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STILL NO CIGAR: Louisiana Tech gets close again, only to lose again Published Nov. 15, 2009 Column by Ethan Conley etconley@thenewsstar.com BATON ROUGE -- If you're looking for a pat on Louisiana Tech's back, you're reading the wrong column. Leading LSU -- in Tiger Stadium, no less -- for the first time since Teddy Roosevelt was president may seem like enough to warrant such congratulations. Being up 13−10 at the half and trailing by four points in the fourth quarter far surpasses any reasonable expectations one could have had heading into the game. That Tech was doing it all with a depleted roster of walk-ons and true freshman playing in completely unfamiliar positions makes Saturday's close-but-not-close-enough 24-16 loss seem even more praise-worthy. It's LSU. It's the 2003 and 2007 BCS champions. It's Death Valley. Tech is supposed to lose, and lose big. But take away the purple−and−gold uniforms and the 90,000−seat stadium. Take away the expectations. Look strictly at the product on the sidelines. All I see is another game that Tech should have won. And I think Tech head coach Derek Dooley and his players see it the same way. "We prepared really hard the past week," Tech defensive tackle Mason Hitt said. "We didn't look at it as just, 'Let's go down there and play hard and do our best.' We really took an attitude of, "Hey, let's go down there and make a name for themselves." The Bulldogs came damn close. They shocked the ninth-ranked Tigers at the end of the first half with one of the gutsiest calls you'll ever see. Facing fourth-and-goal from the LSU 1-yard line and trailing 10-6,Dooley sent his offense onto the field. Quarterback Ross Jenkins lined up under center and walked toward the sideline in disgust as if he were about to call a timeout, leaving Daniel Porter to take a direct shotgun snap. Porter ran toward the goal line, and floated a Tebow−esque jump pass to tight end Dennis Morris for atouchdown on the final play of the half. Tiger Stadium was in disbelief, and it wasn't just the one play. Tech had flustered LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee (3-of-10 passing at the break), forced the Tigers into two threeand-outs, and amassed 229 yards of total offense to LSU's 138. The Bulldogs had scoring drives of 10, 11, and 13 plays. The talent on the LSU sideline was better -- much better. But on this night, the talent on the Tech sideline was playing better together. They just needed to put it together again in the second half.


"We were excited when we went into the locker room," Morris said. "We had to just calm down and try to play the second half." They competed in the final 30 minutes. The defense kept LSU from pulling away, to the point that Tech closed the gap to eight points in the final minute, and had the Bulldogs recovered the ensuing onside kick they would have had enough time to take a few shots at the end zone. But there were just too many missed opportunities. Tech had the ball in LSU territory at the start of the fourth quarter, but back-to−- holding penalties pushed the Bulldogs back onto their side of the field and into third-and-31. Cornerback Terry Carter had a shot at a pick-six, but couldn't quite handle it. The defense had a chance to make a stop before LSU scored its final touchdown, but a pass interference penalty kept the drive alive. Ross Jenkins played one of the best games of his career, but couldn't quite make a few crucial third-down throws. Dooley said he hoped his team would come down to Baton Rouge and play its best. They did. For a half. "We're going to watch the film, and I told the team we are going to look and kick ourselves for the number of mistakes we made, especially in the second half," Dooley said. "We missed a couple of easy throws, had some balls batted, missed the tackle on the touchdown run. "But our best was our effort. We played with effort. We played with toughness. We went toe−to−toe, and we weren't affected by the environment." It's harsh to say, "Sorry, not good enough." But after the Bulldogs failed to come through in the fourth quarter of so many close games this season −− Navy, Utah State, Idaho, Boise State −− it's a cop out to chalk this one up to the quality of the opponent. Tech is young, and beat up, and certainly frustrated. The Bulldogs are so, so, so close, and they'll get there eventually. So save the pat on the back until that day comes. Note: The following was included as a breakout with above column. INSIDE THE HUDDLE GOOD PLAY The jump pass on the final play of first half was a thing of beauty. Tech sent its offense out in a power formation on fourth−and−goal, as if it was going to run Daniel Porter up the middle. After lining up under center, quarterback Ross Jenkins walked toward the sideline as if to call a timeout, but Lon Roberts snapped the ball directly to Porter. Porter ran toward the goal line, jumped, and floated a touchdown pass to Dennis Morris for a 13−10 halftime lead. BAD PLAY


The real killer for Tech in the second half was penalties. The Bulldogs had the ball on the LSU 35−yard line at the start of the fourth quarter, but committed back−to−back holding penalties, eventually forcing a third−and−31 situation. Instead of a field goal to cut the LSU lead to 17−16, Tech had to punt. GOOD CALL See the "Good Play" section. Even if the play had failed, head coach Derek Dooley and offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo can't get enough credit for the jump pass. It was a total surprise. And what did Tech have to lose? BIG HIT Freshman defensive back Chad Boyd laid out LSU receiver Terrance Toliver early in the third quarter, causing an incomplete pass and temporarily knocking Toliver out of the game. SOMETHING SPECIAL Freshman kick Matt Nelson made some big kicks earlier in the season at Auburn's Jordan−Hare Stadium, and he connected on all three field goal attempts against LSU, including a 36−yarder that cut the LSU lead to eight with 25 seconds remaining in the game. EXTRA POINT The 13−10 halftime lead is believed to be the first time Tech has led LSU since 1904. --Ethan Conley etconley@thenewsstar.com


