Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Poinsettia Bowl Keys
By Kevin Gemmell
You saw the preview and prediction, now here are three keys for TCU and Louisiana Tech in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl:
1. Move on: No doubt, the Horned Frogs have to be a little disappointed after failing to reach a BCS bowl game after going in back-to-back years. But head coach Gary Patterson said that's in the past and they have moved beyond it. We know Louisiana Tech wants to be there. Every year there is at least one team that feels like it is playing below its station in life. If TCU is anything but 100 percent ready to go, the Bulldogs will jump all over them.
2. Something special: Greg McCoy, the Mountain West Conference's special teams player of the year, is a difference maker in the return game -- averaging 31.6 yards per return, good for fourth in the nation. He has two kickoff returns for touchdowns of 94 and 99 yards. TCU's vaunted defense creates a lot of punts, which means McCoy should have a chance to make an impact on this game -- be it in the field position battle or potentially breaking a touchdown.
3. Share the love: TCU has three stellar running backs in Ed Wesley, Waymon James and Matthew Tucker. Each brings their own skill set to the position and each will rotate throughout the game liberally, assuring that the Horned Frogs always have a fresh pair of legs running the ball. They'll run some option and misdirection with multiple-back formations. Once they get into a running rhythm, that will open things up for quarterback Casey Pachall to start looking downfield and make good use of play-action.
Louisiana Tech (8-4)
1. No home? No problem: Louisiana Tech has a hike from its Ruston campus to Qualcomm Stadium -- (temporarily renamed Snapdragon Stadium by the opportunistic folks at Qualcomm to promote their new processors) -- 1,609 miles to be exact. So what? The Bulldogs have won five straight on the road by a combined score of 140-76. In fact, it will have been almost three months since Louisiana Tech dropped a game away from home. The last road loss was on Sept. 24, a 26-20 defeat at the hands of Mississippi State in overtime.
2. Point of attack, and beyond: One of Louisiana Tech's advantages is its defensive line -- where 340-pound nose tackle Justin Ellis eats up space. Just as TCU rotates backs, look for a steady rotation of defensive linemen from the Bulldogs. They are also one of the better teams in the country at getting after the quarterback, ranking 17th nationally with better than 2.5 sacks per game. Christian Lacey and Matt Broha are outstanding defensive ends who could create havoc in the TCU backfield.
3. Good decisions: Louisiana Tech hasn't dropped a game since Colby Cameron got the starting gig. He can make all of the throws downfield to a solid group of receivers -- Quinton Patton (74 catches, 1,135 yards, 10 touchdowns) being his primary guy. But TCU hasn't been one of the best defenses in the nation for half a decade for nothing. It knows how to create pressure, disguise its coverages and blitz packages and keep quarterbacks guessing with its 4-2-5 formation. Cameron is a very good athlete, but his mental skills will be put to the test.