Location: Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana
Date: Thursday, October 12th
Time: 6:30 pm CT
TV: ESPN U, ESPN3
Records: UL-Lafayette 2-3 (1-1), Texas State 1-5 (0-2)
Betting Line: UL-Lafayette -14
All-Time Series: UL-Lafayette Leads 3-0*
Last Meeting: UL-Lafayette 27-3 on October 22, 2016
* The 2013 win for the Ragin’ Cajuns was vacated.
The Thursday night Fun Belt matchup this week will feature a Ragin’ Cajun team coming off of its first conference victory of the season and a Bobcat team hoping to find an upset. All signs point to an easy victory at home for the Cajuns, but consistency has not been the team’s strong suit so far this season.
Keys to Victory for the Ragin’ Cajuns
Has the defense finally arrived? The Cajuns handily took care of Matt Linehan and Idaho on Saturday, which may provide the spark to get this talented defense rolling. The defensive line dialed up the pressure for the first time all year, recording more QB hurries (6) and sacks (3) in one contest than all of their other games combined. This is a massively important statistical area of emphasis for the Cajuns’ defense moving forward; pressure on the quarterback will be the key to more wins.
Andre Nunez will need to maintain command of the offense in order to provide the team with some consistency. He has proven to be a great game manager in his limited time so far, but also willing to take shots when needed. Nunez needs to avoid falling into the same trap that Jordan Davis did, so this is the game that he needs to avoid stagnating at all costs. If he cannot impact the game and lead them to victory, don’t be surprised if Mark Hudspeth tries to get cute with the quarterback rotation (Dion Ray is always a fun option).
Return of Special Teams?
Raymond Calais started off the season in the most electric way possible, taking TWO kickoff return to the house in the first quarter of the opener. Since then? Special teams has fallen asleep. This phase of the game is the least appreciated despite being arguably the most important. Field position, kick returns, and field goal kicking ability are invaluable, and they are the difference between winning and losing more often than not. If the Cajuns can get the third phase of the game going, they are looking good to secure their second Sun Belt win.
Keys to Victory for the Bobcats
In last Saturday’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe the Texas State Bobcat offense was able to go blow-for-blow in a wild first quarter that saw them take a 20-19 lead. But from then on out the risk taking stalled and State ended up with seven drives ending in punts or turnovers before their next touchdown. Included were five-out-of seven drives being three & outs.
For the Bobcats to have any success against the Ragin’ Cajuns they need to eat up on the ground and score throughout the game, not just in one quarter. With such a young offensive line experiencing lineup changes, calling gadget plays to keep the defense off balanced, and calling play action plays seem to work for Texas State.
The cornerstone of Texas State’s squad has been the defense, especially with the linebacking lineup including Bryan London III, Gabe Loyd and Easy Anyama. Despite an improved sack total from 2016 this year’s team has yet to register an interception and this would be the perfect game to get that first one.
Not everything is to be blamed solely on the defensive woes. The offense’s problems have had a gassed defense giving up lots of cushy pass plays as they have given up a 186 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks. Texas State will have to find a way to put pressure on the quarterback and wrap up on tackles or at least disrupt Nunez’s timing and force bad decisions.
Can I Kick It? Yes You Can
After Texas State scored their first touchdown of the game last Saturday head coach Everett Withers opted to go for two. Was it an early strategical ploy or a declined faith in the kicking game? More than likely it was the former but later on the ‘Cats went for it on fourth down in Warhawk territory but for understandable reasons. Regular kicker James Sherman had been 5-for-7 this season for field goals. Foster Hilborn was inserted against Wyoming and has been one-for-three himself in field goal tries dampening the faith of Texas State kickers. If this game comes down to field goal tries in critical situations for the Bobcats it’ll be an interesting decision Coach Withers will have to make.