From the Bird’s Nest: To Beat Kent State……
Changing the culture.
It's something Louisiana Coach Mark Hudspeth has been talking about since being hired as the Ragin' Cajuns football coach last December.
And that's a multi-encompassing statement.
Change the way you go to class. Change the way you practice. Change the way you handle business off the field.
But here's a culture that has to be changed if the Cajuns are going to have the kind of success everyone is hoping for.
That's the Cajuns' road record against FBS non-conference opponents since joining the Sun Belt Conference.
Houston in 2006. That's it.
Now, to be fair, most of those games have been against teams from AQ conferences.
But there are many others.
Louisiana Tech, Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Southern Miss, UCF.
That's a culture the Cajuns have a chance to change this Saturday when they travel to take on Kent State. Kickoff against the Golden Flashes will be at 6pm Saturday. You can hear it on the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Radio Network beginning at 5:30.
Last week the Cajuns went up against arguably the best offense in America, losing to Oklahoma State, 61-34. The Cajuns gave up 666 yards in offense. The Golden Flashes went up against arguably the best defense in America, losing to Alabama, 48-7. The Flashes generated 90 yards in offense.
Kent State is favored by 9.5 points in the game.
Is this a winnable game for the Cajuns? Yes it is. But they are underdogs for a reason. And, if the Cajuns are going to come home with a road win, there are some things that must happen. These are the things you can listen for during the broadcast.
1. WIN THE FIELD POSITION BATTLE--Kent State, although their guys up front are capable, is not a great offensive football team (ignoring the Alabama game.) The Cajuns want to keep KSU bottled up in their end of the field if they can. A Kent State team that has to drive 70-80 yards won't be as effective as a team that only has to drive 50-60. But the same is true of the Cajuns' offense as well. KSU has a better defensive front than the Cajuns will see in the Sun Belt. It's going to be important for the Cajuns to have starting field position better than last week against OSU. And, if they don't, it's important for the Cajuns to get a couple of first downs to make sure that, when they punt, KSU doesn't get the field position they're hoping for.
2. IMPROVE THE KICKOFF SITUATION--Hudspeth called the kickoffs "borderline terrible." Not only did they not have distance, they weren't kicked in the right place. Hunter Stover is a better kicker than he showed. It is said the biggest improvement comes from week one to week two. It's crucial that cliche' be true in Stover's case this week. The goal should be for KSU to start inside their own 30 every time the Cajuns' kick off.
3. VALUE THE FOOTBALL--The Cajuns have to be on the plus side, turnover-wise. They won the battle by one last week. They'll need to be better than that this week. The KSU defense intercepted Alabama four times and turned the Tide over five times in all last week. If it happens again, this one will be ugly. The Cajuns can really afford no more than one turnover.
4. GET RID OF THE FOOTBALL--The Cajuns were sacked five times last week. And, this week, they'll face the best defensive lineman they'll play all season. Roosevelt Nix was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year last season. As a freshman. While starting only one game. Nix is undersized at 6-0, 245, but he's very quick and is great in pursuit. ESPN talked about him at length this week about his ability to consistently get penetration against Alabama's offensive line. He had ten sacks a year ago. It will be important for the Cajuns to deliver the ball quickly when they throw, because they probably won't have a lot of time.
5. RUN IT, AND RUN IT WELL--We saw the future of the Cajuns' running game last week. Freshmen Alonzo Harris and Qyen Griffen both showed they're going to be good ones. It would be great if that could start this week. The Cajuns have to have success running. At least 125 yards. 150 would be better.
6. STOP THE RUN AND GET AFTER THE QUARTERBACK--Hudspeth has said the defensive goal is to stop the run. They didn't do it last week, albeit against one of the country's best offensive lines. KSU had no success running last week. The Cajuns need to make sure that continues. Then, pressure the quarterback. The Cajuns could have some success there this week.
Now, all of that is a tall order. But the truth is, it's all things that can be accomplished.
Bottom line is, if the Cajuns win the field position battle and don't turn it over, we can talk on Monday.
About a real culture change.
Prediction: UL +9.5