When you get completely demolished by a team that is clearly superior to your program, you have to find the silver linings of a difficult loss. For the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns, that loss was to Louisiana Tech and the silver lining was a run defense that showed up for the first time all season.
A 1-3 record is not the end of the world for the Ragin’ Cajuns because all three losses came from non-conference play.
The biggest worry heading into the Louisiana Tech game was the inability of the defense to slow down any rushing attack. Against a very good rushing attack from the Bulldogs, Louisiana actually found a way to slow down Kenneth Dixon and company.
Dixon came into this game with 524 yards on 73 carries for a 7.2 yards per carry average. Kansas State was the only team to somewhat slow him down with 17 carries for 81 yards, a 4.8 yards per carry average. The Ragin’ Cajuns rush defense found a way to keep Dixon corralled for 59 yards on 22 carries, a 2.7 yards per carry average. That is one of the lowest yards per carry average of Dixon’s illustrious career at Louisiana Tech.
Overall, the Ragin’ Cajuns held Louisiana Tech to 138 yards on 35 carries.
I’m sure you are asking yourself, Louisiana lost 43-14 so why is this guy so excited that they held Louisiana Tech to 3.9 yards per carry?
The answer becomes clear after taking a good look at the rest of the Sun Belt. There are some all-out passing teams like Georgia State, but Louisiana will face a majority of teams that rely upon a good running attack to win games.
The Ragin’ Cajuns first Sun Belt schedule is against Texas State, the fourth best rushing attack in the conference. Quarterback Tyler Jones (47/282/4TD) and running back Robert Lowe (43/243/3TD) are the #9 and #10 ranked rushers in the conference. Arkansas State’s Michael Gordon (71/457/5TD), New Mexico State’s Larry Rose III (71/579/6TD), Troy’s Brandon Burks (73/319/3TD), South Alabama’s Xavier Johnson (64/411/4TD), and Appalachian State’s Marcus Cox (74/493/2TD) are all on the Sun Belt schedule for Louisiana this fall. That is #2, #3, #5, #6, #7, #9, and #10 of the Sun Belt’s top ten rushers.
Louisiana runs a nickel based defense that relies upon great linebacker play to stop the run game. Linebackers Tre’maine Lightfoot (20 tkl, 3.5 tfl), Dominique Tovell (17 tkl, 6 tfl, 2 sacks), TJ Posey (13 tkl), and Otha Peters (12 tkl, 1 tfl) must continue to improve as the season progresses for the rush defense to get better. The Ragin’ Cajuns should also see LB/DE Darzil Washington finally step onto the field after fighting through a separated shoulder.
The combination of Winston, Lee, and Dunbar on the defensive line combined for 10 tackles versus Louisiana Tech and should only get better as the season progresses.
If the Ragin’ Cajuns can find a way to continue to stop the run like they did versus Louisiana Tech, they will be just fine in Sun Belt play with a solid chance to run the table.