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Monday, August 28, 2006

Louisiana Tech Preview

Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Enrollment: 11,710
Conference: Western Athletic Conference (WAC)
Stadium: Joe Aillet Stadium “The Joe” (Capacity: 30,600)
First Year of Football: 1901
All Time Record: 529-383-36

Head coach: Jack Bicknell
8th year at Louisiana Tech: Career record 40-42

•Bicknell’s reign at La Tech began in 1999 when he was hired as the 30th head coach in the school’s history. He replaced Gary Crowton who announced his decision to move to the Chicago Bears as offensive coordinator following the 1998 season.
•Bicknell played at Boston College and was the starting center when Doug Flutie threw the Hail Mary to defeat Miami in 1984.
•Bicknell’s father Jack Bicknell II, is the head coach for the Barcelona Dragons of the NFL Europe and is the former coach at Boston College.

Team Overview

Last Season: 7-4 (losses to Florida, Kansas, Nevada and Boise State). The Bulldogs were snubbed by the bowls despite ending the season with a win on the road against #23 ranked and Liberty Bowl bound Fresno State.

This Season: Louisiana Tech has increased its win totals each of the last four seasons. However, the scheduling gods do not favor the Bulldogs in their quest to continue this streak in 2006. La Tech has four of its first five games on the road against Nebraska, Texas A&M, Clemson and Boise State. The schedule eases up some after that, and Louisiana Tech could be an upper-tier WAC team when it all plays out. However, Bulldog fans should be ecstatic if the team finishes the season with a trip to a bowl game.

On Offense: The Bulldogs averaged 366 ypg and over 28 ppg in 2005. They return six starters on offense from that squad, but must replace quarterback Matt Kubik. Junior Zac Champion will be the starter, but has just eight pass attempts to his credit in five relief appearances. Although previously known for their “pass happy” approach, the Bulldogs displayed a balanced attack with a 55/45% run/pass split in 2005. When Tech looks to throw this year, Champion will have some solid targets, especially senior wideouts Eric Newman and Johnathan Holland. The always consistent Newman had 30 catches for 566 yds and 8 TDs a year ago. Holland is a former WAC sprint champion who can stretch the field and will certainly test the Nebraska secondary. Junior Freddie Franklin also returns and will likely see action at both receiver and running back for Bicknell’s club. The shifty Franklin and the steady Patrick Jackson combined for 815 rushing yards in 2005. Joining them in the backfield will be heralded recruits Willie Griffin (scholarship offers from Nebraska and Michigan) and Myke Compton. Along the offensive line, La Tech may start four new faces. A two-year starter at guard, senior Marcus Lindsey was being counted on to anchor this year’s line. Unfortunately he showed up at camp carrying over 380 pounds on his 6-7 frame and has been demoted to the second team. The lack of experience along the O-line could spell big trouble for the Bulldogs in Lincoln.

On Defense: A year ago the defense was La Tech’s strength as they finished 58th in scoring and 66th in total defense. Unfortunately, in 2006, the Bulldogs have the unenviable task of replacing nine starters on the defensive side of the ball. Tech utilizes a 3-4 defensive alignment and the biggest area of concern is this front seven. The Bulldogs must replace their top five interior linemen and three of their four starting linebackers. One player to watch for on the defensive line is nose guard Josh Muse. Muse maybe the team’s best NFL prospect and is a talented run-stopper who will challenge the middle of the Husker O-line. Junior LB Brannon Jackson is another of Tech’s most gifted defenders and joins safety Dez Abrams as the only returning starters on defense. Both could be all-conference contenders by the end of the season. Joining Abrams at the other safety spot will be Mark Dillard a converted RB who led the team in rushing a year ago. Dillard missed spring practice after being suspended following rape allegations, but has made a quick adjustment to the secondary since returning.

Special Teams: The Bulldogs will use Brad Oestriecher on kickoffs, while Danny Horwedel will handle extra points and field goals. As a junior Horwedel converted 18/26 field goals and he could contend for the Groza award this season. Punter Chris Keagle averaged just 37.4 yards/punt last season, but placed 17 of his punts inside the 20-yard line.

Random Notes

Series History: Nebraska won the only meeting between these two schools 56-27 in 1998. Tech QB Tim Rattay threw for 590 yards against the fourth ranked Huskers. Jerome Peterson and the Blackshirts propelled Troy Edwards into the 1st round of the NFL draft after giving up an incredible 405 yards receiving to the Bulldog wideout.

Hey, That Guy Looks Familiar: Former Nebraska defensive backs coach George Darlington will return to Lincoln as La Tech’s Defensive Coordinator. Darlington was hired as Tech’s secondary coach, but was promoted to the coordinator job prior to Fall camp. Darlington arrived at Louisiana Tech after spending three seasons at Marshall, where he served as recruiting coordinator and coached the outside linebackers, safeties and secondary in each of his three seasons. Darlington previously spent 30 years on the Nebraska sideline.

Deserving of a Post-Game Ovation: Louisiana Tech opened its arms last season to the Tulane football program following Hurricane Katrina. The Green Wave utilized Caruthers Dorm, which had been scheduled for demolition, as well as other La Tech campus locations allowing the 2005 Tulane season to go on.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either: Nebraska is 15-1 all-time against teams from the WAC. The Huskers’ lone loss came in the 1975 Fiesta Bowl to Arizona State (trust me they were in the WAC until 1978). In addition, Louisiana Tech is 4-19 all-time against current Big 12 members.

Six Degrees of Beano Cook: Should Nebraska fans worry? In 2005 Louisiana Tech beat Hawaii. Hawaii beat San Diego St. San Diego State beat BYU. BYU beat New Mexico. New Mexico beat Missouri. And Missouri beat…Nebraska.

For the Degenerate Gamblers: Latest Line: Nebraska -21. Louisiana Tech is just 7-17 ATS as an underdog over the last four seasons and that includes a 5-13 ATS mark as a road dog.