College football: La. Tech opens conference play at WKU Thursday

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RUSTON — A short week looms large for Louisiana Tech as the Bulldogs open conference play in the national spotlight Thursday at WKU with a 7 p.m. CT kickoff set for Fox Sports 1 (FS1) in at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Rob Stone (play-by-play), Dave Wannstedt (analyst), Kirk Morrison (analyst) and Petros Papadakis (sideline) will call the action for FS1 in college football’s only game scheduled for Thursday. The game will also be carried on the LA Tech Sports Network with Dave Nitz (play-by-play), Teddy Allen (color) and Malcolm Butler (sideline) on the call.

The two teams were selected to win their respective divisions in Conference USA and both programs are receiving votes entering Thursday’s game, albeit in different polls. The Amway Coaches Poll has one vote going to the Bulldogs while WKU is receiving three votes in the Associated Press Poll.

As easy as it is to look at the talent level of the 2015 teams, it is hard not to look back and see the effect the 2014 meeting of these two teams will have on the build up to Thursday’s game. Last year, a Hilltopper team that was ranked in the top five nationally in passing offense, scoring offense and total offense visited Ruston and left with a 59-10 defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs.

“A lot of people have talked about the game a year ago, but those were the 2014 teams and not the 2015 teams,” Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz said Monday about Thursday’s game. “I think they are much improved. I think Coach [Jeff] Brohm has done a great job with his team. They return nine starters on their defense. They replaced the two that left with two transfers from UAB who may be two of their better players with the defensive lineman and linebacker. I think the linebacker led them in tackles last week against Vanderbilt. They have a very, very talented football team and they are very experienced.”

WKU’s visit to Ruston last year not only marked their worst conference loss in program history but it also marked the last time the Hilltoppers lost a game. That winning streak, which tallied five straight to end the 2014 season, includes dramatic wins over Marshall and Central Michigan last season and win over Vanderbilt.

“We’ve got to take it and enjoy it tonight, but we’ve got a team coming … into Bowling Green that whooped us last year and embarrassed us,” WKU sixth-year senior quarterback Brandon Doughty said Thursday after WKU’s 14-12 win over the Commodores.

The Hilltoppers have made it clear that they are taking Louisiana Tech seriously, no matter what success they have achieved to date.

“This is a very good football team,” WKU head coach Jeff Brohm said of the Bulldogs. “They beat us very badly last year. They’re very talented. They present us a lot of problems on offense. They like to get after the quarterback, make him feel uncomfortable and give you a lot of different looks. We have to really do our homework and have a good plan and put our players in a position to succeed and hopefully they can go out and make plays.”

The highlight on the field Thursday will undoubtedly be a match-up of two outstanding quarterbacks. WKU’s Brandon Doughty is one of the most prolific passers in the country while Louisiana Tech’s Jeff Driskel is quickly returning to his true form with a new sense of fun surrounding the game with the Bulldogs.

“You are going to have two really good quarterbacks playing in this game for sure,” Holtz said of the premier quarterback battle taking place Thursday. “When you look at Brandon’s [Doughty] perspective and Jeff’s perspective, they are not playing each other. They are playing the defense. Right now, their work is to prepare for what they are going to be going against. From a media standpoint and a fan standpoint, it is two quarterbacks matched up playing against each other. I think it is two of the better quarterbacks in this conference and two of the better quarterbacks in the country. It ought to make for a very exciting game from a fan standpoint or for anyone that is going to watch it. I think it will create a lot of drama and atmosphere around this game. But for the two quarterbacks, they are going to be focused on the other side of the ball.”

Thursday’s game marks the first time Louisiana Tech will play “on The Hill” since the first meeting in the all-time series between the two programs in 1939.

The Bulldogs will be looking to keep alive and extend a streak of 10 consecutive games with an interception. LA Tech picked off Doughty four times in last year’s meeting, almost half of his season total of 10 interceptions.

“We would like to do that every quarterback,” LA Tech defensive coordinator Blake Baker said of his defense’s goal of rattling the quarterback. “We have to cut off the head of the snake. We are not going to change that personality. That is one of our main five pillars is to rattle a quarterback. That will be the same every single week.”

But the success of last year’s game is fully in the past for Louisiana Tech. Despite being projected to win Conference USA’s West Division the Bulldogs are approaching Thursday’s game as the underdog, facing an uphill battle.

“When you look at what everyone is projecting, we’re playing at their place on a short week where they’ve had a full week to prepare for this game,” Holtz said Monday. “The experience they have coming back. The transfer players (from UAB) that are making a difference on their football team right now.

“We know we’re kind of playing an uphill battle. Most people pick ’em to win this game. Most people pick them to win the conference. We realize going there we’re an underdog in this situation.”

KXKZ 107.5 FM will serve as the flagship station for the LA Tech Sports Network for the 17th straight year as the 100,000 watt station will carry all of the Bulldog football games in 2015.

Additional affiliates carrying Bulldog Football games this fall on the LA Tech Sports Network include WUBR-AM 910 (Baton Rouge/Zachary), KJVC-FM 92.7 (Shreveport/Mansfield), KTKC-FM 92.9 (Shreveport/Spring Hill), KRMD-AM 1340 and KRMD-FM 100.7 (Shreveport), KVCL-FM 92.1 (Winnfield) and KDBS-AM ESPN Radio 1410 (Alexandria/Pineville).

All Bulldog football games can also be accessed online (audio for all games) by purchasing a subscription to LA Tech All-Access on LATechSports.com. Cost of a subscription to LA Tech All-Access is only $9.95 per month or $79.95 for the entire year (which includes all live broadcasts for all of Tech’s athletic teams).

Fans can also choose to purchase the C-USA Digital Network subscription for $14.95 per month or $119.95 per year which includes all of the above content as well as audio and video for all road C-USA games along with additional video content throughout the year.

This fall all of the Tech football broadcasts can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network as Dave Nitz, Teddy Allen, Malcolm Butler and Bennie Thornell comprise the broadcast team. Nitz – one of the longest-tenured broadcasters in college football – is entering his 41st year of broadcasting Bulldog Football games.

For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow Louisiana Tech on social media at @LATechFB (Twitter), /LATechFootball (Facebook) and @LATechFB (Instagram) or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.

— Louisiana Tech Sports Information