LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette football team learned what happens when you look past an opponent the last time it played New Mexico State.
The Aggies raced to a big lead against the Ragin’ Cajuns in last year’s meeting before the Cajuns finally seized control in the second half. Saturday should prove whether the Cajuns, filled with confidence thanks to four straight Sun Belt Conference wins, learned from that lesson a year ago.
The Aggies have lost seven consecutive games, including back-to-back games to SBC cellar dwellers Idaho and Troy a couple of weeks ago. But the Aggies might not be as bad as their 2-7 record indicates.
Much like they did against the Cajuns last season, they jumped to a 14-0 lead against SBC leader Georgia Southern a couple of weeks ago before losing control of the game late.
The Cajuns appear to have their focus precisely where it needs to be after a rough start to the season, but they will need to avoid an overconfident letdown against the Aggies.
Here’s a quick preview of Saturday’s matchup:
Reason to worry
The up-tempo New Mexico State offense rolled up 639 yards on 100 plays last weekend against Texas State, and the Cajuns haven’t fared particularly well against up-tempo teams this season.
Reason not to worry
The Aggies have turned the ball over 26 times and are allowing 326.2 rushing yards per game, both of which are the worst marks in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Freshman running back Larry Rose III doesn’t look like he’s having a problem adjusting to college football, especially lately. He has run for 336 yards and three scores in the past two weeks, including 181 yards on 24 carries last week against Texas State.
Despite missing two games and being limited to less than 35 yards in another two games, Rose is the SBC’s fifth-most prolific runner, with 711 yards to his credit. He also has been active in the passing game lately, with 10 of his 16 catches coming in the past three games.
Sophomore linebacker Rodney Butler is one of just six players nationally with more than 100 tackles to his credit (103), and he also has an interception and two forced fumbles.
Butler has finished with double-digit tackles in all but two games, including each of the Aggies’ past four games.
The lion’s share of the snaps at quarterback go to starter Tyler Rogers, but freshman Andrew Allen has shown himself capable of producing big plays if he finds a crease. The Aggies’ lone touchdown in a 63-7 blowout loss to LSU came on a 79-yard scamper from Allen, who finished with 113 rushing yards that day.
He hasn’t seen regular playing time, but if the Cajuns lose track of him, he could cause big problems.
Last time they met
The Aggies weren’t members of the Sun Belt last season, but they made the trip to Lafayette to face the Cajuns in a nonconference game.
New Mexico State held a 1-7 record coming in but jumped all over the Cajuns early, racing to a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter. The Cajuns stayed calm and pulled out a 49-35 victory on the strength of five Alonzo Harris rushing touchdowns.
New Mexico State only had 8,623 fans in attendance for last week’s game against Texas State. … The Aggies have allowed touchdowns on both punt and kick return this season. Is this the game Elijah McGuire the punt returner finally breaks loose? … Opponents have averaged 20 points by halftime against the Aggies.