College football: Tech set to open season Saturday at Southern Miss

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By Ashley Springer, Louisiana Tech Assistant Director of Athletic Communications 

Louisiana Tech football will take the field for the first time in the 2020 season on Saturday.

The Bulldogs take on conference-rival Southern Miss (0-1) at 6:30 p.m.at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Miss.

“We’re excited about this week and about getting out there, getting in practice and getting to play the game,” Tech head coach Skip Holtz said. “There’s a lot of excitement with not only playing, but having the opportunity to start with a conference game, on the road for six of the last seven years, and to have it be Southern Miss. We’re just excited about having the opportunity to play in this game that has such a great history and tradition to it.”

Saturday’s matchup will be the 52nd meeting between the Bulldogs and the Golden Eagles, marking the third most-played matchup in program history. 

Southern Miss leads the overall series, 35-16, and holds the 18-7 edge in games played in Hattiesburg. As conference rivals in C-USA, the teams have a combined score of 207-215 in seven meetings, with Southern Miss holding a 4-3 edge. 

However, Louisiana Tech posted a 45-30 victory over Southern Miss in the most recent meeting on Oct. 19, 2019. The Bulldogs have defeated the Golden Eagles back-to-back times on three occasions in program history (1959-60, 1976-77, 2013-14).

Louisiana Tech is 58-54-5 all-time in season openers, including 18-39-0 in season openers on the road and 3-4 in season openers under Holtz. 

Tech is 52-35-5 all-time in conference openers, including 19-16-1 in conference openers on the road. Since joining Conference USA in 2013, the Bulldogs are 4-3 in C-USA openers, including 3-2 in conference openers on the road. 

Saturday’s conference opener will mark the sixth time in the last seven seasons Tech has started C-USA play on the road. It will be the first time the Bulldogs have opened the season against a conference opponent since 2004 when Tech defeated Nevada, 38-21, in Ruston while in the WAC.

Holtz enters his eighth season at the helm where he has collected a 56-36 overall record. He has led the Bulldogs to six straight bowl victories, including a 14-0 win over Miami (Fla.) in the Walk On’s Independence Bowl last season.

The win was the first shutout in Independence Bowl history and the only shutout of the 2019 bowl season. Just 10 out of 130 FBS teams have won six or more consecutive bowl games, and LA Tech has the only active streak..  

Southern Miss opened the season with a 32-21 loss to South Alabama on Sept. 3. Scotty Walden will make his debut against Tech after being named the Golden Eagles’ interim head coach on Sept. 7. This will be the first time Southern Miss will have an interim head coach in the middle of a season.

Tech senior running back Justin Henderson is coming off a 1,000-yard rush season after carrying the ball 188 times for 1,062 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.  Henderson was the 13th Bulldog in program history to rush for 1,000 yards, and finished the 2019 season ranked 13th in the nation in rushing touchdowns (15) and 19th in total touchdowns (16).

Junior defensive lineman Milton Williams and senior linebacker Ezekiel Barnett, a former Benton star, led Tech in sacks and quarterback hurries in the 2019 season. Williams had 5.5 sacks for 31 yards and Barnett had 4.0 sacks for 19 yards, while both record six quarterback hurries each.

Three other former Bossier Parish high school stars are listed on Tech’s roster — receiver Doyle Adams Jr. (Benton, redshirt sophomore), receiver CJ McWilliams (Haughton, freshman) and running back Thomas Williams (Airline, freshman).

— Featured photo of Milton Williams by Tom Morris