Welcome everyone to the latest edition of #4Downs where I break down what went right and what went wrong for the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns! This week, I look at the Sun Belt Conference Title Game between the Cajuns and Appalachian State.
1st Down: Competitive Ballgame
When Cajuns fans look back at the inaugural Sun Belt Conference Title Game, they’ll see a fairly competitive ballgame regardless of what the final score shows. For much of the game, we saw the Cajuns stay within a one-possession game, even getting within one point after getting a huge fourth down stop.
There’s a lot to be proud of about this game if you’re a Cajuns fan especially when you look at how far they’ve come. It was a year ago that the Mark Hudspeth era came to an end after App State’s offense blew them out of the water. Now, they were able to keep it an interesting ballgame in one of the more difficult places to play in the conference.
2nd Down: Passing Optional
The weather definitely played a factor in the play-calling on Saturday morning with a combined 34 pass attempts for only 160 yards by Andre Nunez and Zac Thomas. With it being a cold and rainy morning in Boone, North Carolina the ground game wound up being a much more efficient way of getting points on the board for both teams.
That being said, Andre Nunez had one of his worst nights in Boone going 10-of-21 for 85 yards and two interceptions on the afternoon. He had been getting better throughout the season and Saturday just wasn’t his day which was disappointing because of how one-dimensional the Cajuns were.
3rd Down: Evans Continues to be Thorn In Side
Darrynton Evans had a big coming out party back on October 20th and was definitely a player that the Cajuns would need to key in on. Well, the very second he touched the football, he changed the whole game with a 97-yard return to get to the Cajuns one-yard line.
His overall production was down compared to the last meeting, but that play wound up taking the air out of the Cajuns sails after their solid opening drive.
4th Down: Poor Decision Making Their Undoing
After App State made it a four-point game, it felt like the Cajuns actually had a chance to take the lead after a solid return by JaMarcus Bradley. However, Andre Nunez threw into double coverage and the pass almost went for a touchdown. As I mentioned earlier, Nunez had made strides throughout the season, but this was a moment where he made a huge mistake and it cost them in a big way with the Mountaineers putting the dagger in with a 35-yard touchdown run by Zac Thomas to make it 11 points.
The Cajuns still had a shot, but they needed to get in the endzone on the next drive to have a shot. They came close to the endzone and instead settling for a field goal with six minutes left on the clock. Sure a field goal was a part of the equation, but a touchdown would have made it a little easier to complete the rally. After they went for it in negative territory vs UL Monroe, you would think that Billy Napier would have opted to go for it at the App State seven-yard line. While there was no white flag being waved, it sure felt like it.
Extra Point: Not Finished
The Cajuns season isn’t done yet as they have a big game on December 15th in Orlando against the Tulane Green Wave. Considering the expectations that many had (myself included), seeing this team make a bowl game and winning the Sun Belt West Division was a massive success. The foundation of Billy Napier’s culture has been built up and it’ll pay off for years to come and this program could have some sustained success with everything that he and his coaching staff are doing right now.