2018 Hawaii Bowl: Get To Know Louisiana Tech
La. Tech and Hawaii are former WAC rivals.
Who are the Bulldogs?
Hawaii takes on Louisiana Tech in the Hawaii Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 8:30 p.m. MT (sadly it was moved from Christmas Eve). So, to get to know the Bulldogs we chatted with Tanner Spearman of Underdog Dynasty to make everyone a smarter for this bowl game.
1. Explain to us here in the Mountain West how big of a rivalry this game is between Hawaii and Louisiana Tech when they were in the WAC?
I’ll be up front here and admit I didn’t start following Tech football until they joined Conference USA, so I don’t have first-hand experience with this. Based on what others have told me, I gather that Hawaii was Tech’s second-biggest rival in the WAC, behind only Fresno State. I can’t speak for the Hawaii side of things, but Tech fans grew frustrated as Hawaii was often a stumbling block for the Bulldogs.
Tech only defeated the Rainbow Warriors twice, and even when Tech won the WAC in 2011 with a 6-1 conference record, Hawaii was the one loss. I don’t know how Hawaii fans view La Tech, but I get the feeling that Tech fans would enjoy a win in this game more so than a typical bowl opponent.
2. Hawaii’s offense is one of the more explosive ones in the country (at least in the first half of the year) how does the Bulldogs defense plan to slow down this run-n-shoot attack?
Tech likes to create havoc. Sack the quarterback, intercept passes, that sort of thing. The Dawgs are top 15 in the nation in sacks. Tech’s corners, Amik Robertson and L’Jarius Sneed, are usually pretty solid on the outside. Robertson leads the team in pass breakups (12), while Sneed leads in picks (3). Senior defensive end Jaylon Ferguson has already broken the Tech single-season sack record that he set himself as a sophomore.
The Bulldogs have been solid at defending the pass, holding teams to under 200 yards per game. Ultimately, the defense will need to keep Hawaii behind the sticks and get extra possessions for a struggling Bulldog offense.
3. Defensive end Jaylon Ferguson is a beast, so what can Hawaii do to attempt to slow him down?
Well, it certainly won’t be easy. This will be Ferguson’s final collegiate game, and he needs two sacks to surpass Terrell Suggs for the NCAA career sacks record. He’ll be a man on a mission, so Hawaii has to frustrate him. Double teaming “Sack Daddy” seems like a no-brainer.
He has 15 sacks this year, and no one else on the team has more than three. If Hawaii can get the run game going, that could also help take the pass rush out of the equation.
4. The Hawaii defense is not very good, so what does Louisiana Tech do well on offense that will cause the Warriors issues?
To be honest, the Tech offense isn’t very good, either. With that said, there are a few players who have the potential to make plays. Handing the ball to Jaqwis Dancy has been something that works, but he’s been dinged up and hasn’t always gotten the touches he needs to have big games.
If they can get him the ball enough, he could have a positive impact. J’Mar Smith has left some to be desired at quarterback, but his receivers have made some great catches in traffic. In the end, Tech needs some guys to step up and make plays to have success, even against a lesser defense. They’ve gotten that in some games, but not all. They just need to play to their potential.
5. How will this game play out?
At this point, I’m not sure there’s an outcome that would surprise me. On the one hand, Tech is limping into bowl season having lost two straight and three of the last four. Tech’s lone win in that stretch was a 2-11 Rice team, and Tech’s last game was a home loss to a 3-win WKU squad. On the other hand, Tech had to play 10 straight games after an early bye in week three. Perhaps a few weeks of rest is all they needed?
The big thing for me is that Tech has limped into bowl season before, but Skip Holtz’s Bulldog teams have always come prepared to play in the postseason. A 4-0 bowl record where only one game was a one-possession game is nothing to sneeze at, but all four of those games were just a couple hours away. Tech now has to travel to the islands to play Hawaii in its home stadium.
I’ll say this. I don’t see Tech winning a shootout, as the offense hasn’t looked like it can keep up. If Tech’s defense can keep this one low scoring, that’s where the Bulldogs have a shot, especially if they can win the turnover battle. The Dawgs under Holtz have taken a lot of pride in winning bowl games, so whatever happens, I expect to see the Bulldogs play one of their better games this year.