By Malcolm Butler
Louisiana Tech faces 5th ranked Clemson tonight at 7 p.m. CT at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina.
Tech (1-1) is coming off a 52-17 win over Stephen F. Austin and plays its second P5 road game of the young season. Clemson (2-0) is coming off a 35-12 victory over Furman last week and plays its third straight home game to open the year.
The Bulldogs and the Tigers face off for the fourth time in the series history with Clemson leading 3-0. The Tigers defeated Tech 51-0 in the last meeting in 2006.
This year’s version of the Tigers has plenty of weapons on the offensive side of the football.
“Their quarterback DJ (Uiagalelei) does a great job,” said Tech coach Sonny Cumbie. “He is super talented. He’s a dual-threat guy who is hard to tackle. I think that’s very important in the quarterback run game. I also think in the drop back play action game that we are able to tackle him. We have to be able to create a pass rush. At times with our pass rush we have to make sure we keep him in the pocket and not let him get outside of it to run around.”
Uiagalelei has completed 40-of-59 passes for 441 yards and three scores this year while rushing for 55 yards and another score. He isn’t the Tigers only weapon.
“Their running back (Will) Shipley is a big-time player,” said Cumbie. “We could have a hard time if he gets into the open field. And then when they have their play-action opportunities, we must be in position for the pass break-ups. On defense we always want to create takeaways.”
Shipley has rushed for 110 yards and four scores in two games.
“Our keys are containing the quarterback, eliminating explosive plays, and getting off the field on third downs,” said Cumbie.
Defensively, the Tigers are loaded with talent. Clemson boasts one of the top defensive units in the country, and the Bulldogs will have their hands full on the offensive side of the football.
“On offense we want to control the football and keep them off the field,” said Cumbie. “To be able to do that we have to get first downs which means we need to be able to run the football. We have to find a way to run the football against a much, much bigger front.
“They are much faster than what we saw last week and probably what we saw against Missouri. We have to be able to run the football north-south. If we are in first and longs, second and longs and third and longs, then we won’t have a lot of success against this defensive front and against this defense in general.”
The contest can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network, including the flagship station 107.5 FM with the pregame show starting at 5:30 p.m. CT. It can also be heard on the LA Tech Athletics app and seen on the ACC Network.
“It’s a challenge as coaches and players that you are excited about,” said Cumbie. “It lights the fire and stokes the fire for you.”