CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — When Louisiana Tech arrives at Virginia's Scott Stadium on Saturday, coach Sonny Dykes sounds like he might want to tip-toe into the locker room so he doesn't disturb what he sees as a sleeping giant.
The Bulldogs (3-0) might as well stomp, because they've been doing it all season.
The school 230 miles north of New Orleans and 160 away from LSU has mostly remained below the radar while acing every test it's faced.
The Bulldogs rank third nationally with a scoring average of 54.7, and their lowest output came last week in a 52-24 victory at Illinois of the Big Ten. It was their seventh straight road victory.
Want balance? La Tech's rushing offense ranks 22nd nationally. It's passing offense? Also 22nd.
Want defense? The Bulldogs plus-six turnover margin is sixth-best in the country.
It all combines to make it seem like just a blip that top tailback Tevin King will miss the game, and the remainder of the season, after suffering a torn ACL last week. He averaged almost 118 rushing yards per game, eighth-best in the nation.
"I don't know if you slow them down," Virginia coach Mike London said, quickly noting the Bulldogs have given up plenty of points, too. They allow 36.7 per game, 111th in the country.
But if the game turns into a shootout, Louisiana Tech seems to have the edge. The Bulldogs have eight touchdown-producing drives that lasted less than a minute this season.
Virginia (2-2), by contrast, has scored 11 touchdowns in four games, and averages 21.8 points.
"I think we are going to have to score some points. We are going to have to hang on to the ball and put some drives together," London said, and prevent the Bulldogs from their quick-strike success.
"It's up to us to stay on the field and limit that, and when we get the ball, score ourselves."
The Cavaliers have been struggling with that of late, and also with turnovers. They had two turnovers two weeks ago in a 56-20 loss at Georgia Tech, and four last week in a 27-7 loss at No. 15 TCU. For the season, they have committed 10 turnovers, and taken it away just three times.
Dykes, however, sees the Cavaliers' potential, and it concerns him.
"They just have not gotten on track yet," Dykes said. "We just have to make sure they do not get on track against us because they are capable of being a very good offensive football team. They are big up front. They have two really good backs, and like I said, a lot of good wide receivers."
The Cavaliers also hope history is on their side.
Last season, when they finished 8-5 and went to a bowl game for the first time since 2007, they also were 2-2 and coming off consecutive losses when they won six of their next seven.
Being back at home, guard Sean Cascarano said, gives them hope they can start that kind of push again.
"I don't think anyone's panicking," Cascarano said. "I don't think anyone feels like we're deficient, or whatever, to get the job done Saturday. We're just going to prepare a little bit harder this week."
More effective play at quarterback would help,
Starter Michael Rocco has thrown five interceptions and just four touchdown passes, and Alabama transfer Phillip Sims has fumbled the ball away twice when called on to finish off lopsided losses.
"Michael understands that his throws, his decisions, are very, very important to the success of what happens to the ball," London said this week. "Phillip understands the same thing."
Bulldogs quarterback Colby Cameron has thrown for an average of more than 300 yards per game and has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Six receivers have caught at least one scoring pass.
The Cavaliers have the soft part of their schedule just ahead after this game, and London is hopeful that his team can head into that stretch feeling a little more confident about its identity.
"Putting the game plan together offensively it's going to challenge you," he said, "but at the same time, it's not as much about what they do; it's about what we have to do and what we do."