By MALCOLM BUTLER, Lincoln Parish Journal
MOBILE, Ala. – Louisiana Tech first-year football coach Sonny Cumbie knows tonight’s contest against South Alabama is another opportunity for his Bulldogs to get better as Conference USA competition nears.
And it’s yet another game against a strong opponent.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at the sparkling Hancock Whitney Stadium.
Tech (1-2) dropped a 48-20 decision at No. 5 Clemson last weekend in a game that saw the Bulldogs trail 13-6 at half and by just two touchdowns with nine minutes to play in the game. The Bulldogs have also lost at Missouri, but blasted FCS Stephen F. Austin in Ruston a week later. Now they’ll face a “Group of 5” FBS program.
South Alabama (2-1) lost a heartbreaker at UCLA 32-31 on a field goal by the Bruins on the last play of the game.
Cumbie admits he wants to see what team shows up for Tech, who is a two touchdown-underdog against the Jaguars.
“They are a really good football team,” said Cumbie. “This will be a huge challenge for us to see if we use last week as a barometer of let’s get better or did we sit back and rest on our laurels. Regardless of the opponent, the goal every week is to get better. How much did the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs improve and how much better do we get better?”
Offensively, the Bulldogs have scored points this year regardless of who they have played. Tech quarterback Parker McNeil has shown the ability through three games to make big plays down the field to a talented corps of Bulldog receivers.
McNeil has thrown for 650 yards and six scores in just nine quarters this year, but will once again face a tough test against a solid South Alabama defensive unit.
“They are a defense that plays really hard,” said Cumbie. “They are very very good up front. Schematically they change it up from 3 to 4 down lineman. They don’t overload you with numbers, but you don’t have a great sense of where they are coming from.
“They will pop a backer. They will bring somebody off the edge. They’ll bring a corner. From a coverage standpoint they do a nice job of varying their coverages. I think they play really hard. I think they play physical. And we are going to have to match that.”
The Bulldogs must find a way to run the football. Tech rushed for 300 yards in its win over Stephen F. Austin but has totaled only 14 rushing yards combined in losses to Clemson and Missouri.
South Alabama boasts a talented passer in its own right in quarterback Carter Bradley, who has thrown for 851 yards and seven scores. The Jaguars are averaging just over 300 yards per game through the air and another 160-plus yards per game on the ground.
“Their quarterback is playing like an experienced quarterback,” said Cumbie. “Major Applewhite, their offensive coordinator, does a really nice job, and I think they have been a balanced offense.”
Tech leads the all-time series 2-0 including a 30-26 win in Mobile in 2018.
The contest can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network on 92.1 KSYR FM, along with 104.1 FM and 1320 AM, with Malcolm Butler and Teddy Allen providing a call of the action. The pregame show starts at 4:30 p.m. The contest will also be on ESPN+.
Photo courtesy Louisiana Tech Athletics