Dog and Pony show set for Saturday

Sonny Dykes knows Ruston.

The former Louisiana Tech head coach (2010-12) will venture back to Joe Aillet Stadium Saturday when the SMU Mustangs (2-0) take on the Bulldogs (1-1).

On Tuesday afternoon, Bulldog head coach Skip Holtz addressed the local media during his weekly press conference and had high praise for the AAC foe.

“This week is certainly going to be a challenge with SMU coming into town,” said Holtz. “Sonny (Dykes) has done a great job building that program from where it was when he took over about four years ago. You look right now, and he has his best team since he’s been there.

“They’ve added some really talented transfers on this team and they are a very senior-laden team right now on both offense and defense. They return about 19 starters out of their top 22 from a year ago. They played 10 games and were 7-3 last year.”

One of the intriguing match-ups is with the two starting quarterbacks. Tech’s Austin Kendall and SMU’s Tanner Mordecai both started their collegiate careers at the University of Oklahoma. Mordecai spent his first three seasons (2018-2020) in Norman before transferring to SMU.

“They’ve added a transfer quarterback from Oklahoma that’s playing really well with his arm and with his feet,” said Holtz. “The quarterback threw for over 300 yards (against North Texas).”

Mordecai, who was on the Davey O’Brien Watch List last season and earned the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose National Player of the Week, has plenty of weapons at his disposal.

“They have a first team all-conference wide receiver,” said Holtz. “They have a transfer from Oklahoma who was all-Big 12 as a tight end who is a big target for them. He has three touchdown catches through two games. They’re averaging 45 points right now through two games. They’re a very explosive offensive football team. You can see coach Dykes handprint all over it and what they’re doing offensively has really been impressive.”

As talented as the SMU offensive side of the football is Holtz said the defensive unit is just as skilled.

“Defensively, they’re every bit as impressive. They’re only giving up 10. They hired Jim Leavitt as their defensive coordinator from FAU who was a head coach at South Florida. He was very successful with the 49ers. Was a coordinator at Oregon, Colorado, FAU. They’re playing really hard for coach Leavitt. The defense is not really complicated with what they do, but they lineup and they play it and they’re really physical at their game.”

SMU owns wins over Abilene Christian (56-9) and North Texas (33-12) so far this season.

Dykes won’t be the only member of the SMU coaching staff that is returning to a familiar place as Colby Cameron (Offensive Quality Control Analyst) and David Gru (Wide Receivers Coach) both played for the Bulldogs.

Photo: Emerald McIntyre

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