Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting to know La Tech: Offense.

SPOILER ALERT! He caught it for 6.

Like just about every one of you, I don't know nothin' bout no Louisiana Tech other than Terry Bradshaw went there because he was too dumb to go to LSU. If you know anything about the admissions standards of an SEC West institution, this should tell you all you need to know. Normally at Spitblood we'd completely milk a bowl game situation, offering up unit-specific previews, as well as players to watch and necessary hate outlets. However, this year things are going to be a little bit more concise for a couple of reasons. One, we're used to having an extra two weeks before our bowl game takes place, so time has really caught up to us as far as posting goes. And two, Louisiana MEHc, anyone? It's just not an exciting matchup and my level of effort is there to match. lyle did an admirable job highlighting the main things to watch out for with the Bulldogs, but I'll try and take things a bit further with names and more numerology.

As was pointed out yesterday, Louisiana Tech is FINE on offense. Not great, not bad, but fine. They're upper third in all categories outside of the ground game and are led by Junior QB Colby Cameron. Cameron didn't begin the year as a starter, but was forced into action when original signal caller Nick Isham went down with an injury, and the Bulldogs haven't looked back. Literally, they can't turn their neck to look over their shoulders. Any of them. It's weird and strangely intimidating. Cameron hasn't lost a game as a starter and is 6-0 in games played. He averages around 234 yards per contest and has thrown 11 TDs against only 2 picks. And, he's been fairly protected; of the Bulldogs embarassing 24 sacks given up, only 5 have come with Cameron under center. It would seem that he has "legs" while Isham had the elusiveness of nearby Shreveport gentleman's club proprietor Larry Flynt. The interesting thing about Cameron, though? As the season wore on and his team seemed to get better, he actually became less and less accurate, lowering his completion percentage on an almost weekly basis and accumulating his two picks in the last 3 games of the year. This could bode very well for our defense as they may need all the help they can get with a potential lack of enthusiasm playing a role.

LT is blessed with a very talented receiver in All Conference selection Quinton Patton, he of the 74 receptions for 1135 yards and 10 scores. We have no one that can even come close to boasting those sorts of numbers, although Josh Boyce could've given him a run had he been utilized more post-Boise. Patton, a junior, is a big target at 6-2, 195 and is most certainly not the cure for what ails a sometimes porous TCU secondary. With a long TD reception of 90 yards and an overall average of 15.3, Greg McCoy and Jason Verrett better be on their best behavior if they don't want to be embarrassed on national television. Taulib Ikharo, David Gru and Myles White are other favorite targets of Cameron's. Fortunately, none have the size or speed of Patton and they aren't targeted as much - Ikharo has 50 catches while Gru and White each have under 25. However, Gru and White both average over 13 yards per catch, so you can't sleep on either of them. Their TD numbers aren't other worldly, but they haven't had to be based on what Patton has done for this offense. I hope the layoff hasn't made the back 5 sluggish, because it could be a poor showing if they aren't ready to play.

Cameron doesn't run the ball often, only averaging 6 rushes per game, but he's done a little bit when he has, putting up 25 yards per game. By contrast, our own Casey Pachall works out at 5 attempts and 14 yards per game, although if you add it all up he only has 20 net yards for the year TOTAL. There's a reason we call him "la manga" and not "la.... legs."

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, no one else is very impressive running the ball. As a unit they are averaging 150 yards per contest, which puts them at 70th in the nation. Lennon Creer has been mentioned multiple times in the lead up to this game, but to the naked eye it sure looks like this attention is being bestowed solely based on his high school credentials. For the season he only has 898 yards and 9 scores and has not lived up to his preseason First Team WAC credentials. His 4.3 yards per carry average is downright paltry; the TCU Hydra all average at least 2 yards more per carry. Part of that could be because, with the rotation, they're all coming in moderately fresh and ready to destroy someone. It could also be because they're good and Creer really isn't. Creer is joined in the backfield by fellow Texas Hunter Lee, although he's not much more impressive at 5.1 yards on average with 585 total and 4 scores.

Louisiana Tech averages 30 points per game, but has actually been a little bit better than that with Cameron playing at 33. But if you look at the schedule, they haven't exactly overwhelmed anyone outside of a bad New Mexico State team in the season finale. The Bulldogs are going to hang their hats on the 27-7 win over Ole Miss in Oxford and while I understand that's a very, very big win for a WAC program, surely you're all familiar with Ole Miss' style of play this year. If not, here's a glimpse - 16.1 points per game for/ 32.1 points per game against and an average of 281 yards per game TOTAL, which puts them at 6th from the bottom in the national rankings. The Lousiana Tech/Ole Miss game also prompted a pretty memorable post from Ole Miss Fansite Red Cup Rebellion when, late in the throes of the Houston Nutt era, it was discovered that plays were called simply by writing the player intended to end up with the ball's initials on a dry erase board which was held up for the QB to see. Pretty amazing. Surprisingly, it wasn't even a close game.

Holding the offense together are the big uglies up front, led by All WAC selections Kris Cavitt and Steven Warner. Cavitt, a Senior from nearby Mansfield, is 6'2", 300 while Cavitt, a Junior, measures out at 6'0", 295. However, based on that sack total and lackluster run game, the WAC must've been fairly thin across the board for these guys to be first teamers. Not to dog either guy, but 24 sacks shouldn't get you on any list with positive connotations. The TCU pass rush hasn't been nearly as threatening as in the past, but as lyle mentioned, they should have a pretty good opportunity to get some pressure on Colby Cameron. This is going to be key for us to have a shot at winning this one comfortably - 10.5 points if you believe in Vegas.

To the naked eye, the LT offense shouldn't be able to score 30 points per game. After all, they don't run the ball particularly well, and at 24 sacks, they clearly don't protect the QB. However, as I said above, 19 of those sacks came before Cameron was under center, so clearly that has been shored up. The Bulldogs are blessed with an All-Conference WR in Quinton Patton who has kept them in a lot of games by averaging nearly 100 yards week in and week out. The key for TCU is going to be stuffing the run and getting the Bulldog line back to their turnstile ways. Stansly Maponga has been about the only bright spot up front from that standpoint, although David Johnson and DJ Yendrey have had their moments. Jonathan Anderson appears to be Stephen Hodge's heir apparent at the QB deathback position and, based on Hodge's transcendent performance the last time we played in the Poinsettia, the parallels are there for him to have a big game. In our recent bowl trips to sunny California at least one player on our defense has had a game changing performance. Against NIU in the Poinsettia, it was Tommy Blake making Doug Free his bitch. Then it was Hodge and last year it was clearly Tank Carder and Colin Jones who seemed to make every single play. Anderson could be that guy this year and if he is, the Frogs will win by two TDs. If not, the offense better be ready to play because it could be a mini-shootout.

Tune in later this afternoon - or perhaps tomorrow morning - to see how the Bulldogs look on defense.

Morning Dump

Final game bittersweet for TCU standouts Carder, Dooley

Sinquefield receives top honor

Elander tabbed preseason all-American

Killeen named top nationwide player, Jenkins chosen for hall of fame

Athletic Department:
Notes on a scorecard