As we get ready for this weekend’s game with La Tech, we reached out to Bleed Tech Blue and were able to ask Ben Carlisle a couple of questions about Saturday’s matchup.
Question: La Tech was picked by most to win the West. After five games do you still think this team is the clear favorite, and why or why not?
Ben Carlisle: Louisiana Tech was picked as the favorite in the West division and five games into the season that would still be my pick to win the division. As for being the clear cut division favorite, I think UTSA will give Tech the best competition, and the Bulldogs and Roadrunners play in the final week of the regular season. Tech’s defense is vastly improved from a year ago, but the offense is taking time to get things clicking on all cylinders. Come late October and into November, I think you will begin to see the Bulldog offense really take off, and the Bulldogs become a complete team.
Q: Outside of the Mississippi State game, the La Tech defense has held opponents to just 19.8 points per game. What makes the La Tech defense so great?
BC: In the offseason Bulldog head coach Skip Holtz and defensive coordinator Blake Baker simplified things coverage wise. Mix that in with some talented young cornerbacks in Amik Robertson, Aaron Roberson, and L’Jarius Sneed, and the Bulldog defense has been solid. Jaylon Ferguson at defensive end is the best pass rusher in the league after collecting 14.5 sacks in 2016. For the most part, the secondary being solid has led to the defense keeping the ‘Dogs in games.
Q: La Tech has played in a couple of 1-point games already this year (one loss, one win). What’s something from those games you learned about this team that will help them the rest of the way?
BC: Tech is a young football team that only has 10 seniors in their top 52 players listed on the depth chart. The tight games early has allowed for this young team to grow up in a hurry. Sophomore quarterback J’Mar Smith brings a calming influence to the offense as he is wise beyond his years. Going forward, the team will continue to get better and better because of tight games against Western Kentucky and South Carolina.
Q: The Bulldogs have given up a decent amount of yards on the ground this year. I know UAB would love to find some success early running the football. Do you think that’s a weakness of the La Tech defense, or do you think they’ll be able to shutdown UAB’s rushing attack?
BC: If the Bulldogs are weak in one area defensively it would be against the run, which is surprising. The Bulldogs can go 10-deep across the defensive line with virtually no drop off outside of Ferguson. Mississippi State piled up 327 yards on the ground against the Bulldogs. That said, South Alabama had just 98 yards rushing Saturday with 47 of those coming on one play. Tech will need to control the quarterback run game in order to have success defensively. They can live with Spencer Brown getting his, but if it becomes a two-headed attack along with Erdely it, could be a long night.
Q: Boston Scott seems like a guy that does it all for La Tech – running, catching and kick returning. What makes him such a special player?
BC: Scott is small in stature but is extremely shifty, and when he gets into the open field he can make a guy miss and go the distance. He gets in the area of 12-15 touches per game and is always a threat to score when he touches it. Jarred Craft will do the work between the tackles, but you’ll see Scott lined up in the backfield and in the slot as a receiver. Skip Holtz does a nice job getting him the ball in space.
Q: What is your prediction for the game on Saturday?
BC: With it being UAB’s homecoming I expect the Blazers to come out with a lot of energy. Tech has some injuries — especially at the wide receiver spot — so that could play a key factor in the outcome. If Tech can withstand the initial punch, I think they will win the game after wearing the Blazers down over the course of four quarters. Tech has not allowed a point defensively in the fourth quarter in four-of-five games. The Blazers may score in the fourth Saturday, but ultimately I see the Bulldogs pulling away in the late third quarter/fourth quarter for a 41-20 victory.