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 Cajuns 47-43 win over Arkansas State.
1st Down: Defense Optional
The Sun Belt Conference has been using the hashtag #FunBelt to describe the product that they put out there. Saturday’s game between the Cajuns and the Red Wolves was a prime example of #FunBelt with both teams putting up a combined 80 points and the game comes down to the final moments.
When you see both teams rack up 35 points in the first quarter, it’s not a great look for the defensive side of the ball. However, that’s how some of these ballgames will go in the Sun Belt because the offenses are becoming high-powered and for the most part you can pound the over in some of these games.
2nd Down: Hansen Shreds Secondary
One of the things that I praised last weekend was the Cajuns holding down App State’s passing game with Zac Thomas putting up 108 yards and it seemed like a step in the right direction.
Justice Hansen is a horse of a different color and has the ability to overpower any defense in the Sun Belt. We saw that last season in Jonesboro and while the numbers don’t pop off of the stat sheet, he was lethal with six of his 17 completions going for 20 or more yards in a losing effort. The telling stat was that he only had one touchdown and one interception, which was exactly what happened when they were at Cajun Field in 2016.
3rd Down: Three-Headed Monster
Welcome back Raymond Calais. The big story the last few weeks had been about Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas needing a big performance to help the Cajuns get the win. Now the final part of the Cajuns hydra stepped up with 121 yards and a touchdown on only seven attempts.
This shows just how lethal the run game for the Cajuns can be, especially because of how much depth there is at the position. One of the goals for Billy Napier is to make this team hard to prep for and at least when it comes to the run game, they are incredibly hard to come up with a gameplan for.
4th Down: Defense Steps Up on Final Drive
While the defense was far from ideal all night long, that final drive was an impressive finish for the Cajuns, getting a turnover on downs to seal a victory.
Hansen, who had a great ballgame, threw four straight incompletions. After Hansen connected with Kirk Merritt on an absolute bomb earlier in the quarter it seemed like a back breaking play that would be the determining factor in the ballgame. The defense showed that they weren’t going to let them get the win inside Cajun Field with that final drive.
Extra Point: Statement Win
While some might think that the Cajuns win over Arkansas State should be a given, especially since it was inside the friendly confines but this is a Red Wolves team that always plays the Cajuns tough and is towards the top of the pecking order in the Sun Belt. This was a statement win for the program and it puts them in a pretty good position to win the Western Division with only two more opponents from the division left (South Alabama, UL Monroe).
Headed into the season, it felt like it would have been a 6-6 season for the Cajuns, but with this win there’s a chance that we could see them be 7-5 and champions in the West. There’s still a lot of football left to be played, but you have to like their chances to overachieve.