Bulldogs hoping to stop hard-luck skid at home vs. MTSU

SMOKE SHOW:  Louisiana Tech receiver Smoke Harris is one of the more explosive players in Conference USA. (Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech Athletics)

By MALCOLM BUTLER, Lincoln Parish Journal 

RUSTON — Two weeks. Two gut-wrenching overtime losses. 

It’s not something Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie wants his team to focus on. In fact, he wants them to learn from it and move forward. 

That was his message to his team this week as the Bulldogs prepare to host Middle Tennessee at 2 p.m. at Joe Aillet Stadium today. 

“The message is taking every day, day by day,” said Cumbie. “You can’t focus on last week or even later in this week, today. We need to focus on the present and the habits that we are trying to create on a daily basis that will allow us an opportunity to win that day. We wanted to maximize our meetings, our practices, and take it day by day. We are trying to create habits on a daily basis. We have made some progress with it. 

“Winning is very hard and it takes a lot of hard work on a daily basis. Our opponent and our record should not dictate our approach. If we allow that to dictate our frame of mind, then we are doing the wrong thing. We should show up with the intent and the effort to do the right thing every single day.” 

Tech (2-6) has dropped three straight games since defeating UTEP 41-31 on Oct. 8. All three losses were one-score games at some point in the fourth quarter. Yet, the Bulldogs weren’t able to make the game-winning plays down the stretch. 

However, Cumbie and Co. get another opportunity today when the Blue Raiders (4-4) come to the Joe. Middle Tennessee owns an impressive road win over Miami (45-31) this year and is trying to position itself for a bowl game. However, since the win over the Hurricanes, MT had dropped three straight contests before defeating UTEP 24-13 last weekend. 

“As a team as the season has gone on Middle Tennessee has gotten better and better,” said Cumbie. 

“Their quarterback, Chase Cunningham, is a sixth-year guy. He does a really nice job of taking care of the football. He does not turn the football over. They hit a lot of big plays (in a 45-31 win) against Miami; a lot of explosive plays. Jaylin Lane is one of the top receivers in our conference and they have been able to push the ball down the field to him. 

“They broke in four new starters on the offensive line and they have been able to move the football on the ground pretty well. They are explosive. I think they will try to throw the ball over our head against man coverage. We have to make sure coverage-wise that our eyes are where they need to be.” 

Cunningham has thrown for over 2,000 yards and 13 TDs while only throwing five interceptions in 300 pass attempts on the year. Lane has 653 yards receiving and three scores. 

The Tech defense must find a way to get more stops. The Bulldogs are allowing almost 40 points per game this year, some of that due to playing without a number of starters over the last month due to injury. However, Cumbie won’t allow that to be an excuse. 

Who will start at quarterback for the Bulldogs was up in the air during the week, although Cumbie made it clear that if Parker McNeil is healthy, he would be the Tech starter. Freshman Landry Lyddy got the start last week and performed admirably in the double overtime loss. 

Regardless of who the QB is, the Bulldogs will be facing a tough Blue Raiders front seven. 

“Defensively, their defensive front is very good,” said Cumbie. “They lead the conference in sacks. I think their run defense is very good. They have given up some yards through the air but I think they are trying to do some things schematically to lessen that. They are a group that plays very physical.” 

The contest can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network (92.1 FM in Shreveport) with the pregame show starting at 12:30 p.m.  Malcolm Butler, Teddy Allen and Jerry Byrd will provide a call of the game. It can also be heard on the LA Tech Athletics app.