Expect a wide-open affair Wednesday night when Louisiana Tech hosts Hawaii's pass-happy Rainbow Warriors in an ESPN nationally-televised game.Hawaii may not have the offensive attack it had in 2007, when then-head coach June Jones led the Warriors to an unbeaten record and a BCS bowl game before a humbling night in the Sugar Bowl.
They were 7-7 last year, but second-year coach Greg McMackin and quarterback Greg Alexander have apparently revitalized the aerial attack. The Warriors rank third nationally in passing, averaging almost 425 yards per game.
A 34-33 lost to UNLV last Saturday took some of the luster off Wednesday's game, but it's still the WAC opener for both teams.
"They're as good as I've ever seen them," said Tech coach Derek Dooley, whose team came within an eyelash - a 45-44 overtime game - of ending Hawaii's unbeaten season in 2007. "Everybody thought they'd be a little down this year, but I think they actually look better. They're throwing it as well as they did two years ago, just piercing everybody."
That's not a good sign for the Bulldogs (1-2), who haven't faced a prolific passing attack. Heading into the 7 p.m. mid-week contest, Tech has gone up against ground-bound teams in Auburn, Navy and Nicholls State. Even worse, the last two are pure option teams - about a 180-degree turnaround from Wednesday's foe.
"Now we've had to switch our personnel around, switch who's in the game, basically change the whole scheme," Dooley said. "It's not like they're having to learn a whole new defense, but everything's different. This is four-wide and throwing it every down."
Tech plays WAC opposition in all but one game the rest of the way, breaking out of conference for a Nov. 14 trip to meet LSU in Tiger Stadium.
And a note: Since the game comes early in the week, here's an advance pick - Even though the Bulldogs haven't seen this kind of passing attack, Tech should be able to counter with a two-way offense that should give Hawaii all kinds of defensive problems. Figure the Bulldogs to make enough stops to win a wide-open battle. Tech 42-35.
WAIT AND SEE: Southeastern Louisiana All-American safety Tommy Connors had surgery on his broken thumb last Wednesday, and doctors said that it won't be known how well his thumb is healing for at least five weeks.
Connors had a metal pin inserted to hold together a digit that was shattered during the Lions' contest with Ole Miss.
"I literally became sick when they came up to me on the sideline and told me Tommy had broken his hand and was out," said SLU coach Mike Lucas.
A decision won't be made on Connors' status until the end of that five-week period. SLU would have four games remaining in this season by that time.
"He has a redshirt year available and he'll graduate on time this year," Lucas said. "He can come back next year and go to grad school, and that's what we're hoping he decides to do."
MASH UNIT: For UL Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle, his team's open weekend couldn't have arrived soon enough.
The Ragin' Cajuns had nine regulars that missed last Saturday's 55-0 humbling at Nebraska because of injury. That included UL's top four safeties and All-Sun Belt Conference center Chris Fisher. Then, four other players including quarterback Chris Masson were injured against the Cornhuskers.
"We really need this week off," Bustle said. "We're going into conference play, so we're trying to get well and get ready for that. This week will help so we can get back on the same page."
The personnel situation was so bad that regular linebacker Jezreel Washington had to move to strong safety as one of several position switches during Saturday's game.
"We don't want to use that (the injuries) as an excuse," said linebacker Daylon McCoy, who had a game-high nine tackles against Nebraska. "But the week off is going to be pretty vital."
Bustle did say that the injuries weren't the determining factor against the Cornhuskers.
"I was disappointed that we didn't fight harder," he said. "We played hard, but we kept doing things that killed us. You play a football team like this and lay the football on the ground, you're not going to have any luck. We put our defense in some bad situations, and we're not good enough to do that."
UL finished its non-conference slate against Nebraska, ending a streak of three straight foes from automatic BCS conferences, and will play eight straight Sun Belt games the rest of the way including the Oct. 10 league opener at home against North Texas. UL takes a streak of 10 straight quarters without a touchdown into that game.
