RUSTON, La. (AP) — Three years into his North Louisiana venture, Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes is making the production of Bulldogs legends Terry Bradshaw and Tim Rattay look rather pedestrian.
No. 24 Louisiana Tech (6-1, 1-0 WAC) is smashing offensive records and opponents. The Bulldogs lead the NCAA in scoring (56.1 points per game) and rank second behind Oklahoma State in total offense (581.6 yards per game).
"It is kind of fun to come in and try and put your mark on a school that has had a lot of great offenses and had a lot of good players," Dykes said. "It is a challenge for us because the bar has been set really high here."
Dykes and Co. managed to raise the bar even higher last weekend, rolling up a school-record 839 yards in a 70-28 victory against Idaho. Tech became the first FBS team since 2000 to record more than 400 yards rushing (408) and passing (431) in one game.
"Usually you have an offense that is better at throwing or a little bit better at running, and this group is pretty good at doing both, so I think that is what makes this group unique maybe," said Dykes, who served as Arizona's offensive coordinator from 2007-09.
The self-proclaimed "Tech Trolley" Saturday stops at 1-6 New Mexico State.
The Bulldogs are led by offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and mistake-free senior quarterback Colby Cameron, who spent his first three years in Ruston bouncing around the depth chart — from No. 3 to No. 1 and back again on multiple occasions.
Now, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Newbury Park, Calif., product is the unquestioned leader under center. Cameron set an NCAA record Saturday by throwing his 275th pass without an interception this season. He broke a mark briefly held by West Virginia's Geno Smith, who had 273 INT-free throws until his third-quarter blemish against Kansas State on Saturday.
"He's a microcosm of our entire program," Dykes said of Cameron. "It really has been fun to watch him progress just because he has such a high level of confidence. He is the best quarterback I have ever been around about doing exactly what we ask him to do."
Cameron (196 for 275 passing for 2,306 yards and 20 touchdowns) ranks fifth in the country in completion percentage (71.6). Alabama's A.J. McCarron (154 attempts) is the only other full-time FBS starter without an interception this season.
"With the direction this thing is going, it's awesome to be a Bulldog right now," Cameron said. "We've been trying to (put this school on the map) for so long."
Cameron's go-to receiver, senior Quinton Patton, ranks in the top five in the nation in receptions (59), receiving yards (806) and touchdowns (10).
But as Dykes mentioned, the Bulldogs don't simply sling the ball around.
In last week's blowout victory against Idaho, one that cost Vandals head coach Robb Akey his job, Louisiana Tech freshman Kenneth Dixon set a school record with six rushing touchdowns, one shy of NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk's NCAA freshman record set in 1991.
Dixon leads the country with 16 rushing touchdowns this season.
"I'm really just doing what they recruited me to do," Dixon said. "I'm coming in and reading the blocks the line is giving me and just trying to make plays. In my eyes, I'm not a true freshman, I'm just a football player. There's not anybody wearing 'true freshman' on the football field."
Louisiana Tech recorded back-to-back road victories against Illinois of the Big Ten and Virginia of the ACC. Only a failed two-point try in the waning moments of Louisiana Tech's game against first-year SEC school Texas A&M on Oct. 13 stands between the Bulldogs and the possible "BCS Buster" tag.
That night in Shreveport, La., Louisiana Tech spotted the Aggies a pair of 27-point leads and another 26-point lead before storming back. The Bulldogs scored 57 points in the final 35 minutes, but fell to the now-No. 20 Aggies 59-57.
The run against the Aggies sparked Louisiana Tech to score 127 points in a 76-minute span — or more points than seven FBS teams have registered this season.
The Bulldogs have certainly garnered the attention of Rattay, a wide receivers coach of the Las Vegas Locos of the UFL.
"I'm excited to follow their games on the Internet," said Rattay, who enjoyed three prolific seasons (1997-99) in Ruston. "They are playing with a ton of confidence. It's impressive what they're doing offensively — the QB hasn't thrown a pick?
"I spent little bit of time with coach Dykes; you can just tell he's a guy the kids want to play for."
Rattay still stands as the NCAA leader in passing yards per game in a career (386.2), touchdown passes per game (3.5) and touchdown passes to one receiver (Troy Edwards) in a season (26).
In 1999, Rattay led the Bulldogs to their first AP ranking. Louisiana Tech reached No. 25 prior to its regular-season finale against USC. The Bulldogs lost in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and weren't ranked again until this season, when Tech entered the game against the Aggies at No. 23.
Again, the loss dropped the Bulldogs out of the poll, but they resurfaced at No. 24 after the thrashing of Idaho.
Louisiana Tech has the opportunity against New Mexico State to nab a victory as a ranked team and remain in the Top 25 for consecutive weeks for the first time in school history.
"You do not want to be a one-hit wonder," Dykes said. "Last time we got in the polls, we did not handle it very well and got beat because of it. Hopefully, it will be a challenge for us and we will handle it better."