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2017 LA Tech game page

HOUSTON (Oct. 26) -- The Rice Owls find themelves at home this weekend facing an opponent against whom competitiveness lingers only as a distant memory.

The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, of greater metropolitan Ruston, La., population 18,000, have defeated the Institute Boys in five out of their last six contests, and are aiming squarely for six out of seven.

This series has been pretty much “no contest” during the second decade of this century. Louisiana Tech has prevailed in five out of the last six games, including a 61-16 walkover last season in a game where the Owls trailed by 47-0 midway in the third quarter.

In 2015, the last time this matchup was held in Rice stadium, the Bulldogs took it, 42-17. The year before that, in Ruston, Tech was a scoring machine, piling up 76 points in a lopsided victory.

True, the 2013 contest was an anomaly, as the Owls dusted off LATech 52-14 in Rice Stadium. So you see, this matchup has failed to produce anything near resembling a nail-biter in recent years.

But the Techsters have just now emerged from a couple of nailbiting losses that promise to make them eager to right ship on Saturday.

This past Saturday, the Dawgs lost to Southern Miss in double overtime, 34-27, after leading the Golden Eagles for 56 minutes in regulation. Louisiana Tech held a 27-19 lead with a minute left, but USM scored late to force the OT.

Two weeks earlier, with an off-week sandwiched in between, the Bulldogs lost another heartbreaker, that time to re-uostart UAB, 23-22.

Thus, with their only league win being a 17-16 edging of Western Kentucky, the Dawgs, like the Owls, stand 1-and-2 in league play. LA Tech is 3-4 on the year with one other of their losses being another cliffhanger, a 17-16 defeat at South Carollina.

So these Tech guys ought to be in just one hell of a bad mood as they take to the Rice Stadium turf for Saturday’s 2:30 pm kickoff.

Last season lin Ruston, LA Tech quarterback Jeff Driskell, the University of Florida transfer, made mincemeat of the Rice pass defense. This season, the quarterback spot has been a bit more ‘iffy’ for head coach Skip Holtz.

Tech signal-caller J'Mar Smith's hasn’t been a paragon of consistency, and his completion percentage has dropped under 50 percent in past two games. Coach Holtz in his Monday press briefing said the 6-1, 230-pound redshirt sophomore from Meridian, Mississippi, hasn’t been playing with the same confidence he had at the beginning of the season.

On the season, the Bulldogs are averaging right at 28 points and 400 yards total offense per game. The pass/rush totals break down roughly 250, passing, to 150, rushing.

Quarterback Smith’s leading pass-catchers are Teddy Veal, with 5.6 receptions for a 67 yard per game average,, and Rhashid Bonnette, who comes in at 2.2 catches and 50 yards per game, with two scores. Veal is also one of the top punt returners in the nation,, averaging 10.3 yards per return including one touchdown.

The LA Tech rushing attack is led by Boston Scott (61 ypg) and Jarred Craft (12.7 attempts and 58 yards per game).

Defensively, Louisiana Tech is holding their opponents to an average of 27.6 ppg on 406.3 total yards per game (233.3 passing yds/g; 173.0 rushing yds/g). The Bulldogs have forced 11 turnovers on the season compared to the Owls’ five.. LA Tech is led defensively by linebacker Brandon Durman with 35 tackles on the year. The highest profile defender for the Dawgs is all-league defensive end Jaylon Ferguson, who’s notched 30 tackles thus far, with five TFLs and four sacks.

All in all, LA Tech stacks up as the type of team with the style of offense that typically has run circles around the Owls in recent years – with one major difference. LA Tech, and those other league teams which’ve run up 60 or 70 points on the Owls all had athletic quarterbacks with pinpoint passing skills.

That one element may be missing from this year’s Tech entry. If so, we might, just maybe, have something going on to distract us from the World Series game going down a little later in the day, a few light-rail stops down the street from the Rice campus. Maybe..