LIGHTING IT UP: When Southern and Alcorn State get together for football, fans know to expect fireworks. And they weren't disappointed with last weekend's 48-42 Jaguar win that took on video-game aspects.
Southern led 35-14 early in the fourth quarter and was still in front 41-21 with 10 minutes left before Alcorn quarterback Tim Buckley got rolling. The Braves had 244 yards from scrimmage and five plays of 20 yards or more, scoring 28 points in the period without ever converting a third-down.
The issue wasn't decided until the Jaguars recovered an onside kick in the final 20 seconds after Alcorn's final touchdown.
"Part of that is just getting focused," said Southern coach Pete Richardson. "They didn't understand the tradition and what we have to go through when we play Alcorn. They took it for granted. One of the practices we had this week was probably the worst practice we had all year."
The Jaguars survived, though, and are 3-1 overall and 1-0 in SWAC play entering Saturday's game at Jackson State, which lost to Grambling 27-17 two weeks ago in a game that didn't count in the SWAC standings.
SPEAKING OF THE G-MEN: Grambling also ended its pre-conference season last weekend with a 56-6 loss at Oklahoma State, an outcome that was pretty much expected. But coach Rod Broadway found some humor after being asked if he was glad to get past the OSU game.
"No, we want to go back and play Oklahoma State one more time," he said on Monday. "Seriously, I think now that we're in the league we'll match up better with people. That doesn't mean we'll win, but we'll match up better. Even on Saturday, I think we showed some signs in spots where we played decent."
Grambling visits the Texas State Fair this weekend to face Prairie View A&M in the State Fair Classic at the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers ran the SWAC table last year at 7-0 and also won the league's title game.
OFF THE FIELD: Grambling named current assistant Robert Washington, Jr., as interim men's basketball coach on Monday, three days after Rick Duckett stepped down following the death of a transfer player five weeks ago.
Washington will coach the Tigers this season, and Grambling officials said that a search for a permanent head coach will be conducted following the season. In addition to Duckett's departure, two other assistants were not retained.
Duckett was placed on administrative leave until the end of October when his employment will end. Henry White, a transfer from Hill Junior College, became ill at an Aug. 14 preseason practice and died at a Shreveport hospital a week later. White's family is considering a lawsuit against the school and has retained an attorney, and Grambling has also launched an investigation.
TOUGH DAY: McNeese quarterback Derrick Fourroux took much of the blame for the Cowboys' 42-32 loss at Tulane Saturday on his shoulders.
That, despite a 16-of-25 passing effort for 221 yards and a 102-yard rushing effort on 20 carries.
Six of those yards came on a rush for a first down at the Tulane 17 with less than seven minutes left and McNeese trailing by that 10-point margin. At the end of the play, Fourroux was hit by Tulane safety Joe Wacha and fumbled. Adam Kwentua recovered and McNeese didn't get the ball back until less than two minutes remained, and got it at its own five-yard line.
"That fumble was on me," Fourroux said. "They said I was down at first, but I should have held onto it. It was a good hit. I was going down with my left shoulder and he just got under me."
Only moments earlier, the momentum of the game had seemingly changed when Cowboy cornerback Seth Thomas intercepted a Joe Kemp pass and returned it 39 yards to the Tulane 32.
"Joe had a good game except for the two interceptions," said Tulane coach Bob Toledo. "He managed the game well and did some nice things."
No kidding. Kemp completed all but three of his 13 passes, and those 10 completions went for 222 yards - all of them to standout wide receiver Jeremy Williams. Andre Anderson contributed 199 rush yards and four touchdowns, with he and Williams combining for 421 yards - and Tulane had 427 as a team.
"Andre is a very competitive person," Toledo said. "He's got an unbelievable work ethic and he's a very physical runner. And Jeremy is just phenomenal ... you'll see him playing on Sundays next year, trust me."
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