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, we look at the Cajuns loss to the Troy Trojans.
1st Down: Secondary Shredded
One of the more intriguing storylines headed into this ballgame was Sawyer Smith, who headed into the season as a backup but an injury to Kaleb Barker threw a wrench into the gameplan. Smith, who had been effective as a starter looked like an all-conference quarterback, going 18-of-22 (81% completion percentage) for 317 yards and one touchdown. That one touchdown was a back-breaking 75-yard dart to Damion Willis.
The Cajuns secondary was never considered one of the top in the country, but this may have been their worst performance in 2018.
2nd Down: Offensive Firepower Stymied
We’ve talked about the three-headed monster that the Cajuns have and they were without one part of their machine in the backfield and may have been the most important loss for the team and that’s Elijah Mitchell. He did not play in the ballgame due to what was reported as a neck injury. That combined with a strong defensive squad wound up seeing the run game be a non-factor with Trey Ragas accounting for the bulk of the yardage on the ground.
This offense’s calling card has been the run game and when that can’t get out of third gear, they’re going to have a hard time getting a win over some of these top tier programs like the Trojans are.
3rd Down: Poor Third Down Offense
Speaking of the offensive side of the ball, the third down conversion rate was disappointing. The Cajuns converted only five of their 15 third down attempts. What makes that number even more interesting is that the bulk of these were from seven yards out or greater. A bright spot is that they converted each of their third and short attempts, but they were only third-and-one attempts, which are fairly high percentage downs.
This is a huge reason that they were unable to get out of the starting blocks on Saturday because a lot of drives early on were stalled by a solid defensive effort by the Trojans.
4th Down: Under Pressure
The Cajuns offensive line was going to have a big test on Saturday against one of the stronger defenses they’ve faced all season that headed into this game with 26 total sacks. The front seven took care of business on Saturday with five sacks and a total of 10 tackles for loss.
The offensive line folded for a good chunk of the ballgame and that was a big reason why both Andre Nunez and Levi Lewis were unable to execute as well as they have in the past.
Extra Point: Still Plenty of Time
This season is far from over for the Ragin Cajuns. They can still get into contention for the Sun Belt West Division crown even with UL Monroe pulling off the upset against Georgia Southern. They just need to take care of business at home the next two weeks against Georgia State and South Alabama then gain a measure of revenge from last year’s demoralizing overtime loss to the Warhawks.
The loss is going to sting for a bit, but they have a pretty favorable road to getting to the conference title game and/or a bowl game. Considering everything that’s happened in the last year, that would be a successful season for the program.