Some of the greatest tag teams in history passed through Louisiana as part of the Mid-South wrestling territory: the Midnight Express, the Rock-n-Roll Express, the Fabulous Freebirds.
The territory days are long gone — much like the era of geographically logical conferences — but the spirit of memorable tag teams lives on in the Louisiana Tech wide receiving corps.
Carlos Henderson and Trent Taylor rank No. 1 and No. 2 nationally in receiving yards per game at 147.3 and 141. Should they continue on that pace through the second half of the season, they will go down as the best duo in college football history.
That’s no hyperbole. The last time any receiving duo came close to matching Henderson and Taylor was in 2002, when San Diego State’s J.R. Tolver and Kassim Osgood ranked No. 1 and No. 4. Considering the proliferation of pass-happy air-raid offenses in the last decade or so, 14 years is
Such production deserves a great tag-team name. The Tech Express? The Ruston Bulldogs? We can work on the moniker. In the meantime, both Henderson and Taylor deserve kudos for being a couple of Dynamite Kids in the explosive La. Tech offense.
The last two weeks, Henderson paced Louisiana Tech to wins over Western Kentucky and UMass with eight catches for 232 yards and two touchdowns, then for an encore, ripped off 12 catches for 356 yards and five touchdowns.
Henderson’s performance the last two weeks made up for some lost time. He missed the Bulldogs’ Week 5 win over UTEP, which marked their second-lowest scoring performance of the season. That’s no coincidence. Louisiana Tech’s lowest output came in a 21-20 loss Week 1 at Arkansas, in which Henderson and Taylor still combined for a healthy 149 yards against the currently ranked Razorbacks.
Playing against UTEP likely would have Henderson on a pace to break Trevor Insley’s FBS record of 2,060 receiving yards for a season. As it stands, Taylor will contend for the former Nevada Wolf Pack standout’s mark, which has stood since 1999.
Consider all the explosive passing offenses that have come through the game in that time. Also keep in mind the many great individual wideouts, like Mike Williams; Larry Fitzgerald; Michael Crabtree; Marqise Lee. And the record could come to one of two Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
Remarkably, the Louisiana Tech tag team isn’t operating in a system overseen by a Hal Mumme disciple. A season ago, Tony Petersen coordinated the Bulldog offense. Petersen had previous experience working with potent passing attacks and talented receivers, coaching quarterbacks for the great Marshall teams of the late 1990s, which featured Chad Pennington and Randy Moss.
Tech ranked 13th nationally in passing offense a season ago, but operated with some balance. Another Bulldog pursued NCAA records — running back Kenneth Dixon — adding a ground-game punch to the Tech passing attack.
Petersen joined Scottie Montgomery at East Carolina in the same role he held at Tech. Head coach Skip Holtz replaced him with Todd Fitch, an import from Boston College — not exactly the program one associates with prolific passing attacks.
Fitch is a longtime Holtz assistant, overseeing East Carolina offenses more known for complementing stout defenses with unrelenting run, and USF offenses that…well, never put up the numbers Louisiana Tech is generating.
Put in wrestling parlance, Fitch is an unlikely Jim Cornette to Henderson and Taylor’s Midnight Express.
Perhaps just as unlikely in the ascent of the nation’s best wide-receiving tag team, quarterback Ryan Higgins evolved from a freshman starter in Holtz’s first season who threw more than double the number of interceptions than he threw touchdowns, into one of college football’s top passers as a senior.
Higgins described his career as a roller coaster to the American Sports Network. And indeed, it’s taken some dips — like the DUI this summer that cost him the Arkansas game. Just maybe, the Bulldogs win that game with Higgins throwing to the dynamic duo of Henderson and Taylor.
Nevertheless, Higgins is on a high now, and so is Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs look like the squad to beat in Conference USA West, and the tag team of Carlos Henderson and Trent Taylor is poised to write their name in college football history.