Giddy for Lyddy? Tap the brakes

Fair doesn’t figure into life a lot of the time, and you sure can’t figure fair into football.

So when Louisiana Tech’s season began a slow spiral this fall — the Bulldogs were 3-9 last year and 2-6 now, a meager 5-15 in their last 20 games — it stood to reason that the more vocal parts of the fan base figured it was Lyddy Time.

“Free Lyddy!”

Lyddy is Landry Lyddy, a true freshman quarterback for the Bulldogs who won’t be 19 until next Sunday. Last year in more carefree times, the 6-0, almost-190-pounder was named Louisiana Mr. Football and the Gatorade Louisiana Football Player of the Year for what he and his teammates did on an 11-2 state semifinalist Calvary Baptist team.

So a couple weeks ago in Aillet Stadium, it hardly seemed fair that, when the two QBs in front of him left the game with injuries, Lyddy was called on with 43 seconds left and Tech down by 8 on the Rice 19.

Up until that point in his college career, he was exactly two passes old, both completions in a September blowout of SFA.

This was a different ballgame, both in reality and metaphorically. And what did he do? Apparently with no heartbeat, he trotted onto the field, tapping this player and that one on the helmet, then immediately took the snap and threw a touchdown pass. Then he completed a two-point conversion. Both great catches to Cyrus Allen and Tre Harris, but both thrown under pressure and where no one but the receiver had a chance at the ball.

Tie game and overtime.

“Cool as a cucumber,” starting center Joshua Mote said.

So the guy threw another TD in overtime, and when his pass for the winning two-point conversion try was thrown where only Superman could have caught it — could even Superman have gotten a foot down in bounds? — and Rice won 42-41, it didn’t much matter. Tech was 2-5 but a semi-star seemed to have been born.

Last week in Miami, Lyddy pretty much had to start since backup Matthew Downing was lost for the season against Rice and starter Parker McNeil, the LSWA Offensive Player of the Week just two weeks earlier in a four-touchdown-passes 41-31 win over UTEP, was dressed out but nursing sore ribs. A freshman can play in four games and still redshirt so … this was house money for Lyddy and head coach Sonny Cumbie.

Lyddy was 28-of-40 for 256 yards, rushed for a short TD and didn’t throw a touchdown or interception. Tech lost in double OT this time, 42-34. Two of Lyddy’s final two passes, including the game-ender, were high and away. If they were baseball pitches, each would have been easy-call ball fours.

Understandable. It’s a hard position to play. And now, maybe he won’t have to — although he could play one more game and still redshirt. What any clear-thinking football fan would hope for is that he has to serve only as an emergency backup, play a lot in the season’s final game at home against UAB Nov. 26 — unless Tech wins its final four November games to become bowl eligible.

Lyddy was fine against FIU in his first start. Extended some plays, including a big one that led to a completion and a first down in the second overtime. Gave his team a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Didn’t throw an interception although … he started the game 10-of-10 and would have been “11-of-11” had the FIU linebacker between the hashes not dropped what would have been a pick six. After that, Tech didn’t throw to the middle of the field.

He did good. We can’t ask him how he thought he did because Bulldog freshmen can’t speak with the media, but if you watched the game, you were encouraged for him.

But right now, Lyddy is not the answer. He’s going to get the chance to be part of the answer, for sure. But now, he’s not even part of the real question.

The question is whether or not a Bulldog can make a play with the game on the line. When you get in a 5-15 slump, when so many of those 15 losses and 12 straight on the road are down-to-the-last-possession games, one guy can make a difference. On one play.

Tech dropped three should-have-been interceptions in Miami. Made three special team snafus, the biggest being an uncovered pooch kick that led directly to a Panther touchdown.

Lyddy wasn’t on the field for any of that.

And while he’s on the field for running plays, neither he nor any other Tech QB run blocks or is a running back in a run game that has been statistically one of the NCAA’s least productive. Tech ran it much better in Miami, but with two minutes left and FIU with no timeouts, when one more first down would have iced the game in regulation, the Dogs couldn’t grind one out so …

Punt. Drive. Game-typing field goal with :24 left. Overtime. Loss.

“We’ve been losing, and people just want to see us win, so I understand,” said wide receiver Tahj Magee, who threw for 50 touchdowns at Franklinton High, rushed for 37 more and knows how demanding the position is. “People think this guy or that guy should play (QB) and really, it just comes down to everyone doing their job. We can win with anyone, but at the end of the day, Parker’s the starter. But whoever is playing, if the quarterback performs well, it’s because everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do.”

“Landry’s a great option,” said starting right tackle Carson Bruno, himself just two autumns removed from high school football. “But it’s Parker’s senior year and he’s got these few games left and Landry’s got a redshirt year to play with. Whoever’s back there, we’ve (as an offensive line) got to do what we’re supposed to do.”

“The advantage of him redshirting at this point far outweighs him coming in, even if he were to kill it the rest of the year,” Mote said. “He’s gonna be a great player. He came in (against Rice) and didn’t flinch, and last week he put us in a position to win. He’s learning a lot from Parker; that’s what’s gonna be better for his career.

“In ’19, I played a lot but didn’t start,” he said. “I got to learn a lot from Ethan Reed and Drew Kirkpatrick and Kody (Russey) and those guys, got to watch them and have them coach me up instead of me just being thrown out there. In that way, I can relate to what Landry’s going through right now. I learned a ton; it did me so much good to get that experience and learn. Seems like Landry’s going good too and learning a lot. Hey, it’s one block here, one block there, or one play here, one more play there; the reason we’re not winning isn’t because of one position.”

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