2019 Independence Bowl Preview

2019 Independence Bowl Preview

The 2019 Independence Bowl has two teams that look to be headed in opposite directions. On one hand, Louisiana Tech is led by head coach Skip Holtz. The Bulldogs are looking for their first 10-win season in decades. The Hurricanes are on the opposite end. They are just trying to right the ship after dropping back to back games to end the season. Although the teams seem to be polar opposites, something they’ll both share is missing key talent for this game. Lower-tier bowl games don’t carry the flare they once had. In fact, more college players are electing to skip the game and prepare for their NFL careers.

Louisiana Tech will be without one of it’s best players in Amik Robertson. The junior elected to declare for the NFL Draft. Miami will be without a number of key contributors on both offense and defense. Juniors Jeff Thomas and Jonathan Garvin, both declared early for the draft and decided to begin preparations for it. Additionally, senior defensive end Trevon Hill and senior linebacker Mike Pinckney are also sitting out.

Louisiana Tech

For the Bulldogs, as good as this season has been it possibly could’ve been one of the best in school history. Senior quarterback J’Mar Smith was suspended for two games during the season. Louisiana Tech ended up dropping both games. Outside of an opening week loss to Texas, Louisiana Tech could’ve been walking into a better bowl game with only one loss. Smith is having his best season in 2019. He threw for 17 touchdowns compared to only four interceptions. Junior running back Justin Henderson is only 33 yards away from 1000 yards rushing to add to his 15 rushing touchdowns.

Comparatively, on defense, the Bulldogs switched it’s scheme coincidentally after former defensive coordinator Blake Baker left to join Miami. Even with the change, Louisiana Tech carries a veteran group that has a ton of experience. Senior safety L’Jarius Snead leads the team in tackles with 72. But, he also has three interceptions this season as well. Sophomore Milton Williams is the team’s best pass rusher. He leads the team with four sacks. The Hurricanes offensive line struggled at the end of the season, so Williams will be a name to watch.

Miami Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are headed into the bowl game with a wide-open competition at quarterback. It wasn’t long ago that redshirt freshman Jarren Williams tied the ACC record for passing touchdowns in a game. But since that game he has looked like a shell of himself, leading Manny Diaz to open up a competition prior to the bowl game. N’Kosi Perry and Tate Martell will both be given a chance to start this game in hopes of gaining momentum for next year. Whoever is at quarterback will have to get the offense rolling as it has stalled the last two weeks of the season. The Mackey Award finalist, Brevin Jordan making a healthy return should also help a great deal.

Defensively the Hurricanes have a slight advantage as Baker and Diaz were both former coordinators under Holtz. However, that means very little if the Hurricanes defense can’t get any pressure. Greg Rousseau has enjoyed an All-American season but could potentially see double teams with Garvin and Hill out this game. In his final game as a Hurricane senior linebacker, Shaq Quarterman will be relied upon heavily to slow down Henderson.

Final Word

Motivation will be a big reason in whoever is the victor of this bowl game. The Hurricanes are favorites even after sliding to end the season. However Louisiana Tech could very well be the better team, and if they decide to play harder than Miami we could possibly see a blowout. Miami is looking for this game to be a bridge into next season and will play more players to increase competition. Look for the Hurricanes to play with more fire as Diaz should have the team more motivated after a disappointing finish to the season.