WHO: Appalachian State 5-5 (4-2) at Louisiana 7-3 (6-0)
WHEN: Saturday, November 22, 1 pm*
WHERE: Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA
WEATHER: 71°/52° 80% rain
LINE: -10 UL (opened -10)
When Appalachian State visits Louisiana on Saturday afternoon, it will be a meeting of the Sun Belt's two hottest teams. The Mountaineers are winners of four straight, and the Cajuns have tallied six victories in a row. Saturday, will be the final home game for 21 Cajun seniors; a majority of these players were a part of Mark Hudspeth's first recruiting class. The Cajuns will also hold Military Appreciation Day and retire the jersey of Cajun great and current Chicago Bear Charles Tillman. Now let's look ahead to Saturday, and preview what each team will need to do in order to continue its winning streak.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Taylor Lamb, FR QB: Since taking over for Kameron Bryant, the Mountaineer offense has really taken off. In eight starts, Lamb has thrown 12 touchdowns, rushed for four and rolled up 2148 total yards of offense. The freshman has thrown 7 picks this season, but only one during App State's current four game winning streak.
Marcus Cox, SO RB: The reigning Sun Belt offensive POW racked up 229 yards and two scores in last week's upset of Arkansas State. Cox has piled up 1142 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns through ten games this season. The sophomore's 1142 rushing yards ranks second in the Sun Belt, trailing only Georgia Southern's Matt Breida.
Darian Small, SO DL & Stephen Burns, JR DL: With usual starter Tyson Fernandez out with injury, the Mountaineers will rely on the tandem of Darian Small and Stephen Burns to plug up the middle and slow down the Cajun rushing attack. Small has recorded six tackles and has one quarterback hurry.
John Law, SO LB: With arguably the most badass name in the conference, the middle linebacker leads App State with 68 tackles. The Atlanta native has six tackles for loss, two sacks, a fumble recovery and one interception.
Doug Middleton, JR FS: Second on the team with 63 stops, Middleton will play a crucial role in slowing down Louisiana's running game. The junior also is tied for the team lead with three interceptions and has broken up five passes.
Terrance Broadway, SR QB: Saturday evening at ULM, the Cajun quarterback used his legs early and often. The Baton Rouge native picked up 94 yards on 19 attempts and scored one touchdown. Louisiana was efficient throwing the football, Broadway finished up 10-13 for 173 yards and two touchdowns, but he was sacked five times.
Elijah McGuire, SO RB & Alonzo Harris, SR RB: After sitting out at NMSU to rest an injured hamstring, senior Alonzo Harris had himself an excellent evening in Monroe. Zo led the way with 133 yards on just 13 carries. The usually explosive McGuire was held in check, only picking up 48 yards but he did score one touchdown. While McGuire having a quiet evening was not expected, Louisiana showed that they can overcome the challenge of having their most explosive player taken away.
Christian Ringo, SR DL: Ringo has been a man amongst boys in 2014. The Jackson, MS native has 10.5 sacks on the season and 19.5 tackles for loss. Ringo along with fellow pass rushers Jake Molbert and Justin Hamilton will need to find a way to get to App State QB Taylor Lamb. The Mountaineers have only allowed one sack in their last two games.
Louisiana Secondary: Same story just a different week. Last week the Cajun secondary was picked apart by Pete Thomas of ULM, the Cajuns gave up 483 yards and two scores. Somehow, someway, somebody must step up and make a play. Louisiana will continue to be tested until they prove they can slow down the passing attack.
APPALACHIAN STATE MUST:
The Mountaineers must use their high powered offense to jump on Louisiana early. App State is averaging 468.1 yards of offense per game and scores 34.8 points per game. Both rank second in the SBC, during its four game winning streak. Appalachian State has been able to come away with points in the red zone, and have scored on 21 of 24 appearances. They must continue to execute in the red zone if they want to pull another upset. Last week Louisiana held ULM to negative 39 rushing yards. The Mountaineers must stay committed to the run, especially with the nasty weather forecasted for Saturday. App State has struggled to hit the big play in 2014, only having 50 plays of 20+ yards. The Cajun defense has been susceptible to the big play all season, the Mountaineers will have to capitalize if the opportunity presents itself.
On defense, Appalachian State has to find a way to slow down the Cajun rushing attack. Last week ULM took a way Elijah McGuire, but the Cajuns used Terrance Broadway and Alonzo Harris to rush for 282 yards. Stopping the run will cause Louisiana to throw the football, which has not been a strong part of the Cajun offense. Louisiana ranks eighth out of eleven in pass offense in the Sun Belt.
During its six game winning streak Louisiana has committed to the run, and it has carried them to victory. The Cajuns must execute the same exact game plan, but doing so may be a challenge. App State is second in the Sun Belt, only giving up 157.2 rushing yards per game. Last week saw OC Jay Johnson add the QB run, a wrinkle which helped keep ULM off balance. Let's see what Johnson and the Cajuns have cooked up this week to keep the Mountaineers guessing.
The Ragin' Cajun defense will have its hands full on Saturday. App State is averaging 468.1 yards per game and does it using both the run and the pass. I would expect the Mountaineers to try and establish the run early, Justin Hamilton, Christian Ringo, and the rest of the Cajun front seven must shut down tailback Marcus Cox. Failure to do so will leave the fragile Louisiana secondary exposed to the play action pass down the field. The Cajun secondary must keep everything in front of them, and make sure it tackles. Last week the secondary missed several open field tackles that allowed ULM to make short completions into big gains.
Both teams enter Saturday full of confidence, and rightfully so. It will be interesting to see what kind of role the weather plays, rain is expected in the Lafayette area. I see a see-saw battle unfolding on Saturday with each team trading blows. This game will be decided in the trenches, I believe the Cajuns are better on both the offensive and defensive fronts and more importantly the Cajun seniors will not allow themselves to go down in their final home game. I like Louisiana to sweat another close one. Cajuns 31 Mountaineers 24
*Kickoff has been pushed up to 1pm due to heavy thunderstorms expected in the Lafayette area.