From the Bird’s Nest: Here Come the Trojans
Last Sunday after church, I ran into a couple of young women. "You must be so excited," they said.
They were talking about the Cajuns' 4-1 start after beating FAU last Saturday, 37-34.
I looked at them and said, "Honestly, I don't know quite how to act." They laughed. Come to find out they had attended the game the night before. It was something new for them and they had a great time. My guess is they'll be in the stands again Saturday night when the Cajuns take on five-time defending champion Troy. They asked if the team had been 4-1 since I've been doing the games on the radio. No. They haven't.
I do remember the last time the Cajuns had that record. It was in 1988. USL had reeled off four straight wins to start the season and were favored to make it five in Ruston against Louisiana Tech. But the Bulldogs blocked six kicks and won the game 19-16. I did the game on television that day. Don Wallace was my broadcast partner. We lamented the lost opportunity all the way home. Tech was still a year away from joining the 1-A ranks. The Cajuns lost four of their last five that year to finish at 6-5.
So here we sit at 4-1. And, I'm not getting too high or getting too low. The Cajuns are 2-0 in the league and they can't win the Sun Belt Championship this week when they play the Trojans. The Cajuns still have difficult road games at Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State. ULM won't be an easy task. Come to think of it, nothing will be easy the rest of the way, although the Cajuns should be favored next week against North Texas and at Western Kentucky.
No, despite the great start, this team hasn't accomplished anything yet. They're not the conference champions. They aren't yet bowl eligible, which, honestly, should be the immediate goal of this football team and their fans.
Troy won't be an easy task. They've won the last five in the series and they've done it by putting up some big numbers, especially on the ground. The Cajuns nearly won last year, mostly because Troy only had 109 yards rushing in the game.
The Trojans are very good offensively. They're easily the best offensive team the Cajuns have played since Oklahoma State. And, that's what makes me a little uneasy heading into this one.
In the Cajuns' four wins, they played Kent State in bad conditions. Nicholls State, a very poor offensive team, scored 21. FIU played without their starting quarterback for three quarters and their best overall player for all but a handful of snaps....and still scored 31. Last week, the Cajuns played the 120th ranked offense in America...and gave up 34 points.
That doesn't bode well against a Troy team that can score points in a hurry.
But, Troy, if they can't have a lot of success running, has to throw it a lot. Robinson will throw it 35 times even if Troy is running it well. If the Trojans can't run, he might throw it 50-60 times. He's a good one, but if you throw it that many times, you run the risk of throwing it to the wrong jersey.
The Cajuns will have to play their best game of the year to win. But that's okay, because we have yet to see the Cajuns at their best. UL has performed at a high level on offense the last two weeks, but they can be even better. They were only 5-15 on third down last week and that has to improve. But it can.
The Cajuns need two more wins to get bowl eligible. And, one of those may or may not happen this week. But going into the season not many thought UL would be in this position and not many figured this would be a win before the season started.
Which means, this week, the Cajuns are playing with house money. Not much to lose....but so much to win.
And, if it's a win, I really won't know how to act.
Prediction: UL +6.5