Arely D. Castillo / Associated Press
Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 | 9:55 p.m.
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RUSTON, La. — Following several of their offensive plays Saturday night, Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes and about a half dozen Bulldogs assistants — with a backup quarterback or two thrown in — stood on the sideline. Each waved one arm furiously in a full windmill motion. It resembled what you might see from a coach as he ran down the sidelines during a long punt return yelling "Go," except these guys were stationary and more mechanical than maniacal.
They weren’t signaling to the quarterback so much as the entire offense. Go. Go now and then do it again, all the way to the end zone.
Louisiana Tech’s up-tempo, balanced offense did just that all night, up and down the field on a UNLV defense that had little chance from the time they boarded the plane in Las Vegas. The Bulldogs’ attack is that powerful, and it looked as good as advertised in a 58-31 victory against UNLV (1-5).
“We knew there was a chance we wouldn’t stop them until they got in the red zone,” said UNLV coach Bobby Hauck, whose team gave up 622 yards.
Consider: Louisiana Tech (5-0) has now had a run of at least 31-0 in three consecutive games. Fifty-eight is the most points the team has scored since 2000, but the Bulldogs scored 56 twice earlier in the season. This is what they do, and they do it well.
Traditionally offenses like this attack through the passing game and the Bulldogs certainly have that at the ready. Quarterback Colby Cameron had 316 yards on 31-of-45 passing with one touchdown to favorite target Quinton Patton, who hauled in nine catches for 116 yards.
But most of the Bulldogs’ damage came on the ground, which is also when the windmills made most of their appearances. As soon as Kenneth Dixon (16 carries, 102 yards, four TDs) or Ray Holley (22 carries, 139 yards, one TD) would finish with a run, the sideline cavalry whipped their arms around imploring the team to get up, get to the line and do it again.
Louisiana Tech often ran the same, or at least a very similar, play on consecutive downs, sometimes three or four times in a row. They had predetermined options at the line of scrimmage though they rarely checked to them. The Bulldogs simply opened the same holes in the defensive line and gained the same yardage.
They could do that for several reasons. The most important are the speed at which the offense operates and their superior talent level at the skill positions.
Louisiana Tech ran 97 plays over the course of the game, which is a dizzying pace to keep up with. Hauck said it’s similar to the hurry-up the Rebels saw two weeks ago against Air Force, but the Falcons only ran 74 plays. This was different.
“When you’re on offense that long and run as much as we did, it wears the (opposing defense down,” Dykes said.
There’s also the talent disparity. Both coaches are in their third season at their respective programs. Dykes, who was rumored to be interested in the UNLV job when it was open, is clearly closer to the final product he would like to put on the field than Hauck. The Bulldogs, who have seniors at several key offensive positions, will likely be ranked this week and if they defeat Texas A&M next Saturday they have a good chance to go undefeated. And it’s not just because of their style or gimmicks.
“They’ve got a good team; that’s what it is,” Hauck said. “… Sometimes their athlete was better than our athlete in space.”
Louisiana Tech is the type of program Hauck aspires to with UNLV. Not the style so much as the Bulldogs’ experience and execution. Dykes’ team came into the game as one of the nation’s best in terms of turnover margin and won that battle 2-0, including scooping up UNLV’s first lost fumble of the season.
After the game the Bulldogs were upset about their penalties. They committed five, for the record, and while that could be a complaint in a close game it hardly mattered in this blowout.
You could say the same for the Rebels’ missed opportunities. Last week those mistakes may have cost them the chance for a victory at Utah State. This time it would have taken those plays plus a bucket full of sunshine to get close in the end.
Hauck went for it on more than half of the team’s fourth downs and came up with just one conversion. Sophomore receiver Marcus Sullivan fell during a kickoff return with no one in front of him and dropped another sure touchdown pass. There were plays like that littered throughout the game that could have changed the course slightly but nothing that would have sunk Louisiana Tech’s ship.
As a UNLV fan you can be, and most likely are, upset about the talent disparity on the field Saturday night. Both men have been at their programs the same amount of time and one is being rumored as the next coach at Arkansas. It’s not Hauck.
What doesn’t make sense is to tear down the team for a final score that looked almost exactly right considering the strengths and weaknesses of both teams. The Rebels certainly weren’t happy with it, and they shouldn’t be, but they played hard and don’t have much to hang their heads about. They lost by 27 to a team that closed as a 27.5-point favorite. And while the Vegas bookmakers aren’t the end all in comparing two teams it shouldn’t come as a surprise when this game plays out almost exactly to script.
Even in the preseason this looked like it would likely be a blowout loss for UNLV. The Rebels’ offense played well. Quarterback Nick Sherry had 378 yards and four TDs while receiver Devante Davis caught eight passes for 186 yards and one of those scores.
But the defense, like every other team that’s played the Bulldogs this year, didn’t have any answers. There’s nothing to do about that now except get back to work for a game that means far more than losing to a team that’s waving itself toward a stellar season and leaving the Rebels in their wake.
“It’s over now; zero on the clock,” defensive end Parker Holloway said. “It’s on to Reno.”