The 2017 Battle on the Bayou saw a Warhawk victory for the first time in four years, as they downed the Ragin’ Cajuns 56-50 in a double overtime classic. The Warhawks owe most of their success in this contest to the legs of quarterback Caleb Evans, who accounted for five rushing touchdowns during regulation.
Evans and the Warhawks were in the driver’s seat for a majority of the game despite a late surge by the Cajuns to force overtime. Both teams would score during the first overtime, but a miss by the Cajuns’ backup kicker Matt Linden in the second overtime period would open the door for a rushing touchdown by Derrick Gore to ice it for the Warhawks.
The defensive woes continued for the Cajuns, as they have yet to give up less than 45 points in any game this season. Neither team played much defense in this contest, as shown by the scoreboard and the fact that there were no turnovers forced. The biggest play on the defensive side of the ball was made by the Warhawks when they downed Ragin’ Cajun quarterback Jordan Davis in his own endzone for a safety. This was not only the best defensive play on the night, it also forced Davis out of the game in favor of backup quarterback Andre Nunez.
The quarterback position developed into the major storyline for the Ragin’ Cajun team, as Nunez lead the team on a 4th quarter comeback from 21 points down to force overtime. Sophomore receiver Jarrod Jackson became Nunez’s favorite target during this stretch, making some huge catches to keep the Cajuns alive.
After this performance and Davis’ recent struggles, it is hard to imagine that Nunez has not made a strong case to seize the starting job moving forward. Nunez provided a spark in the Cajun passing game that has not been there this season.
There are still many questions surrounding the future of the passing game for the Ragin’ Cajuns, whereas the running game has served them well. Running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas combined for 198 yards and three touchdowns, one of the main reasons that the Cajuns were able to keep the game close enough for a comeback in the late stages.
Both backs are effective in their own right, but Ragas has really found a niche as a hard-nosed runner who is willing and able to go through defenses for chunks of yards. The combination of Ragas’ power and Mitchell’s elusiveness will only become stronger if the passing game can find consistency.
If the defense can’t find a way to force turnovers or keep an opposing team’s score below 45, the offense is going to be playing from behind more often than not during conference play.
Joe Dillon was set to be a major tone-setter for the defense this year, but he has had trouble transitioning from outside defensive lineman to inside linebacker, finding himself on the sideline to re-group more often than the team would like. The defensive side of the ball lacks any sort of identity this year, and their schedule does not get any easier moving forward into Sun Belt play.
The Cajuns are now 1-3 and will go on the road to take on Idaho in two weeks. 1-2 ULM will play Sun Belt newbie Coastal Carolina next week.