Bulldogs Defense Key to LSU Game


Posted Oct 31, 2003 20:35:18
Bulldogs Defense Key to LSU Game

BATON ROUGE - The talk all week long has been about the impressive LSU Tigers defense and how it will fare against Louisiana Tech's usually explosive offense Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

However, the real key to the Bulldogs (4-4) chances against No. 7 ranked LSU (7-1) might be its own defense.

Early in the season when Tech upset now 10th ranked Michigan State in East Lansing, the only loss of the year for the Spartans, it was the Bulldogs defense that stood tall and kept them in the game. One week after the win over the Spartans, the Tech defense played well again in a 16-6 loss to Fresno State, but since that time, the Bulldogs have struggled stopping opposing offenses.

In its last four games, opponents have scored 66 points against Tech in the first quarter. Head coach Jack Bicknell knows that in order to have a chance Saturday night in Baton Rouge, the Bulldogs must get off to a better start.

"We can't look up after the first quarter and be trailing 21-3 like we have the last few weeks and think we can come back as easily," Bicknell said. "Our defense has to play from the opening kickoff and not give up the big plays that have hurt us early in games. LSU is simply too talented to spot a big lead to early."

With steady Matt Mauck at quarterback, the talented duo of Michael Clayton and Devery Henderson at wide receiver, a stable of running backs and a mammoth LSU offensive line, the Bulldogs defense will have its work cut out for it.

"We simply have to make plays," Bicknell said. "It's like playing Miami again ... but this time we can't give up 21 points off of turnovers and special teams plays (like we did against Miami) and expect to keep it close until the fourth quarter. We have to play well in all three phases of the game."

The Bulldogs offense will also face a large task against one of the nation's top defenses. And in order for Tech to be successful, Bicknell said his team must find a way to run the football against the nation's No. 2 ranked run defense.

"You look at them statistically and they haven't allowed anyone to run on them this year," Bicknell said. "Not Auburn; not Florida; not Georgia. No one. We just can't expect to sit back all night long and throw the football and be successful."

The Bulldogs will depend on one of the nation's hottest running backs in the last month in sophomore Ryan Moats, who has rushed for 683 yards and eight touchdowns in the last four games. The Dallas, Texas, native, whose 6.8 yards per rush average ranks No. 4 in the country, said he isn't looking for any specific numbers.

"I just go out and try to do my best," Moats said. "I never say I have to get so many yards before a game. I just play and see what happens at the end of the game."

The game will mark the first time the two programs have met since 1941 with LUS holding a 15-1 lead in the series. The contest can be seen on ESPN Gameplan, except in Louisiana, and on TigerVision by calling your local cable station.

Dave Nitz and Dan Newman will provide the play by play and color commentary on the Louisiana Tech Radio Network on KXKZ-FM 107.5 and via the Internet at www.z1075fm.com.