Five Keys to Beating New Mexico State – From the Bird’s Nest
Talk about a contrast in styles:
Last week the Cajuns were preparing for Tulane's triple option attack and did a remarkable job in run defense, allowing the Green Wave just one carry from scrimmage that went for exactly ten yards. Secondary breakdowns in overtime cost them, however in the 41-39, 4OT loss. This week the defense is preparing for something very different from what they saw last week.
If it's going to be a happy flight home from Las Cruces Saturday night, here are things that need to happen.
BE BALANCED--It's going to be necessary for the Cajuns to score points in this one against an NMSU defense that's given up a lot of them this year. The strength of that defense is the line and that should give the Cajuns opportunities in the passing game. But that passing game will work much better if the Cajuns run it well. Most teams have had that kind of success. Elijah McGuire is still banged up from last week so don't be surprised if you see more of Jordan Wright and Raymond Calais this week. Regardless of who is back there, they need to run it with success. If they do, Anthony Jennings has a chance to have a big game.
MAKE THEM BRING IT---The Aggies' secondary is very young. The Cajuns want one on one coverage whenever possible and the best way to accomplish that is to keep NMSU from getting to Jennings with their front four. Force the Aggies to blitz and you'll get some favorable matchups.
DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF--Tyler Rogers is going to complete passes. And, he's going to get yardage. He'll also try to go up top from time to time. Don't let him hit the home run. NMSU is capable, and they've done it this year, hitting 16 pass plays of 20 yards or more. The Cajuns have to keep the big play out of Rogers' arsenal and make him earn his stripes.
AND AT THE SAME TIME...--Larry Rose III. Remember him? He torched the Cajuns for 191 yards last year en route to winning Offensive Player of the Year honors. He was also the pre-season choice this year. Rose played for the first time last week. He's getting healthier and could be a factor for the first time. With New Mexico State wanting to spread the field, that leaves fewer guys to play the run...and NMSU will run the zone read with Rogers as well. Missed tackles will lead to big plays. Don't let that happen.
DOMINATE THE KICKING GAME--New Mexico State has allowed two punt returns for touchdowns and a kickoff return for a touchdown. They've also had a punt blocked. There are going to be some opportunities for Raymond Calais and whoever returns punts to make a difference in this game. This is one game where special teams can make a big, big difference.
With New Mexico State leaving the Sun Belt after next season, this is the Cajuns' last scheduled trip to Las Cruces. However, it's probable, given the Aggies' plan to survive as an FBS independent, that you'll see NMSU on future Cajuns' schedules.