COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland football coach Joe Krivak started scouting Louisiana Tech on Thanksgiving weekend. He looked at the Bulldogs schedule, loaded with the likes of East Carolina, McNesse State and Western Michigan. Ah, no sweat.
On Sunday, Krivak got his first peek at Louisiana Tech on film. He started perspiring a bit.
"They are a team that plays very enthusiastically and hard the entire game," said Krivak, whose Terps (6-5) will meet Louisiana Tech (8-3) Dec. 15 in Shreveport, La., in the Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl.
"You watch them on film and the first thing you notice is that they have athletes," Krivak said. "They have two outstanding wide receivers who make plays, and both are possession-type receivers. Their starting quarterback is third on the school's all-time list behind a fellow named Bradshaw [former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw]. But the thing that sticks out most is their two running backs and the starter, Mike Richardson, is as good as any we've faced all year."
Should the Terps show up? "With the way both teams pitch and catch, it should be a pretty good game," said Krivak.
Krivak is making sure his players take Louisiana Tech seriously, too. The first game film he showed the Terps was the Bulldogs' 16-14 loss to Auburn in which Auburn had to kick a field goal in the last minute. He also showed Louisiana Tech's 31-30 win over Colorado State.
"It's the kind of football team you've got to be prepared to play," said Krivak. "If you watch them on film, they'll get your attention in a hurry. It would be ridiculous for me to try and compare their schedule with ours. I won't do that, but as their coach has stated, it's an important game for them. They've been in Division I-A for only two years, and this game is a cornerstone for them."
Maryland sees a mirror image of itself in Louisiana Tech's offense. There are some philosophical difference, though. Maryland is basically a pass-oriented team, and Louisiana Tech has a more balanced attack.
The Terps usually attack the flats with clearing and pick passing routes. The Bulldogs prefer to use crossing patterns through the middle and frequently use sprint-out passes.
"They give you a little bit of everything," said Maryland defensive coordinator Greg Williams, whose unit gave up 145.2 rushing and 198.2 passing yards during the regular season. "They use trips [three receivers to one side], screens and a lot of play-action to set up their running game."
Williams won't reveal the Terps' defensive strategy. But when faced with similar passing attacks from Duke and Virginia, the Terps didn't blitz much, but used five and six defensive backs.
Maryland cornerback Scott Rosen said: "We'll probably play a little bit more man-to-man with some blitzing. Fortunately, we played against this offense a lot last spring when we were putting it in. From what I've seen, most of the teams they played showed only two different looks on defenses. I don't think they've seen as many as we have."
The Bulldogs have plenty of weapons. Louisiana Tech was ranked 20th nationally in rushing (212.3) and 28th in passing (237.5).
Senior running back Richardson leads Louisiana Tech in rushing with 1,114 yards, and his top replacement, sophomore Jason Davis, has 929 yards.
Louisiana Tech uses two quarterbacks, with junior Gene Johnson as the starter (165 completions, 297 attempts, 13 touchdowns, 2,129 yards) and sophomore Sam Hughes (35, 60, 3, 484) in relief. Senior split end Bobby Slaughter was the second leading receiver in the country with 78 catches for 994 yards and flanker Eddie Brown had 50 catches for 799 yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have played just as well, allowing 143.6 rushing and 164.6 passing yards. The Bulldogs operate out of a four-man front but occasionally use an odd-man look. The team's best players are freshman left end Eric Shaw (108 tackles) sophomore defensive tackle Myron Baker (119).
Louisiana Tech likes to play a lot of two- and three-deep zone, and the Bulldogs have intercepted 20 passes this season.
"I don't mind pressure defense because you can make big plays out of pressure defenses," said Maryland quarterback Scott Zolak, who has completed 225 of 418 passes for 2,589 yards and 10 touchdowns. "But it really doesn't matter, you got to learn to play against both pressure and zones."