I guess it's called #FunBelt for a reason, right?
In a weird game that felt both close while also completely out of reach, Arkansas State left Cajun Field seething-...or ragin'?-following a brutal 55-40 defeat.
With five more games on the schedule, it's impossible to say that everything is lost, but it certainly feels like a little bit of the visions of grandeur the Red Wolves might have had for the 2014 season have died. Most had anticipated Louisiana and A-State to finish first and second, in some order, in the Sun Belt Conference and while it's still possible, a tie would give the title to the Ragin' Cajuns. (Not to mention that Georgia Southern is rushing its way to the conference title in its first season in the FBS, because #FunBelt.)
With the benefit of an extra day to reflect and a newfound sobriety that was long gone by the end of the game on Tuesday night, I'll take a closer look at the Red Wolves' performance in Lafayette 1) with an alarming trend, and 2) by overreacting to a harmless takeaway, 3) naming a player of the game and 4) looking ahead.
And folks, remember-despite the loss, this is still not Arkansas.
It's really hard to believe that now, with the benefit of hindsight and what not, but the A-State defense has been one of the strengths of the team this season. The Red Wolves were first in the Sun Belt with their 114.7 yards allowed per game on the ground and I even wrote that they "have terrorized opponents at the line of scrimmage, most notably when they are on defense."
Well, it turns out that I was wrong. I was wrong to the tune of 419 yards and "not two, not three, not four..." but eight rushing Ragin' Cajuns touchdowns. That A-State rushing defense? No bueno. Terrance Broadway attempted only 17 passes for Lafayette, because Elijah McGuire (i.e. 265 yards) and Alonzo Harris (i.e. 107 yards) could have run for a mile if that's what was needed. One game does not a trend make for the Red Wolves, and all of that, but it doesn't make it any less alarming.
I Cried Wolf
Is it a little brazen to complain about an offense that amassed 595 yards in a game? Because that's what I'll attempt here... Maybe I should look at it the other way around and say that the defense should have held Louisiana to below 40 points, but you win and lose as a team and that means that the offense didn't score enough either. For example, the unit took a few series off-its first three touchdowns came on 60, 74 and 87 yards-that's 221 yards on just three plays.
It's not actually a bad thing to be explosive, but the one negative is that it puts your struggling defense right back on the field. It was a problem against the Ragin' Cajuns only because the offense was inconsistent. The Red Wolves missed a few more big plays and were a little too feast or famine-whereas Louisiana was feasting all night.
Howl of the Night
I'm sure he aspires to much bigger things with his life, but wide receiver Dijon Paschal impressed me and he's this week's choice for Howl of the Night. On the one hand, his is a strong, strong name and you can go far in our world with a strong name-but that's not why he gets the distinction this week. Perhaps more relevant is that at Cajun Field, the redshirt freshman hauled in 8 passes for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns, boosting his season totals in these three categories by, respectively, 61, 56 and 200 percent.
His two scores showcase the range of talent and speed the young man has, and most A-State fans will probably say that they have one favorite but that's looking at it all wrong. What's great is that Paschal can turn a short pass into an 87-yard touchdown and also have the poise and footwork for a nice 6-yard fade. Which touchdown is the best one? They both are.
Don't be too cute, Blake. That would be Blake as in head coach Blake Anderson, and "too cute" as in calling (by my count) six trick plays. A-State was successful with most, though it depends what you intend by "successful," but Anderson did try a little too hard in the third quarter with a fake punt from his own 8-yard line that failed miserably.
It's one thing to go for it, but it's quite another to do so by making Chris Stone throw a pass to Luke Ferguson for a loss of two yards. As Spencer Hall noted on Twitter, Anderson should embrace his inner madness and just go for it every time.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have poutine to eat.