Datestamp: 11/15/2009

STILL NO CIGAR: Louisiana Tech gets close again, only to lose again

BATON ROUGE −− If you're looking for a pat on Louisiana Tech's back, you're reading the wrong column. Leading LSU −− in Tiger Stadium, no less −− for the first time since Teddy Roosevelt was president may seem like enough to warrant such congratulations. Being up 13−10 at the half and trailing by four points in the fourth quarter far surpasses any reasonable expectations one could have had heading into the game. That Tech was doing it all with a depleted roster of walk−ons and true freshman playing in completely unfamiliar positions makes Saturday's close−but−not−close−enough 24−16 loss seem even more praise−worthy. It's LSU. It's the 2003 and 2007 BCS champions. It's Death Valley. Tech is supposed to lose, and lose big. But take away the purple−and−gold uniforms and the 90,000−seat stadium. Take away the expectations. Look strictly at the product on the sidelines. All I see is another game that Tech should have won. And I think Tech head coach Derek Dooley and his players see it the same way. "We prepared really hard the past week," Tech defensive tackle Mason Hitt said. "We didn't look at it as just, 'Let's go down there and play hard and do our best.' We really took an attitude of, "Hey, let's go down there and make a name for themselves." The Bulldogs came damn close. They shocked the ninth−ranked Tigers at the end of the first half with one of the gutsiest calls you'll ever see. Facing fourth−and−goal from the LSU 1−yard line and trailing 10−6, Dooley sent his offense onto the field. Quarterback Ross Jenkins lined up under center and walked toward the sideline in disgust as if he were about to call a timeout, leaving Daniel Porter to take a direct shotgun snap. Porter ran toward the goal line, and floated a Tebow−esque jump pass to tight end Dennis Morris for a touchdown on the final play of the half. Tiger Stadium was in disbelief, and it wasn't just the one play. Tech had flustered LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee (3−of−10 passing at the break), forced the Tigers into two three−and−outs, and amassed 229 yards of total offense to LSU's 138. The Bulldogs had scoring drives of 10, 11, and 13 plays. The talent on the LSU sideline was better −− much better. But on this night, the talent on the Tech sideline was playing better together. They just needed to put it together again in the second half. "We were excited when we went into the locker room," Morris said. "We had to just calm down and try to play the second half."

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They competed in the final 30 minutes. The defense kept LSU from pulling away, to the point that Tech closed the gap to eight points in the final minute, and had the Bulldogs recovered the ensuing onside kick they would have had enough time to take a few shots at the end zone. But there were just too many missed opportunities. Tech had the ball in LSU territory at the start of the fourth quarter, but back−to−back holding penalties pushed the Bulldogs back onto their side of the field and into third−and−31. Cornerback Terry Carter had a shot at a pick−six, but couldn't quite handle it. The defense had a chance to make a stop before LSU scored its final touchdown, but a pass interference penalty kept the drive alive. Ross Jenkins played one of the best games of his career, but couldn't quite make a few crucial third−down throws. Dooley said he hoped his team would come down to Baton Rouge and play its best. They did. For a half. "We're going to watch the film, and I told the team we are going to look and kick ourselves for the number of mistakes we made, especially in the second half," Dooley said. "We missed a couple of easy throws, had some balls batted, missed the tackle on the touchdown run. "But our best was our effort. We played with effort. We played with toughness. We went toe−to−toe, and we weren't affected by the environment." It's harsh to say, "Sorry, not good enough." But after the Bulldogs failed to come through in the fourth quarter of so many close games this season −− Navy, Utah State, Idaho, Boise State −− it's a cop out to chalk this one up to the quality of the opponent. Tech is young, and beat up, and certainly frustrated. The Bulldogs are so, so, so close, and they'll get there eventually. So save the pat on the back until that day comes. INSIDE THE HUDDLE GOOD PLAY The jump pass on the final play of first half was a thing of beauty. Tech sent its offense out in a power formation on fourth−and−goal, as if it was going to run Daniel Porter up the middle. After lining up under center, quarterback Ross Jenkins walked toward the sideline as if to call a timeout, but Lon Roberts snapped the ball directly to Porter. Porter ran toward the goal line, jumped, and floated a touchdown pass to Dennis Morris for a 13−10 halftime lead. BAD PLAY The real killer for Tech in the second half was penalties. The Bulldogs had the ball on the LSU 35−yard line at the start of the fourth quarter, but committed back−to−back holding penalties, eventually forcing a third−and−31 situation. Instead of a field goal to cut the LSU lead to 17−16, Tech had to punt. GOOD CALL See the "Good Play" section. Even if the play had failed, head coach Derek Dooley and offensive coordinator

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Frank Scelfo can't get enough credit for the jump pass. It was a total surprise. And what did Tech have to lose? BIG HIT Freshman defensive back Chad Boyd laid out LSU receiver Terrance Toliver early in the third quarter, causing an incomplete pass and temporarily knocking Toliver out of the game. SOMETHING SPECIAL Freshman kick Matt Nelson made some big kicks earlier in the season at Auburn's Jordan−Hare Stadium, and he connected on all three field goal attempts against LSU, including a 36−yarder that cut the LSU lead to eight with 25 seconds remaining in the game. EXTRA POINT The 13−10 halftime lead is believed to be the first time Tech has led LSU since 1904.

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