The Louisiana Ragin Cajuns are gearing up for the bright lights of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this Saturday when they open up the season against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. On the surface, there are some similarities. For instance, both teams have a second-year head coach and a new starting quarterback at the helm.
However, that’s where the similarities stop with a Bulldogs team that looked like they didn’t miss a beat in the first year under Joe Moorhead
“This is a very accomplished football team. They’ve recruited well, won eight games last year and every game they were in was a battle,” head coach Billy Napier said during his press conference on Monday, “They played the elite in the SEC West. You’ve got to be prepared to play each and every week in that conference and they went through that gauntlet. You don’t lead the country in total defense and scoring defense unless you’ve got a pretty good ball squad.”
After last year’s matchup, there’s a clear respect for the two programs especially for defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and special teams coordinator Joey Jones.
“We have tons of respect for Joe Moorhead, Bob Shoop, and Joey Jones not only as coordinators but play-callers,” Napier mentioned. “They’ve done a great job and they’ve got tremendous experience and history of being successful.”
High Confidence in Levi Lewis
After spending the 2018 season behind Andre Nunez but still getting significant playing time in every game, Levi Lewis will be the starting quarterback when the Cajuns take on the Bulldogs and there’s a lot of confidence from the coaching staff about what the former Scotlandville product can do.
“He’s everything you’d want in a player and a teammate,” Napier said, “He’s got great poise and affects the people around him in a positive way. The guy’s relentless, that’s how I would describe him. I’m proud to be associated with him. He’s got a big arm, he can run, great communicator and much improved from a year ago, not just physically but mentally he’s much more advanced. One of, if not the hardest worker that we have.”
The Cajuns offense will need him to live up to the hype on Saturday to give the highly-touted running back group an opportunity to shine.
Concerns Headed Into Opener
Looking at the roster, there’s not a whole lot of veteran leadership. There are exceptions to that with Michael Jacquet being a leader in the secondary and wide receiver JaMarcus Bradley as the top dog in the secondary, but the amount of youth on this program is a concern for the team as the regular season draws near.
“There’s going to be a number of players that don’t have significant experience that is going to play,” Napier quipped, “As much as we like to say ‘OK I’ve watched the guy be consistent in terms of training camp and where he’s at’ you don’t know until those lights come on. That’s where we’ve got to have great preparation. We all want to play well when the game gets here, but it’s what we do between now and then to prepare and turn over every stone when the bullets start flying at 11 am central.”
Scouting Report on Mississippi State’s QB
All offseason long, the Cajuns coaching staff didn’t know exactly who to prepare for when they opened up the season against the Bulldogs. Fast forward to last Thursday and former Penn State Nittany Lion Tommy Stevens was named the starter while Louisiana native Keytaon Thompson entered the transfer portal. Stevens, a backup to Trace McSorley while at Penn State was used as largely a gadget QB but Billy Napier isn’t overlooking his abilities as a full-fledged quarterback.
“He’s got a history with the head coach and offensive coordinator.” Napier said of Stevens, “I think that this quarterback, in particular, is a guy who has great arm talent, he’s an accurate passer. Many of the people at the Manning Passing Academy this past summer felt like he was one of the better kids out there and he’s a good athlete. They used him in lots of unique ways so no surprise that he won a very competitive battle for that position. I think it’ll be a smooth transition because of his history with that system in the past.”
NO COWBELL BABY!
Bruce Dickinson’s fever won’t be cured inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday with Mississippi State announcing that cowbells will not be allowed inside the stadium when the two teams kick off at 11 am.
Of note: No cowbells allowed in the Superdome this Saturday. Plan accordingly.
— Joel Coleman (@JoelTColeman) August 26, 2019
The cowbells have become a tradition in Starkville, Mississippi and many of the players and fans likely breathed a sigh of relief when they heard the news about the cowbells being banned after hearing it nonstop during a 56-10 loss.