Louisiana Tech was young in 2017. The Bulldogs were also injured.
In the end, a disappointing regular season saw a celebration in Frisco and a fourth straight bowl win for La Tech. It also saw them capture three of the four Dallas-Ft Worth area bowl games — the only one missing is the Cotton Bowl.
Winning a bowl goes a long way toward making everything a little rosier. Tech finished a mediocre 4-4 in conference, and whats more, there were some absolute heartbreakers.
Tech lost to UAB, Southern Miss, and North Texas by a combined 9 points and 7 of those were to the Golden Eagles in OT. Add to this bad luck the one-point South Carolina loss in late September that required a miracle Gamecock drive to win it.
All told, there was much to like from this Tech team and there was much to be frustrated with. Such is the nature of a young team dealing with injuries. That should bode well for next season. In this campaign, however, even the staff was wondering aloud what could have been if the injury bug had not bit.
J’Mar Smith was good, but not great. The problem with having so many recent above-average QB performances the last few years in Ruston, is that anyone merely good is actually bad. When Smith was showing off his arm and his receivers were healthy, he looked like a top CUSA QB. When he was throwing incomplete and killing drives, he looked like he needed to be pulled.
Another year and more time with Teddy Veal should produce results. Tech had lost two NFL WRs and a great RB and that kind of production cannot be easily replaced — and it was not. Boston Scott and Jarred Craft will move on, and so the question will become about the supporting cast around Smith.
The defense was good but not great. While there was frustration at the number of game-losing drives allowed, the fact is the the offense put them in some precarious positions. The truth is that if either the offense or defense were just 10% more consistent then this team would have been in the title game against FAU.
A little more fortune could have helped, also. If the ball bounces differently in South Carolina, in Birmingham, and at home against USM and UNT, this would be a completely different article.
That is football, however. Skip Holtz and every other coach in this league knows this fact, and does all they can to keep luck from being such a huge factor. That said, it is important to remember that given the roster make up — young and having lost good players — this team was only expected to do more on the strength of the staff’s previous accomplishments.
This was a successful season by most other league standards save for the ones in Ruston. That is a sword that cuts both ways. Having so much recent success means that this slightly lesser level of success is disappointing. The bowl win does a lot to assuage those feelings, even if it was against a demotivated SMU program.