Nov. 3, 2011
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech starts a pivotal three-game road swing Saturday night on national TV as the 13th - and likely final -installment of "The Battle for the Bone" takes place when Tech plays at Fresno State at 9:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. PT. Adam Amin (play-by-play) and David Diaz-Infante (analyst) will call the action on ESPNU.
|Louisiana Tech at Fresno State
Saturday, Nov. 5 - 9:30 p.m. CT
Radio: LA Tech Sports Network
|LA Tech||Team Stats||FS|
|24.1||Kickoff returns (avg)||20.1|
|10.3||Punt returns (avg)||16.4|
|39.5||Net punting (avg)||35.3|
|30:29||Time of possession/game||30:57|
|38%||Third down conversion||35%|
|62%||Fourth down conversion||67%|
Both teams enter Saturday's game with only conference loss with Louisiana Tech (4-4, 3-1 WAC) having a half-game lead on Fresno State (3-5, 2-1) as both teams still have a chance to win a WAC Championship.
"You want to play significant games in November," said Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes. "Here we are in November with four games left against quality teams. The outcome of these games will be meaningful and you want to get to a point where every game played in November means something."
This weekend's game could mean a lot, especially if Louisiana Tech can win and inch closer towards bowl eligibility. The team has put the early season losses behind them and is riding a wave of confidence on a three-game winning streak.
"We're playing with more confidence," Dykes said. "It's something we had in the beginning of the season, and knew we were a good football team, but we lost some tough, close football games and then lost badly at Hawai'i. Since then, we've played better; done a better job taking care of the ball. In three weeks we went from being the worst at taking care of the ball in the WAC to the best. We have created 11 turnovers and only had two [turnovers lost]. We've had a great turnover margin and anytime you're playing good defense, it gives you a chance to win. We're still trying to find ourselves offensively and show flashes at times, but we have to get more consistent on offense."
Louisiana Tech has a +8 turnover margin in the last three games and is ranked 32nd nationally (first in the WAC) in turnover margin this season. Part of that is due to Louisiana Tech's 13 interceptions this season (ranked seventh in the nation, first in the WAC) with an interception return for a touchdown in each of the last three games.
"We've been able to stop the run these last few weeks and that makes a team one dimensional," Dykes said of the defensive game planning. "Anytime you become one dimensional offensively, you become easier to defend. It will be difficult to do that against Fresno, but our defense has played well. We've made plays and are much more improved now than we were a year ago. All of that gives us a chance to create turnovers and gives us a chance to win."
Tech will face a group of California Bulldogs that are not very different from it. Fresno State also had a challenging schedule early in the year with games against Cal, Nebraska, Ole Miss and Boise State.
In addition to Fresno State being talented, the "Battle for the Bone" is usually a close game with four of the last five games (and the last three consecutive games) having been decided by one possession.
"We think about it and it gives us a prediction of how this game might be, just knowing the skill set of their team," defensive back Chad Boyd said of recent close games against Fresno State. "We are very similar in terms of size and speed, so it probably is going to come down to who wants it more and we just have to execute."
Louisiana Tech enters the game hoping to continue a trend of Fresno State struggling against teams with .500 records or better. Since 2008, Fresno State has posted a 4-20 record (.167 winning percentage) against teams with a .500 record or better (Louisiana Tech, at 4-4, has a .500 record entering this week's game).
The Louisiana Bulldogs also haven't forgotten what tailback Robbie Rouse did to Tech last year with a 286 rushing yard performance in Ruston. Rouse is averaging 122.4 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry but faces a much-improved Tech defense that has held every team and running back below their average rushing yardage per game. Fresno State ranks 77th in rushing offense, averaging 144.1 yards in its eight games to date and is backed by a powerful offensive line.
The California Bulldogs also boast a talented special teams unit that is ranked fourth in punt returns but will face Tech's Ryan Allen, who was recently named as one of 55 nominees for the 2011 Ray Guy Award. Allen has a national-best 29 punts inside the 20 (56 percent of his punts) while 40 percent of his punts have sailed over 50 yards.
The game can be heard statewide on the LA Tech Sports Network as Dave Nitz, Teddy Allen, Max Causey and Bennie Thornell will team up to provide all the live play-by-play, color commentary and more. The show will start with a one-hour pregame and will conclude with a 30-minute postgame.
For the 13th straight year, KXKZ 107.5 FM (Ruston) will serve as the flagship station for Bulldog football. Joining KXKZ on the network this year are KLKL 95.7 FM (Shreveport/Bossier City), KTKC 92.9 FM (Springhill), KJVC 92.7 FM (Mansfield), KVCL 92.1 FM (Winnfield), KBEF 104.5 FM (Minden), WUBR 910 AM (Baton Rouge, Zachary) and KTTP 1110 AM (Alexandria).
Throughout the year, Tech fans can also access the audio for away games and audio/video for home games by purchasing a subscription to LA Tech All-Access by logging onto www.latechsports.com.
For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, follow @LATechPWalsh on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.