, Port Arthur, Texas

September 7, 2013

Little LU takes on big ’Dogs today

Tom Halliburton
The Port Arthur News

— Whether or not they have a chance tonight, Lamar will arrive in Ruston today as a very well-informed college football team.

Before the Redbirds enter Louisiana Tech’s Joe Aillet Stadium for the 6 o’clock kickoff, they know their current events to a tee.

Their head coach, their press releases and the Southland Conference weekly update all have been quick to inform Lamar’s players that small school underdogs can knock off big school favorites.

“It happens every week,” LU boss Ray Woodard chirped at Monday’s press conference.

Ahh, but last Saturday was a bit extraordinary. The Southland Conference was one of six FCS conferences that had at least one of its teams pull an upset against an FBS team.

Let us check on the most noteworthy shockers. Eastern Washington became the third FCS team to knock off a ranked FBS team when it beat No. 25 Oregon State. North Dakota State beat defending Big 12 champion Kansas State. McNeese State surprised South Florida.

A near-capacity crowd of 30,000-plus is expected to Louisiana Tech’s home opener. The Bulldogs (0-1) of first-year head coach Skip Holtz are 28-point favorites against Woodard’s unheralded Lamar team (0-1), according to Las Vegas-based betting lines.

A win in this one clearly would constitute the most prestigious victory of Ray’s four-year tenure in Cardinal Country.

"I believe our team is up to that task. They have done a good job of taking what the coaching staff has said and applying it to their preparation. We have a lot of `want to' on this them, and I fully expect to see us play well this week," Woodard said.

The 49-year-old son of ESPN commentator and legendary coach Lou Holtz, Skip Holtz refuses to overlook Lamar this week but it would be fine with Woodard if Holtz’s players choose to do so.

“I don’t think it’s a game we can take lightly,” Holtz said. “I’m very impressed with Lamar’s quarterback (Caleb Berry). They don’t ask him to hold the ball long and he has a good quick release.”

Holtz never admitted it but Skip and his staff devoted more time focusing on his Bulldogs this week than their opponents. The Techsters finished a minus three in turnovers at last week’s 40-14 loss at North Carolina State. Pre-snap penalties caused Tech to face 1st and 15 in that game on four occasions.

“I don’t think we played very smart,” the Tech coach said. “I take ownership of that. It’s our responsibility to educate our players on mistakes that are going to cost us football games. The turnovers were the difference. Not only did we turn it over, but we weren’t as productive as we need to be on third down (2 of 10).”

Lamar would love to keep Louisiana Tech at that low-efficiency level this week but LU’s coach says he can expect a different looking Louisiana Tech tonight.

“I think you’ll see them much-improved,” Woodard said. “They lost over 30 players from last year’s senior class and they’re kinda putting the pieces of their puzzle together.”

Holtz starts two sophomores and a freshman in Tech’s five-man secondary (4-2-5). The Bulldogs confront a Lamar passer coming off a very hot night.

Berry threw for a career-high 256 yards, tying an old school record with six touchdown passes in the 75-0 slaughter of Panhandle State. Ironically, the previous LU record holder (Tommy Tomlin) threw for six scoring tosses in 1969 against Louisiana Tech.

But FCS schools (formerly Division I-AA) are not supposed to beat their big brothers in the FBS (bowl eligible teams). The Lamar players are well-schooled about current events, though. They know it happened last week at six different venues.