3 tackles, including .5 sacks againsat Ole Miss. His presence helped allow I.K. Enempkali and Matt Broha to combine for 9 tackles and two sacks. Enempkali was nmaed the WAC defensive player of the week for his performance.
The pressure up front also paid dividends for the Tech back seven. For the fourth time in five games, the Bulldogs returned an interception for a touchdown. This time it was Javantay Crowe with the pick-six. Crowe also forced the fumble that Chad Boyd scooped up and carried into the endzone.
Tech now has 16 interceptions on the year. "Anything that can help put points on the board for us is contagious," said senior linebacker Adrien Cole. "We had two big turnover returns on defense that helped put a gap between us and Ole Miss and that was critical to winning the game."
With the Wolf Pack up next, Cole and the Bulldogs know this will be a tough game. "It is the biggest game of my collegiate career, he explained. "We expect an excellent battle against one of the top rushing teams in the nation. We have a pretty good rushing defense, so hopefully we can limit their offense."
With no Colin Kaepernick or Vai Taua around, Nevada might not have been expected to be quite as powerful on offense in 2011. Instead, Nevada has rolled up 524 yards per game and 33.6 points.
In Nevada's five game win streak, freshman quarterback Cody Fajardo has entered the starting lineup. Nevada is averaging 44.2 points per game over the winning streak. Fajardo is averaging 295 yards per game passing over his last three wins over Hawaii, NMSU, and Fresno State. Fajardo threw for 4 touchdowns in the three games and rushed for 6 more while averaging 67 yards per game rushing.
Louisiana Tech wull have to do a good job containing Fajardo while pressuring him into quick passes. Tech is 15th in the country against the run, giving up 105 yards per game. Tech is 13th in the country in turnover margin. The Bulldog's formula of stopping the run and intercepting the quarterback's passes has led to five straight wins. Cody Fajardo and Nevada will be their biggest test since the win streak started.
With conference championships and bowl games on the line, Louisiana Tech is happy to be playing meaningful games this late in the year. "Our goal to start the year was to win the conference championship, said Bulldogs Head Coach Sonny Dykes. "If we continued to play well and improved game by game we knew we could compete. If you want to win a championship, you have to beat some good teams on the road, and Nevada has a great program. They have won 16 consecutive home games, so we have to find a way to go in there and get a win."
Nevada holds a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series including six straight wins. The challenge for Louisiana Tech is big, but the reward would be really sweet. For Tech fans, playing against Nevada with so much on the line is exciting to think about given the team's rough start. With his team being bowl eligible, Dykes has exceeded expectations this year and is playing with house money at this point. A coach that likes to take gambles, Dykes is heading to Reno ready for anything. Fans should be treated to an exciting game.