Sun Belt Showdown: Louisiana Ragin Cajuns vs Tulsa Golden Hurricane
The Cajuns barely squeaked by FCS Southeastern Louisiana in Week 1. The Golden Hurricanes were clobbered by Oklahoma State in Week Zero. Who learns enough from their season opener mistakes to triumph in Week 2?
Cajuns vs Cane, Saturday, September 9th, 3:00 PM on ESPN 3
Sun Belt vs AAC is a rivalry that is geographically harmonious. Both conferences are set primarily in the South, where football rules the land. Cajuns and Canes transcend conference rivalry, having mixed-it-up since 1977, long before either were members of their current conferences. Louisiana enjoys a 5-4 all-time advantage, but Tulsa has won the last two. This will be the first meeting between the two programs since 1992, when the Golden Hurricane battered the Cajuns 27-9.
How the programs have changed 25 years. After bouncing around the defunct Big West and flirting with independence, Louisiana became a granddaddy of the Sun Belt, winning conference titles in 2005 and 2013. Tulsa took a similar direction but a different path, lingering in the WAC for a time before finally finding success in CUSA, wining titles 2005 and 2012. When the American came calling, Tulsa ditched CUSA.
And…now we’re here. Yay.
Louisiana will have to play significantly better in Week 2
Had DE Joe Dillon not scoop and scored on a 98-yard 2-pt conversion fumble, the Cajuns would have joined Georgia State as Sun Belt losers to the FCS in Week 1. Louisiana was supposed to have a pretty solid defense, but it surrendered 514 yards and six touchdowns to Southeast Louisiana, and that’s troubling.
Meanwhile, in the mystery zone known as “Week Zero,” the Golden Hurricane were playing significantly tougher competition at Boone Pickens Stadium. Even though Tulsa was down big early, the Cane still managed to rack up 244 yards on the ground, spearheaded by Corey Taylor’s (Soph., 5-10 214) 111 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cajuns featured a Top 25 run defense in 2016. Coach Mark Hudspeth with have bring than team back to 2017 if he hopes to stop Taylor.
Jordan Davis needs to improve his accuracy
Davis (Jr., 6-3 217) will want to improve on his 52% accuracy he notched against the Lions of the Cajuns want to come out of Chapman Stadium with a victory. Tulsa’s isn’t exactly the kind of defense that allows you to learn on the job. Though the Oklahoma State offensive line surrendered only one sack in Week Zero, the Cane penetrated deep enough to notch 9 TFLs.
Cajuns WR Keenan Barnes (Jr., 6-3 208) will need to put in work. Held to only three receptions against the Lions, Barnes needs to become Davis’ consistent weapon.
The Cajun big freshman running backs might be the key
Freshman RB Trey Ragas (5-11 227) busted out a 54-yard TD run against the Lions, but it was fellow freshman Elijah Mitchell (5-11 221) who did the heavy lifting, toting the rock 11 times for 56 yards and a score. Both RBs are beefy dudes who can be used as battering rams to soften Tulsa’s blitzes. Hudspeth is at his best when he’s winning the ball control battle. Rather than count on Davis to make good throws, Hudspeth may be better off serving Tulsa a one-two punch of Ragas and Mitchell all night.
Houston, Temple and Memphis are often seen as the powers in the AAC, but Tulsa is considered a contender, too. That may be why ESPN FPI gives the Golden Hurricane an 83% chance of winning the game. Good news for the Cajuns – Tulsa sophomore QB Chad President was even more inaccurate in the season opener than Davis, completing only 51% of his passes. If Joe Dillon and Taboris Lee can provide enough pressure to force mistakes from President, and if Hudspeth can maintain possession of the ball by grinding it out with his RBs, then Louisiana has a shot at stealing a victory at Tulsa.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.