Despite a 3-0 record with a win over Illinois, Louisiana Tech is not ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 this week.
“They probably should be,” Virginia coach Mike London said.
They might be soon if the Cavaliers can’t quickly find some answers on defense.
It didn’t take long for Louisiana Tech to get the Hoos’ attention in their film study this week. The Bulldogs, who are looking to win four straight for the first time since 1975, are No. 3 in the country in scoring offense at 54.7 points per game, No. 22 in rushing yards, and No. 22 in passing yards. To go on the road and beat Illinois 52-24 made a statement that the defending WAC champs are legitimate BCS busters. No other team in the country has managed to score 50 or more points in every game this season. Only Baylor and Florida State join the Bulldogs in having scored at least 45 points in every game so far.
“I tell you, they put up a lot of points on the board,” London said. “When you look at their possessions sometimes you see three or four, and you think, man, they had to punt the ball after having three downs. But their possessions are three, four plays and it's a touchdown, or three, four plays and it's a field goal or they put points on the board.”
London said Louisiana Tech runs a West Coast style of offense and likes to get use its receivers in space. The Bulldogs also feature their running backs in the passing game with screens. It’s a balanced offense that ranks among the top 25 in the nation in both rushing and passing. London also said his defense will have to be prepared for the hurry-up offense, and that the Bulldogs sometimes don’t let opponents sub or get a nickel package on the field.
“They keep you off-balance that way,” London said. “So we're going to have to play good coverage. The quarterback does a good job of throwing to spots, not necessarily where the guy is.
“This week we've been dealing with coverages from all types,” London said. “From zone, to pressures, to three-man rushes to all different kind of things. You try to change the look that the quarterback sees. But it is a challenge of that style of offense that presents itself. They spread the ball around, and then they have very, very good skilled people.”
Virginia has been outscored 83-27 in the past two losses to Georgia Tech and No. 17 TCU, both road games. Virginia has struggled to stop the run and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Hoos are No. 116 in the country in tackles for loss and No. 110 in sacks. Louisiana Tech currently ranks 25th in the nation in sacks allowed. Quarterback Colby Cameron has only been sacked three times this year as Tech is averaging only one sack allowed per game.
Louisiana Tech will also test UVa's red zone defense, as the Bulldogs have come away with points in all 17 trips inside the 20.
Home-field advantage might not help much, either. The Bulldogs currently have a seven-game road winning streak, the longest such streak for the program since winning 11 straight road games from 1973-75.
“We have been a pretty good road team,” said Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes. “We have made ourselves a good road team I think in the last year, year and a half. Our guys enjoy going on the road and we look forward to the challenge and seeing something new and a new place and all that.
“Our players do not really get intimidated, so that is good,” he said. “They see it more as a challenge and they are excited about playing, so I think that is a positive.”
Cameron said the Bulldogs are capable of even more offensively.
“I think right now we can only stop ourselves,” said Cameron. “I think we have made a lot of mental mistakes and I think that is what has been keeping us from excelling on the field. I believe that our talent can get us anywhere we really want to be. Our O-line has done a great job, our running backs have done a great job, and the receivers. I think if we just do not have any mental errors we will be all right.”