THE NEXT LEVEL: Cajuns are still looking to turn on the ignition before halftime
Maybe daylight saving time will provide the Ragin’ Cajuns the boost they’ve been looking for.
If the Cajuns set their competitive clock back an hour in some of the games they’ve played in this season, maybe they wouldn’t be sitting at 3-4 right now.
The Cajuns have been horrendous in the first half, and that continued last week against ULM, when they entered the locker room trailing 24-9. That peformance marked a continuation of a disturbing trend the Cajuns still aren’t able to put their finger on.
The Cajuns have been outscored 149-85 in the first half of their games this season. In four of their seven games, they’ve trailed by at least 15 points at the break.
The problems associated with this have been many. In order to win the game in those instances, the Cajuns had to play virtually perfect football on both sides of the ball in the second half.
They came close to pulling out a win against Kentucky in the season opener after trailing 24-7 at halftime. They made a game against Arkansas State even though they went to the locker room in Jonesboro in a 34-14 hole.
But last week they finally found a way to dig themselves out. They played as close to flawless football as they possibly could have at a rain-soaked Cajun Field and emerged victorious.
Now that they’ve got that under their belt, the next step in a logical progression is to figure out how to play a complete football game. And the Cajuns will need to do so this week.
Georgia State, despite its record, has played a solid brand of football this season, and the Georgia Dome is the perfect environment for its pass-happy attack.
The Cajuns must find a way to disrupt that rhythm early while establishing their own rhythm on offense.
If the team can find a way to get out to a fast start for essentially the first time this season, it has to like its chances to get out of Atlanta with a win.
After all, as bad as the Cajuns have been in the first half, they’ve outscored opponents 126-74 in the second half.
We’ll see if time is on their side.
1. The book on Eli?
As the Cajuns have struggled to get the passing game going, that’s allowed defenses to take Elijah McGuire out of the game. He totaled just 91 combined rushing yards in the past two weeks as defenses loaded the box to stop him. That must change this week for the Cajuns to have any shot against Georgia State.
2. Two may enter ...
The Cajuns will use both Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon at quarterback. Mark Hudspeth isn’t naming a starter and isn’t saying how their playing time will be dispersed. The traditional route hasn’t worked too well so far this year, and Hudspeth is hopeful this provides his signal callers a spark.
3. What a rush
The Cajuns sacked ULM five times last week, their highest single-game sack total since picking up seven sacks last year against ... ULM. Asking for another five-sack performance is probably too much, but it would greatly benefit the Cajuns if they could disrupt the Panthers’ high-octane passing attack.
4. Pass happy
Georgia State’s passing offense, led by quarterback Nick Arbuckle, is putting up 336 yards per game through the air. The Panthers are also connecting on a high percentage of their throws, of which they attempt nearly 40 per game. The Cajuns pass defense has improved, but this will be a tough test.