From the Bird’s Nest: Five Keys to Beating Arkansas State
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns have gone undefeated at home for 2011. They have won six conference games for the first time in the school's Sun Belt history.
Now they head to Jonesboro, Arkansas to face unbeaten Arkansas State. The Red Wolves sit at 5-0 in the league, 7-2 overall. While the Cajuns end their conference season this weekend, ASU must still play at Middle Tennessee on November 19th and, following an open date on November 26th, at home against Troy on December 3rd.
If the Cajuns win, they have at least a piece of the conference title. If ASU wins, they will need only one win in their last two games to clinch at least a share, depending on what WKU does in its final two conference games.
The trip to Jonesboro won't be an easy one. It never is. Louisiana won there two years ago for the first time since back in the '90s. In addition, ASU is pretty durned good.
If Louisiana is going to get a ring and win #9, here are five things that must happen:
1. DON'T LET 'EM RUN--Quarterback Ryan Aplin is their leading rusher, but their backs are capable as well. Aplin will remind Cajuns' fans of Michael Desormeaux somewhat. He'll pull the ball on the zone read, run the quarterback draw and scramble out of the pocket. It will be the job of the Cajuns' defense to try and make the Red Wolves one-dimensional. It's going to be a tough task, but it's a must if the Cajuns are going to have a shot.
2. TURN 'EM OVER--#2 probably won't happen without #1. Aplin has thrown as many interceptions (11) as touchdown passes. Most of those have come when ASU has had trouble running the football. The Cajuns have to force Aplin to throw into the teeth of the Sun Belt's best secondary. And then, the secondary has to get the football. I don't know if the Cajuns can win this game playing even in turnover margin. I'm thinking it has to be +2.
3. WITHSTAND THE PRESSURE--Arkansas State's defense thrives on bringing pressure and doing it from different spots and different angles. The Cajuns' offense has to be smart enough to recognize where the pressure is coming from and make sure they can neutralize that pressure.
4. FIND CONSISTENCY WITHIN THE OFFENSE--Last week the Cajuns scored 24 points in the second quarter and 12 points in the final three minutes. The rest of the time, they did nothing offensively. This team has relied on the big play all season. That may not be enough against Arkansas State.
5. GET OFF TO A GOOD START--This is so important when you play on the road. The Cajuns have to find a way to put doubt in the minds of a confident football team. The best way to do that is to jump on them early. It almost worked for ULM last week. It could very well work for Louisiana this week.