Five Keys to Beating Arkansas State – From the Bird’s Nest
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns head to Jonesboro to take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves Thursday night at Centennial Bank Stadium. The Cajuns lead the all time series 24-21-1. Louisiana suffered its biggest loss ever against the Red Wolves two years ago when they were beaten 47-3.
Louisiana has won in Jonesboro only twice since 1992. The Cajuns won 21-18 in 2009 and took a 23-7 victory in 2013.
If the Cajuns are going to get this one, look for these things:
FLUSH IT---Last week was last week. The Cajuns have to shed that disappointment and totally focus on this week's opponent. Louisiana coach Billy Napier says his team has done a good job in leaving the loss to Appalachian State behind them. He praised the leadership of this team in helping to turn the page. We'll find out if he's correct.
RUN IT--And run it, and run it some more. Arkansas State's biggest issue with injuries is at the defensive tackle position. Teams have had success running the ball against the Red Wolves, including the last outing against Georgia State, a game in which the Panthers put up 722 yards of offense, with 340 coming on the ground. The Cajuns should run the ball until the Red Wolves can prove they shouldn't.
NEUTRALIZE THE RUNNING GAME--Arkansas State has also had a ton of injuries at running back. 2018 Freshman of the Year Marcel Murray has missed the last four games because of a high ankle sprain. But Murray is healthy and will play and he gashed the Cajuns for over 120 yards a year ago. This Cajuns' defense is better, but this is a solid running back. Louisiana must keep Murray in check.
FORCE MISTAKES AT THE QUARTERBACK POSITION--It would be silly to suggest the Cajuns will stop the league's best tandem of wide receivers. At 6' 4", Omar Bayless (44-843-10 TD) is a very dangerous weapon and is one of the country's top receivers. Kirk Merritt (35-396-6) on the other side had 122 yards receiving against the Cajuns last year. And, don't forget Jonathan Adams (31-404-2) who had done damage from the third receiver slot. The only way for the Cajuns to neutralize the passing game is to get in Layne Hatcher's face and force him into mistakes. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 792 yards on just 48 completions...but he's also thrown five interceptions. Winning that turnover battle is key for Louisiana.
PLAY FOR SIXTY MINUTES--One reason why the home team has dominated this series is the fourth quarter. In every close game, the home team has come from behind to win. The Cajuns can't relax at any time in this game, even if they build a big lead. They can't take a play off. They must keep the foot on the gas for the entire contest.