Louisiana Tech, or more commonly called La Tech, is coming off a 2008 season which it improved from it's prior year record from 5-7 to 8-5 including an Independence Bowl win over Northern Illinois under then 2nd Year Head Coach Derek Dooley. La Tech started its season off last year at home by upsetting Mississippi State 22-14, so playing and beating an SEC team is something this squad has already attained and looking to repeat as it travels down to Auburn this Weekend for the Sept. 5th season opener. Let's take a closer look at La Tech's Offense, Defense and Special Teams:
This team returns 9 starters on offense that averaged 187.08 yards per game rushing (27th Nationally), 156.00 yards per game passing (102nd Nationally) and scored 24.62 points per game (72nd Nationally). Of the returning starters, they including its entire offensive line, quarterback (Ross Jenkins), All-WAC Running Back (Daniel Porter) and leading Wide Receiver (Phillip Livas), so this offense looks to be better than it was last year. The strength of their offense will be the running game. RB Daniel Porter was the leader of this offensive last season while he piled up over 1,100 yards while the passing game leaves a lot to be desired for, but quarterback Ross Johnson started the last eight games of the season leading them to a 6-2 record during that stretch while averaging 105 yards per game passing with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions Johnson appears to be a game manager of the offense and tries to avoid making the big mistake that cost his team the game. I look for this offense to try and run the ball at the heart of our defense and take it shots down the field when there is a need to.
This team returns 7 starters to a defense that gave up 103.85 yards per game rushing (13th Nationally), 272.69 yards per game passing (113th Nationally) and allowed 23.69 points per game (52nd Nationally) last season. La Tech is returning it's entire front four on the defensive line that figures to be the strength of this unit while the Linebacking corps only returns one starter in Brian White and secondary returns two starting safeties including All-WAC player Antonio Baker. This defense plays to shut down the run but struggles to stop the pass and with all the new faces in the secondary at the corners position and two line backers, it would appear that passing the ball against them will come with a lot more ease than running it. I look for La Teach to come out and try to stuff Auburn's Running game and try and put pressure on Chris Todd and hope that they can either get to him or force him to make bad throws.
La Tech had some major losses on special teams from last season which include losing their starting punter, starting place kicker and their special teams coach. They do have one of the deadliest kick returners in the game in Phillip Livas who ranked 25th in the nation in Kickoff Returns and 7th in the nation in Punt Returns while returning 1 kickoff and 2 punts for touchdowns last season. I look for La Tech to lean on their return game to setup short fields for them while hoping to avoid the meltdown of a blocked kick in punting and placekicking situations.
Keys to the Game for Auburn
- Eliminate Turnovers- Last season Mississippi State lost to La Tech because they turned over the ball 5 times. If Auburn is to not stumble, they will have to keep the turnovers to a minimum.
- Vertical Passing Game- This La Tech defense is very vulnerable against the pass and Auburn needs to show that it has the ability to throw the ball down the field with success.
- Stop the Run- La Tech has an offense that is solely reliant on the run. If Auburn struggles in slowing down Daniel Porter, it will make for a very long night for Auburn defenders.
- Special Teams- Auburn needs to contain Phillip Livas and keep him from flipping the field and scoring.
Notes of Interest
- Former Auburn player and now current La Tech quarterback backup Steven Ensminger could see the field in a position other than quarterback. He is currently listed as the backup punter and was vying for the starting position in spring practice.
- LB Brian White, the lone returning starter at the linebacker position, suffered a concussion during fall camp that will limit the amount of time he plays this weekend, if he plays at all.
Stay tuned for my predictions along with Michael McCoy & Jay Skipworth.
Also, please drop us a line in the comment section and tell us what you think about the upcoming La Tech game.