Just a few weeks ago, I was ready to write off the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns for dead in their quest for a ten win season. They were coming off of a 35-14 loss to Akron that saw the run defense get gouged for the third straight game. Little did I know that losing to Akron was a much needed wakeup call for the entire team.
Yes, Louisiana was throttled by a much better Louisiana Tech team the following week, but we finally saw them turn a corner and stop the run.
The ability of Louisiana to run the football and stop the run has been the pillar for the program under Mark Hudspeth. Showing that they can finally stop the run has given the team confidence to stick to the game plan and grind out games like they are built to do.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are good at running the football due to their ability to rarely get stuffed. The rush offense has the #2 ranked stuff rate at 9.5% of all running plays. Hand in hand with the ability to rarely get stuffed is the #4 ranked success rate in the nation (55.8%). Starting running back Elijah McGuire (97/585/7TD) has been his usual self with a 6.0 yards per carry average. His backup, senior Torrey Pierce (43/240/4TD) is a very solid backup that does a good job when asked to step in. The Ragin’ Cajuns, as a whole, rush for 231.2 yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry as a team.
The numbers look a little rough overall for the rush defense after the struggles of the first three games of the season. Teams are still successfully running the ball on 47.2% of chances, but that number has dropped in the last two games. The defense has given up fewer than 200 yards to Louisiana Tech and Texas State after giving up 220 and 234 in the previous two games. Over 60 of Texas State’s 173 yards on the ground came with the game out of reach. Linebackers Dominique Tovell (23 tkl, 7 tfl, 3 sacks), Tre’maine Lightfoot (20 tkl, 3.5 tfl), Trey Granier (17 tkl, 1 tfl), and T.J. Posey (17 tkl) have all looked good in their ability to stop the run.
The schedule for the Ragin’ Cajuns moving forward basically comes down to two road trips: Arkansas State and Appalachian State. Both are top 40 rushing attacks nationally that expect to move the ball at will on the ground.
Arkansas State is a big rival for the Ragin’ Cajuns with 43 overall meetings between the two teams. Last season’s meeting was a wild 55-40 game that Louisiana won. The Red Wolves rushed for 253 yards in that game, but gave up 419 yards on the ground to Louisiana. The ability of the rush defense to somewhat slow down the plethora of running back options for Arkansas State will be how the game is settled. It should be a fun and crazy Funbelt game that everyone loves.
Appalachian State is a revenge game from the 2014 game that ended 35-16 in the Mountaineers favor. It was the worst rushing game of the season for the Ragin’ Cajuns with 99 yards rushing on 35 carries. Appalachian State had 232 yards on 47 carries. Expect Louisiana to remember that game and come out ready to run the ball. This could be the game that decides who wins the Sun Belt.
Outside of those two games, the Ragin’ Cajuns match up very well with the rest of their schedule. I am going out on a limb and saying that the Ragin’ Cajuns will not be distracted by the NCAA allegations or any other issue and take care of Sun Belt business. Louisiana will be 9-3 heading into a bowl game with the chance to finally get to ten wins for the first time.