The Ragin’ Cajuns have officially started the 2017 season with a victory as they outlasted their former rival, the Southeastern Louisiana University Lions, in a game punctuated by big plays.
The Cajuns found themselves in a much closer bout than they were comfortable with, as the game essentially came down to a two-point conversion attempt by the Lions with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
A Game Decided by Big Plays
Raymond Calais set the tone early as he took the opening kickoff 97 yards to the house. He wasn’t done being a headache for the Lions, though, as he would return ANOTHER kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown towards the end of the first quarter. Calais accumulated all 229 of his kick return yards in that quarter, and from that point on the Lions wanted nothing to do with him.
The Lions were not dismayed by the early lead taken by the Cajuns, as they answered with plenty of big plays of their own. Defensive back Max Lyons came up big with a punt return touchdown, but the key player for the Lions was running back Eugene Bethea. He was rolling for most of the game, posting nearly 200 rushing yards. Bethea also hopped on the big play train, scoring the first of his two touchdowns on a 42 yard run.
Despite being cut up by Bethea for a lot of the game, the Ragin’ Cajun defensive front redeemed itself when Joe Dillon ran back a late two-point conversion attempt by the Lions. The Lions chose to go for two and the win with 42 seconds remaining in the game rather than risking an overtime period, but the defense for the Cajuns stepped up.
Key Takeaways for the Cajuns Moving Forward
The Cajuns need to tighten up on both sides of the ball, there’s no getting around that. Take nothing away from Southeastern; they showed up in a major way against a team that was supposed to easily outmatch them, and they hung in right until the final minute. This game may be more of a testament to the type of season that Southeastern will have in the FCS rather than how the Cajuns’ season will play out.
That being said, the schedule only gets tougher from this point on for the Cajuns. The big plays were a step in the right direction, but there needs to be more consistency on both sides of the ball. Jordan Davis did not look bad leading the offense, but he may need to do more in the passing game to give the defense more breathing room. The next few outings will be more telling of just how involved the passing game will be in Will Hall’s new scheme.
The defense was more troubling than the offense in this game. Giving up 187 yards to a single rusher is never a good sign for the defense, whether they are playing a top-rated FBS team or an FCS team. Leaders on the defensive side of the ball will need to find their identity and stand up to the running game more effectively in order for the team to secure wins moving forward. Ending the game on a big fumble recovery should provide momentum going into next week at Tulsa.