Five Keys to Beating Western Kentucky – From the Bird’s Nest
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have had an interesting, albeit brief history in the Sun Belt Conference. The Cajuns won rather handily in 2009 in Bowling Green, but the Hilltoppers had two streak breaking wins the last two years, ending a 26 game drought by shellacking the Cajuns in Lafayette, and the broke a 16 game home losing streak the following year.
But the Cajuns got some revenge last year, overcoming four turnovers and scoring twice in the final minutes, including the game winner with 34 seconds left to make 20,314 Cajuns fans happy, 31-27. That win made the Cajuns bowl eligible at 6-4 and set the stage for another trip to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
Now the teams meet again. It's the first of two consecutive Tuesday night road games, and they happen to be against the two teams that are challenging Louisiana for the league title. These next two games will decide the Cajuns' Sun Belt fate. If the flight home is to be a happy one, here are five things that need to go the Cajuns' way.
1. PROTECT THE FOOTBALL--Turnovers are always important in football games. That's especially true when you play a talented opponent on the road. The Cajuns got away with turnovers last year at Cajun Field. They won't this time around.
2. SLOW ANDREWS' ROLL--Again, the Cajuns got away with one last year as Antonio Andrews shredded the Cajuns' defense for 238 yards rushing. He's the best running back in the league and, as evidenced throughout his career, is very difficult to bring down on the first hit. He broke lots of tackles last year at Cajun Field. Louisiana can't let him have another career day.
3. RUN THE FOOTBALL--Last week we said it was important for Alonzo Harris to be able to run the football between the tackles. This week, it's just make sure you can run it. Harris went over 100 yards against WKU last year, but Terrance Broadway ran for 148. WKU is a very aggressive defense. If the Cajuns can run it early, they've got a chance to get a lot done on the ground both inside and outside.
4. DON'T PLAY LIKE A FRESHMAN--I'm talking specifically about Simeon Thomas here. He got his first action as a Division I football player last week and now we're going to see how much he's learned...and how much he has to learn. Thomas has all the physical skills to be a great corner. But with the injury to Rodney Gillis, Trev Patt will become part of the rotation at safety. When he's used there, Thomas will be getting the call. He's got to be able to not react too quickly. Biting on play-action could turn a short gain into a touchdown. Can't let that happen.
5. GENERATE A PASS RUSH--It's something that, frankly, the Cajuns haven't been very good at this year. Toppers quarterback Brandon Doughty has already thrown ten interceptions this year, and WKU has thrown twelve as a team. When it's time to throw the football, the Cajuns front line has to force mistakes, allowing the cover guys to make a play to silence the crowd.
None of those things will be easy. WKU is a quality football team with an energized fan base. They should have a good crowd for their "blackout" game as the Toppers will wear black unis for the first time. For the Cajuns, whose goal is a league title, this is easily the most important game of the year. And, win or lose, next week will be even bigger.