RUSTON, La. -- The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs have five games remaining, and if they want to vie for a WAC Championship and/or become bowl eligible the offense will need to step up its game because the defense has been consistently great all year, minus a horrendous quarter here and there (see 4th quarter against Houston).
Currently the Bulldog defense ranks in the middle of the pack at 63 (out of 120) in the country. That may seem average, but you also have to consider what offenses theyʼve gone up against this season - teams like Houston which has the top ranked offense in the country, and Hawaii and Southern Miss who rank in the top 30.
A couple of reasons why theyʼve been so successful so far involve third downs and the red zone. Tech actually ranks 9th in the nation in giving up 3rd down conversions at just 29%. Thatʼs better than teams like Oklahoma, Stanford, LSU, and Arkansas. And even though theyʼve allowed opponents to score on every conversion in the red zone, they rank 14th best in attempts allowed in the red zone. Thatʼs also better than Stanford and Oklahoma. So at crucial moments in the game, the GATA (Get After Their... well, you get the point) defense is standing tall in not allowing the opposition to get in favorable scoring position and giving the ball back to the offense.
The part of the defense that has been really standing tall is the front seven which could go down as one of the best in Tech history. With an experienced linebacking corps of Adrien Cole, Solomon Randle, Dusty Rust, Jay Dudley, and Rufus Porter. Combine that with a talented 2-deep defensive line anchored by Matt Broha and IK Enemkpali who are animals on the ends. More specifically, their ability to defend the run has been tremendous so far this year, be it the zone-read, spread option, or halfback dive.
Techʼs rush defense currently ranks as the 24th best in the country giving up a mere 114 yards per game. And thatʼs going up against the likes of Utah State, Southern Miss, and Mississippi State who all rank in the top 40 in rushing offense. A more amazing stat is that Tech has held every one of their opponents to below their rushing average, and not just by a few yards; on average, theyʼve held their opponents to 49 yards below their rushing average. This strength of the Dogs will be critical in upcoming games against WAC foes Nevada with the tenth ranked rushing offense and Fresno State and Robbie Rouse who ran all over Tech last year in Ruston.
Now, the part of the defense that has been less than stellar this season is the pass defense which ranks as one of the worst in the country at 106. That seems pretty awful, and it is, but here is where you really must consider the opposing teams and their quarterbacks, who have for the most part, been very experienced seniors. Of the seven teams Tech has faced, four are ranked in the top 35 in pass offenses. In fact Tech has, on average, the second most pass attempts per game thrown against them.
Despite the ranking, this group of cornerbacks and safeties are better than they were last year, and are steadily improving. With so many balls thrown their way, they are still averaging only a 55% completion rate which ranks as 29th best in the country. Theyʼre also only allowing 6.6 yards per attempt which ranks as 35th best in the country. Theyʼll need to continue their success because the remaining schedule all have above average passing games.
The last time we saw this GATA defense playing this well was back in 2008 which resulted in an invitation and ultimate victory in the Independence Bowl against Northern Illinois. Not only is a bowl berth well within their grasps, but so is another preseason goal of theirs...a WAC Championship.