We’re officially at game week for the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns and that can only mean one thing; time for the game previews! It’s a new era for the Cajuns with Billy Napier taking the helm and they’ll be starting off that era at home against an unfamiliar opponent in the Grambling Tigers.
Let’s take a look at the matchup between the two teams and some of the storylines headed into the season opener.
Last Time Out:
The last time the Cajuns took the field, it saw them get thrashed in Boone, North Carolina by the score of 63-14 and less than twenty-four hours later, Mark Hudspeth was no longer the head coach for the program.
Meanwhile, the Tigers season ended with a 21-14 loss to North Carolina A&T in the Celebration Bowl.
This is actually the first time these two teams have ever faced off. After this ballgame is complete, the Cajuns will have faced every Division I team in the state of Louisiana.
What to Watch For:
Which Quarterback Stands Out for Cajuns?
The biggest storyline for the Cajuns all offseason long was who would be the starting quarterback between Levi Lewis and Andre Nunez. While the answer wasn’t outright given by head coach Billy Napier during his press conference on Monday, he did hint at who would get the start.
“Andre being the senior has had a tremendous training camp and has worked hard as any player on our team.” Napier says when asked about the starting QB, “Levi is a unique young man who has tremendous leadership capabilities, has a tremendous effect on his teammates, and he can be a spark for us. I think both players are very effective and you will see both of at some point.”
Both quarterbacks bring something different to the table, but It seems like we could see the more consistent arm in Nunez get the start with Lewis either coming in from time to time or getting the nod to start the second half. No matter how Napier maps out his gameplan, whoever balls out on Saturday is going to be the likely starter when the team travels to Starkville to take on Mississippi State.
You look at Grambling’s roster, you’ll notice a consistent theme when it comes to the amount of transfers. Obviously, De’Arius Christmas is going to be the headliner on this group as he’s coming off a season that saw him earn the SWAC Player of the Year honors.
However, the Cajuns will have to prepare for a big variable when it comes to Grambling’s offense with so many notable players departing along with Broderick Fobbs calling the plays. “Coach Fobbs’ history offensively is one of the variables in the game is adjusting to what we see from their offense within the game and early on.” Napier said on Monday when asked about the biggest variable on offense.
With all of that going on, the Cajuns will have a lot to juggle in the season opener.
One of the big issues for the Cajuns in recent years is starting fast and getting points on the board. In 2017 alone, they were shut out in four of their 12 ballgames in the first quarter. What’s even more concerning is that the Cajuns averaged 6.6 points in the first quarter in 2018 and Napier wants to change that trend, but is aware that it’s a lot easier said than done.
“I think each week you want to start fast, but the nature of this game is that it creates adversity. There’s not going to be many days at the park where bad things don’t happen.” Napier said about the desire to come out the gates fast. While it seems like a tough task for the Cajuns to duplicate the way they started last year with Raymond Calais running a kickoff return into the endzone against Southeastern, the junior out of Breaux Bridge wants to start off the year with some fireworks.
Louisiana Will Win If:
The Billy Napier era can start off strong on Saturday if the Cajuns can keep the Grambling offense under control. We know what the offense can bring to the table with their stable of running backs, but there are some concerns about the defense sans Joe Dillon. Last year, the defense had an extremely rough start against Southeastern Louisiana, allowing 48 points.
They have some solid players in the secondary and that might be the deciding factor when it comes to stopping the big play on Saturday.
Grambling Will Win If:
Most years, I’d mark this down as a win without a doubt. However, this Grambling team isn’t going to be a pushover in any sense of the word and could trip up the Cajuns in this season opener, especially if we see De’Arius Christmas get after the quarterback. The senior from East Mississippi Community College was the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year.