FACTS & STATS: Site: M.M. Roberts Stadium (36,000) — Hattiesburg,
Mississippi. Television: American Sports Network. Home Record: La Tech 2-1,
USM 2-1. Away Record: La Tech 2-2, USM 1-3. Neutral Record: La Tech 0-0, USM
0-0. Conference Record: La Tech 3-0, USM 1-2. Series Record: Southern Miss
GAME NOTES: The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will attempt to keep pace atop the
Conference USA West Division standings on Saturday afternoon when they travel
to Hattiesburg to take on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at M.M. Roberts
Louisiana Tech is a modest 4-3 overall this season, but at 3-0 in league play,
it is a game and a half ahead of Rice and Texas-El Paso (1-1) for first place
in the West. The Bulldogs have picked up back-to-back home wins over UTEP
(55-3) and Texas-San Antonio (27-20).
USM is fresh off its first C-USA win of the season with a 30-20 road victory
over North Texas last weekend. The triumph snapped a two-game losing streak
for the Eagles, who are 3-4 overall and 1-2 in league play.
The Golden Eagles have a firm handle on the all-time series with Louisiana
Tech, 31-14, although the Bulldogs won last season’s matchup in Ruston, 36-13.
Although Louisiana Tech’s total offense has been middle of the road (370.1
ppg), it has still been efficient in putting up 33.1 ppg thanks to scoring on
88 percent of its red-zone drives.
The focal point of the offense is in the backfield, as Kenneth Dixon in the
midst of a strong season with 132 carries for 640 yards and nine touchdowns
while also adding a pair of touchdowns receiving.
Cody Sokol has been shaky under center, completing less than 58 percent of his
passes with eight interceptions, but he’s also thrown for 222.1 ypg while
accounting for 15 touchdowns.
Sokol’s top targets in the passing game are Trent Taylor (27 receptions, 357
yards, two TDs) and Sterling Griffin (26 receptions, 361 yards, two TDs), who
have kept up step-for-step with one another with nearly identical numbers.
The Bulldogs’ solid defense has been good enough to support the offense. The
unit allows 26.7 ppg and 351.1 ypg while holding opponents to 35 percent on
Kentrell Brice (43 tackles, INT, two FF) and Xavier Woods (32 tackles, four
INTs, FF) are the defensive standouts. The unit has 13 sacks, but no one has
more than Deldrick Canty’s 2.0.
USM’s offense has not been as opportunistic as Louisiana Tech’s. Despite
averaging more yards per game than its opponent (379.4 ypg), it has only
scored 20.4 ppg, although last week’s 506-yard, 30-point performance in a win
over North Texas was a step in the right direction.
Nick Mullens has racked up plenty of passing yards (272.7 ypg) but completes
less than 60 percent of his passes and has a modest touchdown (10) to
interception (eight) ratio.
Casey Martin is Mullen’s most trusted receiver with 37 catches, although they
have only resulted in 309 yards and one touchdown. Michael Thomas in the down-
field option with 24 receptions for 370 yards and four scores.
Neither Ito Smith (72 carries, 281 yards) nor George Payne (70 carries, 250
yards) have been very effective in the backfield, but at least Payne has
cashed in with five touchdowns.
The Golden Eagles’ struggling offense has done the defense no favors, as the
unit yields 34.1 ppg and 474.0 ypg.
Dasman McCullm has been a big-time playmaker for the underperforming unit with
33 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a
blocked kick. Jomez Applewhite, Picasso Nelson, and Kalan Reed have two
interceptions apiece, and Brian Anderson has tallied a team-best 54 tackles.
Louisiana Tech already has two road wins under its belt this season, and
against an inconsistent USM squad, the Bulldogs will likely be able to
overcome a hostile road environment once again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 31, Southern Miss 21