Louisiana Tech

Ex-Gator QB Jeff Driskel tabbed as LaTech’s starter

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Jeff Driskel left Florida in search of a better opportunity to start.  At least to start the 2015 season, he’ll get that opportunity.

Ahead of the start of Conference USA’s Media Days Wednesday, Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz confirmed to the Monroe News-Star that Driskel will be his starting quarterback heading into the 2015 opener against FCS Southern.  Driskel had been in a battle with Ryan Higgins throughout the spring and on into summer workouts for the opportunity to replace Cody Sokol under center for the Bulldogs.

“After spring practice we went through all the numbers and we met with all the players and all the quarterbacks on where they ranked and where they were,” Holtz said Monday. “Just looking at the numbers from the whole body of work through spring practice, I felt Jeff Driskel gave us the best opportunity as a quarterback. That’s when we looked at him and said he’ll be the starter.”

The fact that Holtz has named him as the starter was news to Driskel, with the graduate transfer claiming “[w]e’ve never had that discussion.”

In January of this year, new Gators head coach Jim McElwain confirmed that had been granted a release from his UF scholarship. Shortly thereafter, the reports began to surface that Driskel was bound for Tech. Because he is a grad transfer, he is eligible for the 2015 season.

Driskel was the Gators’ starter in 2012 as the team went 11-2.  His 2013 season ended after three games because of injury, however, and he lost his starting job last season after the Week 8 loss to Missouri.

Florida Gators lose QB Mornhinweg to Ivy League

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Former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson recently visited the Florida Gators, according to previous reports, as he evaluates his potential transfer options. It turns out the Gators have a bit more of a need at quarterback than initially expected.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain announced on a conference call Wednesday morning that quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg has transferred to Columbia, of the Ivy League. This leaves the Gators with just two scholarship quarterbacks in 2015. Earlier this offseason Jeff Driskel transferred to Louisiana TechWill Grier and Treon Harris were each Class of 2014 recruits and now represent the only scholarship players under center on Florida’s depth chart. Harris was the only one of the two to see any playing time in 2014, appearing in nine games and completing 49.5 percent of his pass attempts for 1,109 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions.

Mornhinweg, the son of Baltimore Ravens quarterback coach Marty Mornhinweg, was a three-star recruit in Florida’s Class of 2012, but at times did not play well with others. The Philadelphia area product (Saint Joseph’s Prep) will now play for a head coach who was a regular on the college football scene in the City of Brotherly Love, Al Bagnoli. Bagnoli was the longtime head coach of the Penn Quakers. After retiring, Penn named a new head coach and kept Bagnoli in the university’s athletic department but the itch to coach was still there. Columbia hired Bagnoli with the hopes of being able to turn the program around. Perhaps adding a quarterback he was likely pretty familiar with through high school will help.

Florida did not add any quarterback recruits on scholarship in the Class of 2015 and have yet to land a commitment for the position in the Class of 2016.

Report: Former Florida QB Jeff Driskel is Louisiana Tech bound

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Well, that didn’t take long.

One day after Florida head coach Jim McElwain said he will release Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel from his scholarship, the embattled signal caller has found a destination.

According to J.C. Shurburtt of 247Sports.com, Driskel will enroll at Louisiana Tech for the 2015 season. “The Bulldogs have been considered the likely team of choice for the former five-star for the past 24 hours,” he writes.

A former blue-chipper led the Gators to an 11-2 mark in 2012, but struggled with injuries and inconsistent play as Florida slogged to a 10-13 mark over the 2013-14 seasons. For his career, Driskel has connected on 320-of-535 passes (59.8%) for 3,363 yards (6.29 per attempt) with 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions while rushing 217 times for 637 yards and nine touchdowns.

Louisiana Tech won Conference USA’s West Division and the Heart of Dallas Bowl in head coach Skip Holtz‘s second season. The Bullodgs will look to replace outgoing senior Cody Sokol, who completed 58 percent of his passes for 3,436 yards with 32 total touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season.

 

Illini kicks off B1G bowl season with loss to LaTech

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Coming into the 2014 postseason, the Big Ten as a conference was looking to get back some of the respect its lost over the last several years.  After Game 1?  Hey, at least there are nine, possibly 10 more remaining.

It wasn’t pretty as mistakes in all three phases littered the playing field, but Louisiana Tech, which had jumped out to a 21-9 halftime lead, was able to pull away to a 35-18 win over Illinois in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.  The win marks Tech’s first bowl victory since the 2008 season, and their ninth win this year after winning just four in 2013.

Were it not for one key fourth-quarter sequence, though, it might’ve been the Illini doing some postseason celebrating for the first time since 2011.

With just over nine minutes remaining and trailing 21-18, the Illini forced a fumble at around the Tech 40-yard line that was recovered by Jihad Ward and returned to the Tech 16-yard line.  However, Ward fumbled before he went down and the ball was recovered by, oddly enough, quarterback Cody Sokol, the player who originally fumbled it.  Five plays later, one of which was a 70-yard pass to Carlos Henderson, a Kenneth Dixon one-yard touchdown run with 6:15 remaining stretched the lead to 28-18 and essentially put the game out of reach.

The scoring icing on the cake was a 28-yard touchdown run by Blake Martin with 3:43 remaining.

While Sokol completed just 14 passes, he threw for 247 yards.  Dixon ended up scoring twice, one each rushing and receiving, in accumulating 142 yards from scrimmage.

Sokol’s counterpart, Reilly O’Toole, took a severe, game-long beating but still passed for 295 yards and a touchdown.

Houston Bates, who transferred from Illinois to Tech earlier this year, totaled 4.5 sacks in the game, with another being wiped out late in the game by a penalty.  The senior came into the game with 5.5 this season.

While the Big Ten is 0-1, Conference USA moved to an impressive 4-1 with Tech’s win.  Through 11 bowl games, that conference as well as the ACC (1-0) are the only ones that are above .500.

Illini trailing LaTech by double digits despite doubling-up on yards

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It’s not often the case that a team that’s nearly doubled up its opposition in total offense finds itself on the wrong end of a double-digit lead.

Yet that’s the situation Illinois finds itself in Friday afternoon, trailing Louisiana Tech 21-9 despite an overwhelming 291-154 advantage in total offense.  There were three big problems for the Illini, though: penalties, turnovers and shooting themselves in the kicking foot.

On the former front, the Illini were flagged eight times for 53 yards; Tech was only penalized once for five yards.  On the latter front, it was a pair of missed field goals and an extra point as well as a botched opening kickoff that added to the Illini’s misery.  And the turnovers?  It was actually turnover, singular, but it was a huge one: with the Illini driving toward missed field-goal range, a Reilly O’Toole pass — with a blatant hold on the receiver by the defense going uncalled — was intercepted and returned 69 yards for a touchdown by Xavier Woods.

Tech came into the game leading the nation in turnovers forced, with the pick-six increasing that total to 41.  It was also the Bulldogs’ fifth defensive touchdown of the season.

Another issue for the Illini?  Tech running back Kenneth Dixon took a perfectly-executed wheel route and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown.  Dixon finished the first half with 115 yards from scrimmage.

Houston Bates, who transferred from Illinois to Tech earlier this year, had three first-half sacks.  The senior came into the game with 5.5 this season.