WHO: Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana (8-4)
WHEN: Saturday, December 20, 10 am
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
LINE: Nevada -1
ALL TIME BOWL RECORD: Nevada 4-9 Louisiana 4-1
The Nevada Wolf Pack and Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns kick off the 2014 bowl season when the two tangle Saturday morning, in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Nevada will be making its first appearance in the New Orleans Bowl, while Saturday will mark Louisiana's fourth straight bowl game, in the Big Easy. The Cajuns finished second in the Sun Belt with a 7-1 league record. Nevada finished the season third in the Mountain West's West Division with a 4-4 conference record. Louisiana and Nevada had one common opponent in 2014; both the Cajuns and Wolf Pack suffered losses to Boise State. Saturday's match up will be the second meeting between the Cajuns and Wolf Pack; Nevada beat Louisiana 38-14 in 1995.
NEVADA PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Cody Fajardo, SR QB: The dual threat quarterback leads the Wolf Pack in rushing with 997 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. The Brea, CA native has also thrown for 2374 yards and 18 scores. Fajardo and Nevada alum Colin Kaepernick are the only quarterbacks in NCAA history to rush for 3000 yards and pass for 9000 yards in a career.
Don Jackson, JR RB: The junior college transfer was named the starter after fall camp and has not looked back since. Jackson is second on the team with 932 rush yards and has scored seven touchdowns. James Butler will spell Jackson when needed; Butler has scored five TDs and added 633 rushing yards.
Richy Turner, SR WR: The Long Beach, CA native leads a dangerous group of Wolf Pack receivers. Turner tops the squad with 58 receptions and is tied for the lead with four touchdowns. Jerico Richardson and Hasaan Henderson are hot on Turner's heels. The duo has combined for 98 catches, 1205 yards and seven scores. Tight End Jarred Gipson has 32 receptions and scored four times.
Jonathan McNeal, SR LB: McNeal leads the Wolf Pack with 95 tackles. He has also recorded 5.5 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, recovered three additional fumbles and has one interception. His 95 stops are 18 more than any other Wolf Pack defender.
Ian Seau, JR DE: The junior leads Nevada with 7.5 sacks and is second on the team with 9.5 tackles for loss. Seau has tallied 36 tackles and appeared in all 12 games this season. Ian is the nephew of NFL legend Junior Seau.
Nigel Haikins, SR DB: Haikins is fourth on the team with 70 tackles and is tied for team lead with three interceptions. The Concord, CA native has defended nine passes and has broken up six more. He is also tied recovered three fumbles.
FOR NEVADA TO WIN, THE WOLF PACK MUST:
HIT THE BIG PLAY: The Louisiana defense has given up plenty of yardage this season, and unfortunately for the Cajuns more than their share of huge plays. Dual threat quarterback Cody Fajardo will have an opportunity to burn the Cajuns with chunk yardage, when that opportunity presents itself, the senior must not miss.
CONTROL THE TRENCHES: Former Cajun offensive coordinator and current Wolf Pack offensive line coach Ron Hudson has his work cut out for him. After starting off slow the Cajun defensive line has really come alive in the second half of the season. Christian Ringo leads Louisiana with 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss; if the Wolf Pack can't win at the point of attack Louisiana will be able to control the run game, forcing Nevada to become predictable with its play calling.
WIN THE RUN GAME: This is important on both sides of the ball. If the Wolf Pack are able to run the ball, they can dictate the flow of the game and throw it at will. On defense, the Wolf Pack must find a way to slow down the Louisiana rushing attack. Nevada gives up 179.2 yards per game, but if the Wolf Pack can stop the Cajun rushing attack it will force Louisiana QB Terrance Broadway to win the game using his arm.
ELIMINATE THE CROWD: In what has become a home game for Louisiana, it is important that Nevada find a way to quiet the Cajun faithful early. Failure to do so will allow the Dome to start rocking and give the Cajuns a dominate home field advantage.
FOR LOUISIANA TO WIN, THE CAJUNS MUST:
BE YOURSELF: The winning formula for Louisiana has been a three headed rushing attack consisting of Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Elijah McGuire, bruising back Alonzo Harris and QB Terrance Broadway. The Cajuns must stay committed to the running game and resist the temptation to become pass happy. Terrance Broadway, a former New Orleans Bowl MVP must be active in the running game, success with his legs will allow his arm to win in the later stages of the contest.
PLAY DISCIPLINED: I'm not talking about penalties, which have not been a problem for Louisiana, I'm talking about defense. The Cajuns must stay disciplined when defending the Wolf Pack offense. If the Cajuns are able to take away the Nevada run game, the secondary won't have to worry about cheating up and biting on play action fakes. Without having to cheat, Louisiana will stand a much better chance of not allowing the big play, something the Cajuns have been susceptible to all season.
IGNITE THE CROWD: Just as it is important for Nevada to hush the crowd, Louisiana must make sure the Superdome stays loud for 60 minutes. The Cajuns need to create a big play early; doing so will wake up the Cajun Nation, which will be a bit sluggish after a long night on Bourbon Street. A loud and crazy Dome could create enough momentum to carry the Cajuns to victory.
If Louisiana wants to win its fourth straight bowl game, it will take a total team effort. Nevada is probably the best opponent the Cajuns have faced in the New Orleans Bowl and it will be no easy task, to leave the Super Dome with a victory. Louisiana must run the ball and shorten the game; doing so will keep Nevada's dangerous offense off the field. I expect the 2014 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl to be no different than the previous three for Louisiana. The game will come down the wire, but Terrance Broadway will find a way to lead Louisiana to victory. Cajuns 38 Wolf Pack 37
The Wolf Pack bring several Cajun connections with them. As I mentioned earlier current Wolf Pack OL coach Ron Hudson was a Cajun Assistant under Rickey Bustle. One of Hudson's former Cajun linemen, John Decoster is a Nevada graduate assistant. Kendall Johnson, a freshman defensive back for Nevada graduated from St. Thomas More in Lafayette.
Louisiana has eighteen players who call the Greater New Orleans area home.
Twenty Cajun seniors will take the field for the final time, over the last four seasons this class has gone 35-16, won three bowl games and one conference championship.