Monday, September 10, 2007

Shreveport Times: Despite Overtime loss to #20 Hawaii, Louisiana Tech earns respect

Here is the link.


It was a game that will forever live in infamy in Louisiana Tech coaching lore. Surprisingly, however, few Bulldogs fans were disappointed in Saturday's 45-44 overtime loss to No. 20 Hawaii. Instead, many were ebullient about the improvement the Bulldogs appear to have made so far under coach Derek Dooley.  And even fewer fans questioned Dooley's aggressive approach in deciding to opt for a fateful 2-point conversion when an extra point attempt would have sent the game into a second overtime. Instead, people were talking aboutDooley trying to punch out the Warriors when his team had the upper hand. Even Tech president Dan Reneau was so excited after the loss that he could hardly contain himself and even showed up in the media interview room. "I believe we won that game," Reneau said excitedly. "That's what you're paid the big bucks for, Dr. Reneau "» to 'believe' you won the game," the reporter responded good-naturedly. So, did Dooley make the correct decision in attempting a knock-out punch so early in the overtime?

His team should never have been in the game to start with. They lost 61-17 to the Warriors last season and had pretty much the same hands on deck as Jack Bicknell had in the 2006 contest. Meanwhile, Hawaii has the nation's best offense, one of the best quarterbacks in the country and the swagger that comes with being a nationally ranked club.

The Bulldogs were nearly 28-point underdogs at home and were forced to watch the Warriors' pregame dance routine that doesn't engender the visitors much respect. Tech even looked good in jumping out to a 14-0 lead, only to watch the Warriors respond with 14 points of their own. Many of the 22,000 Tech fans kept waiting for Hawaii to pull away, as it has done so often over the past two seasons with its explosive offense. But every time the Warriors fired a salvo, the Bulldogs fired back. Dooley admitted on Saturday night that his team should have won the game in regulation. But as it did several times throughout the contest, the offense floundered at the wrong time. "We are improved, but we have to learn to finish games now. That's the next step," Dooley said.

And after the Warriors scored easily on their first overtime possession, the Tech coaching staff couldn't take the chance on another flounder. That's why the decision was made decisively to go for two. Had quarterback Zac Champion made the correct read, or if he had thrown his pass another foot to the right, the Bulldogs would have walked out of Joe Aillet Stadium with perhaps their biggest upset in school history. Instead, they were left to wonder what if. Although it may not show up this week against a powerful California team, the Bulldogs appear to be on the road to becoming a team that the other WAC foes will have to respect. Hawaii found out on Saturday night that the Dooley-led Bulldogs won't be rolling over and playing dead anymore.

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