LAFAYETTE — On a blustery day in Cajun Field, Appalachian State dared the Ragin’ Cajuns to beat them through the air by clogging the line of scrimmage with defenders.
By doing so, the Mountaineers also took away the most dangerous aspect of the Cajuns offense: Elijah McGuire on the perimeter.
“They had a lot of people in the box, and we didn’t have an answer to get the ball on the perimeter,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “We’ve got to do a better job of having more perimeter runs when people are stopping our inside zone.”
McGuire entered the game needing only 40 yards to become the fourth Cajuns player in history to crack 1,000 in a single season, but he was held short of the milestone. The Mountaineers limited him to just 36 yards on nine carries, and they never allowed him to find a crease for his customary home-run play.
It’s not the first time this season that McGuire has been limited in the ground game when a defense tightened the screws on the Cajuns rushing offense, but the Mountaineers managed to contain him in the passing game, too.
With McGuire never getting into a rhythm, the Cajuns managed only 259 total yards, their second worst offensive output this season by total yardage and worst by yards per play (3.75).
“We’ve got to have more answers, and we didn’t have that tonight,” Hudspeth said. “That limited his ability to get the ball on the outside, because they had a lot of people in the box.”
End of an era
Saturday will be the last time Larry Blakeney patrols the Troy sideline, ending a 23-year tenure that included the ascension of the Trojans program to the Football Bowl Subdivision level and a string of five consecutive years with at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference title.
Blakeney announced his decision to retire after the season in October, after his team lost 38-35 to Abilene Christian at home to fall to 0-3.
Blakeney, whose only head coaching experience came at Troy, enters Saturday’s game with a 178-112-1 career record. Blakeney is one of two coaches to have taken a program to the FBS from the Division II level.
Streak stays alive
McGuire may not have gotten going on the ground against Appalachian State, but he was able to keep one impressive streak going.
Midway through the second quarter, McGuire scored the Cajuns’ only touchdown of the day on an 8-yard run through the middle of the Mountaineers’ defense.
It was McGuire’s eighth consecutive game with a rushing touchdown this season. McGuire’s 12 rushing touchdowns this season tie him for the third-most rushing scores in the SBC.
The Cajuns can still earn a share of the SBC title, but they’re going to need a little help. Not only will they have to beat Troy on Saturday, but they need UL-Monroe to beat Georgia Southern on the road … Hunter Stover made all three of his field-goal attempts Saturday, making him 15-for-18 on the season. His 81 points make him the SBC’s fourth-leading scorer.