With a loss to New Mexico State in a virtual must win game, the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns are on life support at 4-6 on the year. Unless they find a way to upset Appalachian State and also beat Troy, they will be sitting at home for the first time during the Mark Hudspeth era.
I guess we should look at the good, bad, and ugly of the game that will keep the Cajuns from going to a bowl game in 2015.
- Elijah McGuire's Play: The junior running back rushed for 159 yards on 18 carries in one of his better performances of the year. Elijah McGuire has been battling injuries, but finally looked more like his normal self in this game. His impact was most evident when he left the game with an injury and the Cajuns had no one to replace him. The rest of the team ended the night with 31 yards on 18 carries.
- The Passing Game: Brooks Haack is looking more and more like the player that should have been getting the majority of the snaps at quarterback this season. His 283 yards passing and two touchdowns helped give balance to the Cajuns offense. His connection with Jamal Robinson continued with the duo combining for 12 catches, 183 yards, and a touchdown versus NMSU. Haack's only interception was on a last second drive after New Mexico State took a 37-34 lead.
- Special Teams: Shanked punts, missed field goals, and overall disappointing special teams play had a significant role in the loss. A 38-yard field goal missed by Stevie Artigue was the final margin of victory for New Mexico State. Aaron Bird took over the kicking duties for the rest of the game, hitting both of his field goal attempts. Even worse was the five yard punt by Steven Coutts that put NMSU in position to kick the game winning field goal.
- Defensive Effort: At this point, the Cajuns defense is what it is: one of the most disappointing units in all of the Sun Belt. The rush defense was unable to slow down the talented Larry Rose, with the Aggies sophomore rushing for 191 yards in the contest. Even worse, the pass defense was gouged for 261 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Andrew Allen only completed 13 passes, but four were for touchdowns and 18.7 yards per completion from Allen.
- Third Down Conversions: The Cajuns converted on only 33% (5-15) of their third down conversions. In a game that the defense struggled significantly, converting on a better rate than 33% versus one of the worst defenses in the nation would have been ideal.
- Everything: From coaching to the play on the field, preparation and practice, implementing game plans, and just everything, this season has been a complete mess for the Cajuns. This is more of a bad category for the season than a single game, but it has to be said. A team that continually brings in good players should not be playing as poorly as they have been. I could easily make a case that the Northwestern State and Texas State games are the only games that Louisiana deservedly won. They could and probably should have lost to ULM and Georgia State. This has been a nightmare of a season so far.
- A Five Yard Punt: Let's set the stage. The game is tied at 34 with 3:59 left in the game and the Cajuns starting at their own 25-yard line. Taking the disappointing play calling out of the equation, a solid punt would force New Mexico State to drive 50+ yards to even get into comfortable field goal range. Instead, a five yard punt is downed at the Cajuns 34-yard line. NMSU drives to the two-yard line and kicks a game winning field goal with 1:29 left in the game.
Play of the Game
- The Punt Shank: Could any one play sum up the entire season for the Cajuns any better than this punt? The Cajuns were set up this season with a shot to make a run at the Sun Belt title, but have choked, shanked, and fumbled their way to a 4-6 record. Why not punt the ball five yards and basically hand this game to New Mexico State on a silver platter.
- A trip to Boone, North Carolina to get blasted by Appalachian State. The Cajuns still have a possibility to earn a bowl trip with wins in their final two games, but does anything this season make you think they can beat App. State on the road?