There are a couple of statistics for UL Ragin’ Cajuns fans to keep in mind when pondering the possibilities for Saturday’s 4 p.m. homecoming contest with Texas State at Cajun Field.
First and foremost, there’s the history of the series with the Cajuns owning a dominating 6-0 record. All the wins were of the double-digit variety with an average margin of victory of 21 points.
In his first season under new UL coach Billy Napier last season, wide receiver Jalen Williams made a good first impression with four reception…
Next is the Sun Belt’s team statistical sheet, which shows Texas State’s defense ranking No. 3 in the conference in pass defense at 229.1 yards per game.
UL coach Billy Napier feels that’s a reflection of the Bobcats’ unique defensive schemes.
“They’re very unique in the coverage concepts that they present,” Napier explained. “This is a blueprint that has come about in the last three or four years I would say. Iowa State is the originators. It’s kind of a 3-3-5, ‘three safety’ structure. It’s very unorthodox. I think that’s part of.”
If teams aren’t used to it, sometimes a week of practice isn’t enough. Coming off a bye week, the Cajuns (5-2, 2-1) had extra time to prepare for the Bobcats (2-5, 1-2).
“You’ve got a short week to get ready and it’s, 'Hey man, this is different than anything we’ve played in the past,’ ” Napier added. “I think that if you really dig into it, they’ve done a good job of coaching the personnel that they have. This is a good staff. This defensive team is much better than the stats say.
“This same group of personnel was maybe second in the league behind App. They’ve got good players and certainly they have a good coaching staff. It helps. Yes, an extra day helps absolutely.”
Mid-major teams' often-wacky schedules can be tricky when it comes to conditioning around open weeks.
For the record, UL’s defense is No. 5 in the league in pass defense.
That brings us to the next important statistic to consider. Texas State’s defense is No. 9 against the run, giving up 218.3 rushing yards per game.
That could be a very poor matchup with the Cajuns, who are leading the league — and among the national leaders in several rushing categories — with 286.9 rushing yards a game.
However you slice the numbers, there’s no denying Texas State appears improved this season, especially for a program that hasn’t won more than three games since 2014.
Last season, the Cajuns won 42-27 in San Marcos, Texas.
“I don’t necessarily know that I like that comparison question, because I think they did a lot of good things even last year,” Napier said. “I know in particular on defense they were one of the better teams in the league last year. They gave a number of teams, not just us, some issues. We were in a back-and-forth game that went down to the wire last year against this team, and they’ve got that same group of players coming back. This is a veteran football team.”
The Bobcats did bounce back from an early 28-0 deficit against UL last year to cut it to 28-13 with 6:14 left in the third quarter, but the Cajuns regained a commanding 42-20 lead with 12:38 left to play.
Elijah Mitchell enjoyed perhaps the best game of his career that night with 191 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
Much like a year ago, Texas State has two viable options at quarterback. So far this season, Gresch Jensen is 129-of-206 passing for 1,291 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions, while Tyler Vitt is 30-of-53 for 309 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.
“I think that both of them have done a good job at times,” Napier said. “I think they’re maybe second or third in our league in passing yards per game. They’ve got some very capable skill guys. They’ve had a little bit of an injury bug there, started the year with one guy and then made a transition to another and he gets injured and they bring the other guy back.”
Vitt was 28-of-39 passing last season against the Cajuns for 296 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
UL football coach Billy Napier has been around some open dates that didn’t benefit his teams, didn’t allow them reach their potential and didn…
“The kid that played against us last year that I thought was a young talent has played well the last week and a half or so,” Napier said. “We’ll prepare for both, and certainly the blueprint, the big picture deal on offense didn’t change dramatically and that certainly helps you.”
While the Cajuns were off last weekend, Texas State was losing 38-14 at Arkansas State.
“We really accepted the challenge of the open day,” Napier said. “Sometimes you’re having to struggle and crack the whip and push them, but I thought we really took those things we talked about to heart. We’ve got a lot of good leadership and self-awareness. We came out of that open date a better football team. I really felt that way these last two practices.”
As loathe as they are to acknowledge it, UL’s football team and coaching staff are in an admirable position entering the final month of the Su…