With the bowl season coming to an end, it’s time to look back at how each time in Conference USA performed during the 2016 season. Each program had their own wins and losses, both on and off the field. Let’s take a look at the three largest wins and losses for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
Armed Forces Bowl
Anytime you have a game as good as the 2016 Armed Forces Bowl, both teams end up as winners. The team that puts up more points on the scoreboard just gets the better end of the deal. That just happened to be the Bulldogs. You’d be hard pressed to find someone that wouldn’t list the Armed Forces bowl as one of the most entertaining games this bowl season. Although Navy played without their starting quarterback, they still entered the game as a top 25 team with a lot of talent. Not only did Louisiana Tech win on the field, they also had an impressively large fan population travel from Ruston to Fort Worth to cheer for their squad through the rain and the cold weather. The Bulldogs finished the season showing that they have some very important components of an elite G5 program.
Western Kentucky was the best team in Conference USA this season. It’s true on paper, it was true on the field, there is absolutely not denying that claim. With that being said, Louisiana Tech made the statement during their first matchup with the Hilltoppers that they are coming for the throne. Western Kentucky finished the season only allowing their opponents an average of 25 points per game. The Bulldogs dropped 55 on them. Regardless of the conference championship outcome, Louisiana Tech still managed to stop the Hilltoppers from going undefeated in conference this season.
Winning at home has impacts that could easily change the entire trajectory of a program. Even if the team loses the majority of their away games, wins in front of the home crowd historically increase attendance. Increased attendance is a step toward creating a more dedicated football culture on your campus. Creating that culture improves recruiting, and if you do that recruiting thing well then you have a good chance of finding yourself on the winning end of a lot of big football games. The Bulldogs did not lose a game at home during the 2016 season and the benefits are sure to pile up.
Western Kentucky (also)
As great as it was to beat Western Kentucky during the regular season, that meeting was not the more significant of the two between the teams. Each year every team has the goal of winning their conference championship. The Bulldogs failed to accomplish that goal. In their defense, Western Kentucky only lost one conference game all season which happened to be to Louisiana Tech. But in the words of the great Candace Parker, “You’re measured by championships, no matter what.”
Out of conference games
The Bulldogs had a fairly ambitious out of conference schedule this season. Two of the four games were against Massachusetts, who finished the season 2-10, and FCS team South Carolina State. Both of those should have been, and were, wins by Louisiana Tech. The other two games were on the road against Arkansas and Texas Tech. Although the game stayed close the entire time, Arkansas managed to send the Bulldogs home with a one point loss. The Red Raiders, who in contrast were a worse team than Arkansas, won by two scores and never really lost control of the game. Both games were opportunities for Louisiana Tech to send a message to the P5 world but they failed to execute.
Both Ryan Higgins and Trent Taylor were among the best athletes in the NCAA this season. Higgins finished with 41 passing touchdowns and threw for the second-most passing yards in the NCAA. Taylor led all receivers in receiving yards and caught 12 touchdowns. The two were a nightmare for anyone they faced. With both of those players competing in their final season of eligibility, the only comfort that may have been provided to the Bulldogs was Carlos Henderson. Henderson caught 19 touchdowns, racked up 1,535 receiving yards and still had a senior season left. However, Henderson has decided to take his talents to the NFL. Louisiana Tech will need to do a lot of rebuilding in their passing game if they want to avoid taking a step backward in 2017.