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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 8, 8:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Robertson Stadium (32,000) -- Houston, Texas. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: LaTech 0-0, Houston 0-1. Away Record: LaTech 0-0, Houston 0-0. Neutral Record: LaTech 0-0, Houston 0-0. Conference Record: LaTech 0-0, Houston 0-0. Series Record: Houston leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: With Hurricane Isaac shelving their plans to kick off the 2012 season against Texas A&M in Shreveport last week, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs have been itching to finally hit someone other than themselves. That opportunity comes this Saturday night at Robertson Stadium, as the team clashes with the Houston Cougars in non-conference action.
Because the opener had to be rescheduled for October 13 when both the Bulldogs and Aggies have an open date, that now means LaTech will have a run of 12 games in 12 weeks, a huge challenge for a team that just came off winning the Western Athletic Conference title in 2011.
Despite losing to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl (31-24) to close out last season, the Bulldogs enter this week tied for the fifth-longest regular-season win streak in the nation at seven games. Head coach Sonny Dykes, now in his third season with the Bulldogs, is hoping to avoid the same sort of start his team had in 2011 when they bowed in four of their first five games and needed to go to overtime against Central Arkansas to pick up the lone win (48-42) during the stretch.
As for the Cougars, they are a completely different team from the one that former quarterback Case Keenum used to direct. The top offensive threat in the nation last year, Keenum had Houston putting up 599 ypg and 49.3 ppg, both of which led the country, and this year the team started off with a thud.
Against Texas State, a team which is now just joining the ranks of the Football Bowl Subdivision, the Cougars were shocked in a 30-13 home test last Saturday. So stunning was the defeat that head coach Tony Levin, now in his first full season at the helm, was forced to make a change in his staff early this week when offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt abruptly resigned. Ironically enough, the position has been filled by Travis Bush who only a few years ago occupied the same post with Texas State.
In a series that dates back to 1948, the Cougars own a 4-2 edge against LaTech, thanks in part to a 35-34 victory in last year's meeting when Houston rattled off 28 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes to capture the win.
Although he appeared in just seven games a season ago for the Bulldogs, Colby Cameron is ready to take control of the offense full-time as the starting quarterback. Cameron erupted for 238.1 ypg through the air for LaTech and had 13 passing scores, against just three interceptions, which means he is capable of making the right decisions under pressure.
A candidate for the Biletnikoff Award this season, wideout Quinton Patton is a force to be reckoned with down the field after he reeled in 79 passes for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns, all of which paced the Bulldogs rather convincingly in 2011.
Losing a top-line running back like Lennon Creer (838 yards, nine touchdowns) means coach Dykes is going to reexamine his approach on offense and send even more receivers out on every snap to compensate for the loss until he finds a suitable solution.
When the offense doesn't perform up to expectations for coach Dykes, he has the luxury of leaning on punter Ryan Allen to dig him out of any holes and help set up the LaTech defense in strong positions. Allen is the reigning Ray Guy Award winner after averaging a school-record 46.1 yards per punt. Allen is the first player from a non-BCS school to be given the award.
The defense appears to be a bit shaky for the Bulldogs, particularly in the secondary where defensive back Dave Clark is the only corner on the roster with any game experience. He and the rest of the unit will need a guy like Justin Ellis, a defensive tackle who was an All-WAC Second-Team selection last season, to step up and take leadership of the group.
A far cry from Keenum who was fearless in his aerial attack for the Cougars during his time in Houston, new starting quarterback David Piland wasn't all that special against the Bobcats last week as he completed a mere 17-of-44 for 211 yards and a touchdown. If not for a 64-yard toss to Larry McDuffy the numbers for Piland would have been even more disappointing.
Unfortunately, the signal-caller was forced to try and do much of it on his own as the running attack compiled just 115 yards, less than half of what the Houston defense allowed (248 yards). Charles Sims might be the best option for the running game, after putting up a team-best 77 yards on 13 carries, but if Houston falls behind in a big way against LaTech the Cougars might not get a chance to find that out this weekend.
With Texas State running almost 100 plays, there were many tackles to be made by the Houston defense as Derrick Mathews and Phillip Steward stepped up their efforts and each logged 14 tackles. The duo combined to make 7.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and three of the unit's four sacks.
After one game the Cougars are actually tied for the lead nationally in TFL with 12, a number that probably won't stand up against more formidable opponents moving forward.
Having to study up for a third different offensive coordinator already, the Bulldogs might be at a bit of a disadvantage in that department, but not as much as Houston which has to regroup after an awful showing last weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 33, Houston 27
09/05 10:31:54 ET