Bulldogs take aim at a 3-1 start at home tonight against UNT

BOUND FOR SIX:  Keith Willis Jr. scored on runs of 68 and 65 yards while posting 188 rushing yards for Louisiana Tech in last week’s win over Northwestern State. (Photo by JOSH MCDANIEL, Louisiana Tech Athletics)

By MALCOLM BUTLER, Lincoln Parish Journal 

RUSTON — Louisiana Tech looks to remain perfect at home when the Bulldogs host winless North Texas today at 6 p.m. at Joe Aillet Stadium as part of the Red Out. 

Tech (2-1) plays for the third time in four weekends at home, coming off a 51-21 win over Northwestern State last Saturday. 

North Texas (0-2), which left Conference USA in the offseason to move over to the American Athletic Conference,  has lost 58-21 to Cal and 46-39 at FIU. 

A Tech win tonight matches the win total for the Bulldogs in each of the past two seasons, both three-win campaigns. 

The Bulldogs have two non-conference games remaining (tonight, and at Nebraska next Saturday) before resuming Conference USA action in early October at UTEP. 

“The opportunity to play an opponent like North Texas at home is exciting, and we have to try and continue to build on the momentum that we had last week,” said second-year head coach Sonny Cumbie, whose team pushed away at the end of the first half and took control a week ago. “We want to be a consistent team and that is what we are striving for is improvement and consistency. 

“We are not trying to keep our eyes on the win-loss record or the future or who we are playing and what is coming up next. It is about our effort and the ability to get better. Our focus has been to improve every single day.” 

The Bulldogs have shown the ability to pass to win (over 300 yards vs. FIU) and the ability to run the football to win (over 300 yards vs. Northwestern State). And North Texas (0-2) has struggled at times to stop both in losses to Cal and FIU. 

First-year Mean Green head coach Eric Morris has been impressed with what he has seen on film from Tech, especially a Bulldog defense that has allowed its fewest total yards through the first three games in more than two decades. The Bulldogs also rank 10th nationally in passes defended through three games. 

“I think they are a lot better on defense this year as opposed to last year,” said Morris. “I am a history guy. And looking at this in the course of history, we are 1-4 against them in the last five games. This is a team that has every bit of our attention. I have played against their defensive coordinator (Scott Power) before when he was at Stephen F. Austin, and he does a phenomenal job. I think they have some really good players on the back end. 

“On the offensive end they have been able to establish a running game and be pretty efficient. I think they are explosive at wide out. They have experience on the offensive line. Anytime you go to Ruston … it’s always been a challenging place to play. We will have our hands full.” 

The Bulldogs will try to contain two North Texas quarterbacks in former ULM starter Chandler Rogers and Stone Earle, who have both seen significant playing time in both games this year. Earle has thrown four interceptions in just 39 pass attempts while Rogers is more of a duel threat QB. 

“It is a challenge,” said Cumbie. “They are both good players. They have the ability to extend plays, probably Chandler a little bit more than Stone. We have to have an idea of what they are trying to do in their quarterback run game. That element of it will be there. With Stone it will be more of a scramble mode. 

“They have some really talented receivers and their running backs had some success against us last year. Their receivers are very fast so our corners and secondary will have our hands full. Whoever they play at quarterback we will have a good plan for it and will be prepared for both.” 

The contest can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network on 107.5 FM and the LA Tech Athletics app with Malcolm Butler (pxp), Teddy Allen (analyst) and Jerry Byrd (sideline) providing the call of the game.  It will also be on ESPN+. 

Tech leads the all-time series against North Texas 13-8, including a 6-3 mark in Ruston. However, the Mean Green won 47-27 in Denton in last season’s meeting.