Editor's Note: Yea, I am just going to scrap the whole position-a-week idea of previewing them. I hope to still dish out the same general amount of content, just whenever I have time, as opposed to forcing it into a concrete-sequential-and-ordered week-by-week basis. The goal is to finish LTU Week by Monday, so we can get started on a really exciting week; South Florida Week.
Louisiana Tech's football program is not the most tradition-filled of programs. It was founded 83 years ago in 1925, continuing on for more than 60 years playing a combination of Division II and Division 1-AA, mostly in the Southland Conference. Their proudest moment came in 1973, when they won the D-II Championship. However, the Southland Conference's football element went kaputz in 1987, forcing the Bulldogs to play a year as a 1-AA independent. They then made the all-important jump up to D-1A, spending 4 years as an independent before finally latching onto the Big West Conference. Y'know, the baseball-heavy conference. Well, when most of the league quit their football programs, leaving only Louisiana Tech, Northern Illinois, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State to find D-1A conferences of their own. Of course, considering that none of them are even remotely near the western portion of the Continental 48, being in the Big West in the first place didn't make much sense. The Bulldogs were again thrown to the depths of being a D-1A independent all the way until 2001, when they joined the western-heavy WAC, standing for Western Athletic Conference. Of course, LTU isn't even close to any of the schools in the WAC either, but traveling some 4,000 miles to play at Hawaii is better than not having a conference.
Since they joined the WAC, they haven't had a whole lot of success. However, they did manage to make it to the Humanitarian Bowl their first year as a member of the WAC, finishing the year 7-5 even after their shellacking at the hands of Clemson in the Bowl game. The next couple of years weren't as rosy, however, as they went 4-8 in 2002, 5-7 in 03 and an even 6-6 in 04. This one-win-a-year improvement wasn't dramatic, but it did seal Tech's inclusion in the WAC. The following season, despite finishing the regular season 7-4 (including a 14-34 loss to Kansas) they were not invited to a bowl game, and were Bowl-less in December. That ended the improvement, as they have slummed to 3-10 and 5-7 the past two years.
However, despite their pretty poor records the past two seasons, the Bulldogs seem to be on the upswing. Kind of a one-step-back-two-step-forward kinda thing. Their Head Coach, Derek Dooley, is entering his second season after being hired away from Saban's staff at Miami Dolphins, whom he followed with Saban from LSU. He is also the son of famed Georgia Coach Vince Dooley, so he has the genes going for him as well. So, with a new coach and optimism running rampant through Ruston, Louisiana, they are calling for new season ticket holders:
The Bark of a New Generation, eh?
Of course, no one is expecting immediate results or an upset in Lawrence, or at least no one should. No, Derek Dooley and LaTech are still in the Honeymoon phase of their relationship, yet to have come to a crossroads of expectation and reality. In Dooley's only season at the helm, last year, the Bulldogs were able to take care of the patsies that they had reason to, and weren't so valiant as underdogs. They beat 1-AA Central Arkansas along with 4 1-A opponents who managed to combine for all of 12 wins, while losing to LSU by 48 and to Nevada (23-0 New Mexico Bowl loser Nevada) by 39. In fact, the high point of their season was their double OT, one-point loss to the eventual 12-1 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at home. But that was the second week of the season, and it was all downhill from there.
This upcoming season they will open the year on national television twice, first against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville, and then in Lawrence, where the game will be broadcast nationally on FSN. Who will quarterback the Bulldogs in those two nationall televised games is yet to be determined, however. After two-year starter Zac Champion graduates, they wil have to make a decision on who to replace him. Champion led the 86th best offense in the nation last year, yards-wise, while the defense ranked ranked 91st. So, they were about equal on both sides of the ball, with the slightest of advantages going to the offense. However, with Champion on the outs, who knows which side will be the strength this upcoming season.
Going back in the history books, they have two wildly famous alumni that played on the gridiron. I bet everone knows the obvious, Terry Bradshaw, but does anybody know who else went to LaTech and went on to star in the NFL. If you do know, make sure and drop it in the comments section. But going back to Bradshaw, not surprisingly he was the only LaTech player ever to adorn the cover of a Sports Illustrated.
So, here is a quick three-sentence summary: LaTech started out as a 1-AA program, boucning around from conference-to-conference and picking up an all-everything QB in Terry Bradshaw in the late 60s. They won a National Title in 1973, and eventually moved to 1-A in the late 80's, and after bouncing around for a little more than a decade finally found a home in the WAC, despite their lack of geographical westernness. They have been a .500ish program since entering the WAC in 2000, although they had struggled recently before brining in a new coach prior to last season, Derek Dooley, who is building "the New Generation of Bark", or something-or-rather.
Ready for the game?
Editor's Note x 2: Offense will be up tomorrow, Defense Sunday, Summary Sunday night. Starting next week, with USF Week, there will be more in-depth than just Offense and Defense, but while we are catching up we are sticking with that for right now.