Arkansas State (0-1) at Louisiana-Lafayette (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 11th, 2:30 p.m.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cajun Field (31,000) -- Lafayette, Louisiana. Television: SunBeltNetwork. Home Record: ASU 0-0, Louisiana-Lafayette 0-0. Away Record: ASU 0-1, Louisiana-Lafayette 0-1. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, Louisiana-Lafayette 0-0. Conference Record: ASU 0-0, Louisiana-Lafayette 0-0. Series Record: Louisiana-Lafayette leads, 20-17-1.
GAME NOTES: Two teams looking for their first victory of the season will open up Sun Belt Conference action this Saturday at Cajun Field, when the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns host the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
The Red Wolves opened their 2010 campaign against one of the top teams in the nation in Auburn. Arkansas State put up a fight against the Tigers, but still suffered a 52-26 setback. ASU is coming off a terrible four-win campaign in 2009 and that includes an equally poor 3-5 ledger in conference action.
Just like the Red Wolves, Ricky Bustle and his Cajuns opened the 2010 season against a tough SEC squad in Georgia, and from start to finish Louisiana-Lafayette was not match for the Bulldogs, eventually falling by a 55-7 margin.
Coach Bustle is hoping for a slim improvement this season for his Cajuns, who finished last year with a 6-6 mark. However, despite corralling six victories, Louisiana-Lafayette was not selected to a bowl, making it 40 consecutive years the Cajuns have missed postseason action.
In terms of the all-time series between the two schools, the Cajuns own a slim, 20-17-1 edge over Arkansas State. Louisiana-Lafayette has won five of the last seven matchups against the Red Wolves, including a 21-18 decision this past season in Jonesboro.
Opening the season in Auburn against a ranked opponent is never easy, but with that said, the offense for Arkansas State did manage to put up respectable numbers, even though the team was defeated by a 26-point margin.
Ryan Aplin, who is replacing four-year starter Corey Leonard, was sensational in his debut for ASU, as the signal caller threw for 278 yards and one touchdown. Aplin completed 28-of-42 throws, but was also sacked four times in the loss.
Nine different players caught at least two passes, but no receiver was more valuable than Dwayne Frampton. The junior college wideout was on the receiving end of Aplin's lone touchdown pass, and finished with eight receptions for 74 yards.
Not everything was went well for Arkansas State though, as the ground game was bottled up by the fierce front line of Auburn. Derek Lawson did most of the work out of the backfield, but had little to show for his efforts, finishing with just 45 yards on 16 carries. Lawson is replacing Reggie Arnold, who ended his career at Arkansas State with over 4,000 yards on the ground.
One of the strengths for coach Steve Roberts' defense last season was their play against the run, but that might be a different story this year.
While it was only one game, the Red Wolves showed an inability to stop Auburn's ground game, which pulverized ASU's front line for a whopping 367 yards on 7.5 yards per attempt.
The secondary did not perform much better, as the unit surrendered 241 yards and three scores through the air on just 11 completions. As a whole, the defense did force two turnovers in the contest, but the bad definitely outweighed the good, as the unit also allowed Auburn to convert on 4-of-5 red zone chances.
M.D. Jennings was clearly the best player on the field for coach Roberts, as the safety racked up 11 tackles, to go along with one sack, and a forced fumble.
It was a rough opening for the Cajuns this past weekend, as the offense was smothered by what was clearly a better Georgia squad.
Louisiana-Lafayette tried to establish a rushing attack, handing the ball off 29 times, but that translated into only 14 yards. Six different players carried the football, but obviously no one in the backfield found daylight against the Bulldogs.
The passing attack was just as bad for coach Bustle, as Chris Masson and Blaine Gauthier were both ineffective under center. Masson finished with 77 yards in the game, but 60 of those yards came on the team's lone touchdown, which was a pass to Ladarius Green. Masson, who also threw an interception, gave way to Gauthier, who also struggled, totaling just 37 yards, while tossing two picks.
Louisiana-Lafayette's struggles didn't just pertain to the offense, as the defense also suffered mightily against a strong Georgia offense. The Cajuns are coming off a season in which the defense was horrendous against the pass and run equally and even though this was just one game, it looks like Louisiana could have trouble in both areas again.
The Cajuns were pounded for 184 yards on 5.0 yards per carry in the setback, and the secondary did not perform much better. Arkansas State only surrendered 193 yards through the air in the matchup, but four times the defensive backfield was beat for touchdowns.
Louisiana-Lafayette did manage to grab an interception in the lopsided loss, but the defense also allowed Georgia to convert on all five of its red zone chances.
The Cajuns have enjoyed plenty of success at home against Arkansas State over the recent years, but that could change this Saturday. Both teams opened their respective schedules against tough SEC opponents, but the difference was the play by Arkansas State, which actually showed life offensively.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 24