Seventeen catches are a good season for some receivers. Seventeen catches were a remarkable day for Louisiana Tech’s Trent Taylor.
The Bulldogs’ undersized, “overcompetitive” slot receiver caught 17 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 38-34 loss to Middle Tennessee. (Catch all 17 of his receptions in the video above.)
[caption id="attachment_3237" align="alignright" width="150"] SATURDAY ON ASN: UTEP at La Tech, 7 p.m. ET (click logo for local listings and live stream link)[/caption]
“I felt like I caught a lot,” Taylor said this week. “Into the second half, I knew it was a big number. I didn’t know it was 17. That’s a lot. Seventeen, that was big-time to hear after the game. I didn’t know I caught that many.”
Taylor, a 5-8, 183-pound senior, turns heads, and not just those of flummoxed defensive backs. He was first-team All-Conference USA last year after catching 99 passes for 1,282 yards, numbers that he’s on pace to surpass.
He leads the nation in touchdown catches (7) and is third in receiving yards (632), catches per game (10.8) and yards per game (158). He is second in LA Tech history in career touchdown catches (27) and just the fourth player to surpass 3,000 career receiving yards. He is tied for fifth in career receptions (234).
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury sought out Taylor after the Red Raiders’ 59-45 win, a game in which Taylor caught seven passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
“I told him I played with (Wes) Welker, and I see a lot of the same things in him,” Kingsbury told reporters afterward. “He’s a hard guy to cover. He’s quick, he’s tough. You watch him block. So when you see a player like that, you’ve got to let them know that you appreciate what he’s about.”
Taylor’s performance versus Middle Tennessee was part of a huge aerial display. LA Tech quarterback Ryan Higgins threw for 504 yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage was a 22-yard catch by Taylor, and he took off from there. Eleven of his 17 receptions were either for a first down or touchdown.
“I think our coaches do a good job of finding opportunities for us on any given day,” Taylor said. “You don’t really know going into a game what kind of day you’re going to have. It kind of depends on the flow of the game. …
“Our coaches have put in some good plays here lately that allowed me to get open. There are a couple of option routes that give me a two-way (choice), depending on what the defense is. Ryan does a great job of finding the holes in the defense. Knowing how to read defenses, I think is the biggest thing in being able to get a bunch of catches like that.”
Louisiana Tech offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Todd Fitch said that Taylor combines exceptional quickness and footwork with football smarts and a relentless work ethic.
“Some people are called overachievers,” Fitch said. “He’s an over-competitor. He’s a highly, highly competitive guy. Most really good football players, or athletes in any field you want to name, are highly competitive, and I think that’s his first trait. He hates to lose. He always takes his individual battles seriously.”
Taylor said that no single play stood out for him Saturday. Even his two touchdown catches — one versus man-to-man coverage, one against zone coverage — were simple products of reading the defense.
The Bulldogs’ loss muted his individual performance, as they squandered a 20-point lead in a game they led for more than three quarters and fell to 1-3. They must improve as they prepare to face UTEP on Saturday (7 p.m. on ASN), and their productive wide receiver willingly shoulders that task.
“There’s always room to improve, but I don’t think it’s really about me,” Taylor said. “As a leader, you’ve got to learn how to get the offense going, as a whole. Get everybody out there in complete focus and get everybody executing to the best of their ability. I take that responsibility seriously as a leader on the team. That’s one of the main things I really try to focus on, to make sure everybody is doing their job, as well.”