Sept. 30, 2012
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - They strike quickly, and they strike often.
They give up yards in big chunks, then come up with timely stops.
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (4-0) don't subscribe to the defense-wins-championships formula, but they keep on winning, and they keep doing it away from against opponents from BCS automatic-qualifying opponents.
They made Virginia (2-3) of the Atlantic Coast Conference their latest victims Saturday, even after the Cavaliers opened their playbook wide with downfield strikes and a surprise onside kick after going ahead 14-3.
The Bulldogs snuffed it out, and shortly thereafter, it was 14-10. Before too long, they went on a tear by scoring 34 straight points, then hung on to win 44-38 when Virginia mounted a late comeback.
"Crazy game,'' third-year coach Sonny Dykes said. "You saw everything that could possibly happen happen. ... I told the team after the game that we probably won this game because we thought we would.''
Last weekend, it was Illinois of the Big Ten, humbled at home 52-24 by these guys.
"We thrive on being an underdog and invading stadiums,'' linebacker Chip Hester said.
The worst part for the schools coming up short? Bulldogs sports information director Patrick Walsh said Illinois ($775,000) and Virginia ($825,000) paid the Bulldogs a combined $1.6 million to visit.
Last season, it was Ole Miss of the mighty SEC. The Bulldogs rolled them, too, 27-7.
That's an average victory margin of 41-23 in games they were paid handsomely to come play.
"We're on a roll,'' running back Ray Holley said after running for two touchdowns Saturday. Holley assumed an increased roll when top tailback Tevin King was lost for the season in the Illinois victory.
Virginia outgained the Bulldogs 625-385, but hurt itself repeatedly with penalties and mistakes, including an illegal substitution that gave La Tech a clinching first down.
The Cavaliers were whistled 16 times for 145 yards, and Louisiana Tech turned three interceptions thrown by Michael Rocco into 21 points, the last seven on linebacker Chip Hester's 32-yard touchdown return. Hester, inserted after starter Solomon Randle got hurt, also wound up leading the Bulldogs with 14 tackles.
"Bend but don't break,'' the redshirt senior said of the team's defensive mindset.
It works because the offense is averaging 52 points a game. It has 11 touchdown drives in four games that took less than a minute, start to finish, including three against the Cavaliers.
"We're out there a lot. We take a lot of shots to the face,'' Hester said of the defense. "We love our offense putting up points. It just sucks the wind out of the other team. It takes the life out of them, I feel like.''
And it has happened over and over.
The Bulldogs, defending Western Athletic Conference champions, have won 11 consecutive regular-season games, during which they are plus-24 in turnover margin. They have won eight consecutive games on the road, their longest such streak since 1975, and in those games, they are plus-21.
Credit Cameron for some of that, too. He's thrown 12 touchdown passes this season, but has yet to be intercepted. The Bulldogs were plus-three against Virginia.
"It's just unbelievable to see how far our team has come in the five years I've been here,'' Cameron said, smiling when asked what the limit is for this season. "The limit for us? It's pretty high.''
If not next week, when the Bulldogs host UNLV (1-4) in Ruston, La., about 230 miles north of New Orleans, they will know more in two weeks when the Bulldogs play Texas A&M (3-1) in Shreveport, La.