LOUISIANA TECH (9-3) AT MIAMI (6-6)
4 p.m. ET; ESPN
Louisiana Tech will be going for a school-record 10th victory and looks to extend its bowl-game winning streak on Thursday afternoon when it faces Miami in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
“We have an opportunity for six straight bowl wins, which would be quite a special achievement for our players and coaching staff,” coach Skip Holtz said after his Bulldogs (9-3) earned the spot in the game when the Southeastern Conference did not have enough eligible teams to fill it.
Louisiana Tech’s five-game postseason winning streak started in 2014 — Holtz’s second year at the helm — with a 35-18 win over Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Interestingly, first-year Miami coach Manny Diaz was the defensive coordinator for that Tech team, which provided Diaz with an indirect tie-in to the Independence Bowl.
“My last game at Louisiana Tech was the Heart of Dallas Bowl and that was on the 26th,” Diaz said. “And then we were driving back to Ruston and it’s funny, I remember driving right by I-20, right by the Independence Bowl and Miami and South Carolina’s buses were pulling into the Independence Bowl that same day. So kind of gone full circle.”
Miami lost to the Gamecocks 24-21 that day in its only appearance in the Independence Bowl. Diaz will be looking to reverse that result and end not only the school’s recent postseason frustrations but also keep the Hurricanes (6-6) from dipping below .500 to end the season for just the third time since 1998.
With a win, the Hurricanes also will avoid ending a season with three consecutive losses for the second time in the last three years.
“We are motivated,” junior wide receiver Mike Harley said.
The Hurricanes, however, will be without some key players.
Senior linebacker Michael Pinckney and senior defensive end Trevon Hill both have said they are skipping the game to protect themselves from injury before the NFL draft. Defensive end Jonathan Garvin and receiver Jeff Thomas, both juniors, also have announced plans to skip their final collegiate seasons to enter the draft.
Thomas, who actually left the team for a period after last season, had 31 catches for 379 yards in 10 games for the Hurricanes. Pinckney was second on the team in tackles with 64 (12.5 for losses with 5.0 sacks). Garvin had 5.0 sacks among his 37 tackles, and Hill had 4.5 sacks in his 27 tackles.
A fourth defender, cornerback Trajan Bandy, has not confirmed his status but the Miami Herald reported that he is with the team in Shreveport. He has 29 tackles and is credited with breaking up seven passes.
Louisiana Tech will be without second-team Associated Press All-America selection cornerback Amik Robertson (five interceptions), who announced last week he will forgo his senior season and will not play in the bowl.
–Field Level Media