With Louisiana Tech entering its bye weekend of the 2021 season, the Lincoln Parish Journal takes a look at the Bulldogs through the first five games of the season.
Austin Kendall has turned the Bulldogs offense into one that is explosive and fun to watch. The former Oklahoma/West Virginia signal caller has passed for 1,178 yards and 10 TDs in four starts while rushing for 169 yards and three more scores against the likes of North Carolina State, Mississippi State and SMU. Kendall’s ability to make big-time throws as well as pull it down and make plays with his legs are one of the big reasons the Bulldogs are averaging over 33 points per game. Kendall benefits from a receiving corps that has shown great hands and the ability to make athletic plays on 50-50 balls. Tech boasts nine receivers through five games that have caught balls of 20-yards or more led by Tre Harris (18-267-3), Bud Means (14-254-2), Smoke Harris (27-244-1) and Sam Emilus (13-215-2). Tech’s running attack is deep although the Bulldogs are averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. Transfer Marcus Williams (77-351-2) is the leader of the group. Tech’s O-Line has made great strides this year under a new position coach, allowing only nine sacks in five games against some stellar defensive fronts.
The Bulldogs defensive unit has show flashes in 2021. Although Tech is allowing just under 33 points a contest, the defense has shown the ability to force turnovers (7 in the first two games), score TDs (two) and get big-time stops on fourth down numerous times. It’s a unit that has depth and experience at all three levels led by a deep and talented linebacking corps that features Trey Baldwin (39 tackles, 4 PBU), Ezekiel Barnett (24 tackles) and Tyler Grubbs (39 tackles, 1 sack). The Bulldogs front four has been stellar times led by the Bell brothers (Levi, Ben) who have combined for six of the team’s nine sacks this season. DeShon Hall (21 tackles, 3 TFL) and Mykol Clark (15 tackles) are two more names that have been active. The Bulldog secondary has been led by BeeJay Williamson (26 tackles, 2 interceptions), Baylen Buchanan (27 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries), Khalil Ladler (20 tackles) and Cedric Woods (17 tackles, 1 FR).
Special Teams: C+
The Tech special team’s unit would get a higher grade if not for some late game struggles. Kicker Jacob Barnes is as steady as they get, hitting 7 of 8 field goals and 20-of-20 extra points on the year. The one missed FG was crucial though as his potential game-winning 47-yard attempt on the final play of the game at Mississippi State was blocked as Tech fell 35-34. Ceasar Barajas has been average in the punting game, averaging 40.3 yards per punt on the year although 10 of his 24 punts have been downed inside the opponents 20-yard line. Tech’s return teams haven’t had a lot of opportunities. Smoke Harris is one of the league leaders in punt returns, averaging 12.5 yards per attempt. On the kickoff side, Tech has only returned nine out of 22 kickoffs which says more about the opponents’ kickers abilities to kick it deep.
The best news for Tech is that despite a 2-3 record, the Bulldogs may have one of their most well-rounded and complete teams in years. Close losses to State (35-34), SMU (39-37) and No. 23 NC State (34-27) have stung for Tech fans, but the Bulldogs have a great opportunity to win the West Division and play for the C-USA title if they can stay healthy. The biggest tests remaining are Oct. 23 vs. UTSA and Nov. 6 at UAB.
Photo: Darrell James
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