Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns (4-2, 2-1 SBC) battle the Arkansas State Red Wolves (4-3, 2-1 SBC)
In a key Sun Belt Conference matchup at Cajun Field in a game that will be televised by ESPN2 Tuesday night. The Cajun Redzone breaks down the Red Wolves on both sides of the ball.
The Ragin’ Cajuns had a two-game winning streak snapped at North Texas with a 30-23 loss last Tuesday night. ASU comes in to tomorrow’s matchup between the two teams with an overall record of 4-3 and a 2-1 record in the Sun Belt Conference after a 36-29 home victory over South Alabama. Despite last week’s loss to UNT, UL remains undefeated at home with a 3-0 record. Arkansas State came away with the 30-21 win last season in Jonesboro in a game in which Louisiana suffered four turnovers. Here is our breakdown of Arkansas State on both sides of the football.
Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin (6’1, 205) holds a number of Sun Belt offensive records, including offensive total yards with 10,365 for his career. Aplin has thrown for over 1,591 yards this season along with 11 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. That is a huge drop off from last season’s number of 16 interceptions. While he has not rushed the ball as much this fall with 244 yards, he is still capable of pulling the ball down and running for positive yardage.
Behind Aplin in the backfield at running back will be two capable backs in Tennessee transfer David Oku (5’10, 195) and Rocky Hayes (5’9, 180). Oku is the work horse in the backfield, rushing for over 544-yards in seven games. Freshman Rocky Hayes gives the Red Wolves a speedier option or change of pace back, rushing for over 231-yards on the season.
The wide receiver core has been very productive with freshman J.D. McKissic (46 rec., 493 yds.) and senior Josh Jarboe (31 rec., 321 yds.) leading the way. Senior Taylor Stockemer (10 rec., 101 yds.) is very productive and will burn you with the big play if you fall asleep in the secondary. Anthony Kincy, Carlos McCants and Julian Jones provide very good receivers in the depth chart capable of making big plays down the field.
The Arkansas State line has two very good bookend tackles in senior Zack McKnight (6’4, 300) and junior Aaron Williams (6’5, 298). The Red Wolves offensive line has given up 9-sacks for -62 yards for the season and average 215-yards rushing per game.
The Red Wolves defensive front is solid with two standouts in DT Ryan Carrethers (6’2, 310) and DE Tim Starson (6’5, 255). Both Carrethers (45 tackles, .5 sack) and Starson (37 tackles, 1.5 sacks) are very active and difficult to block at times. Carrethers will present a challenge for the Cajun’s interior line and running game.
Linebackers Qushaun Lee (5’11, 232), Nathan Herrold (6’3, 235) and Don Jones (6’1, 195) are very active, if not as physical as last year’s group. Herrold (69 tackles), Lee (52 tackles) and Jones (45 tackles) lead the defense in tackles this season.
Safety Sterling Young (6’2, 182) is very good in pass coverage and does a solid job in supporting the run (40 tackles). Artez Brown and Chaz Scales are a solid pair of cornerbacks against the pass, which is the strength of the defense. The ASU secondary only allows 170-yards passing per game.
The strength of the Arkansas State defense is their pass defense, but the Red Wolves are allowing over 205-yards rushing per game to their opponents.
The ASU special teams are solid if unspectacular with a solid Field Goal kicker in Brian Davis and punter Neely Sullivent. Davis has converted on 25-of-26 extra points while hitting on 8-of-11 field goals on the season. Davis is especially accurate inside 40-yards, hitting on 7-of-9 this year.
Neely Sullivent is averaging 38.8 yards per punt, but has only placed 2 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He won’t out kick his coverage, but he doesn’t get many inside the 20-yard line either.
Arkansas States strengths are stopping the pass and a balanced offense. QB Ryan Aplin is the leader on the offensive side of the football and has improved upon not turning the ball over on interceptions. He has the experience to run a very efficient Red Wolves offense and make it difficult on defenses.
The Red Wolves are not as physical on the defensive side of the football, but certainly have good team speed at linebacker and defensive back. They have defended the pass very well this season, but have given up a lot of yards on the ground, allowing opponents to rush for over 205-yards per game. With the exception of Brian Davis, the Red Wolves special teams are average.
The Game Plan
Unless one team commits a large number of turnovers, this will be a close game. The Cajuns offense must run the football to set up the short passing game. That will mean that Alonzo Harris and Terrance Broadway must of good nights running the football.
The Cajun’s defense must stop the run consistently; something that did happen last week against North Texas. The defense must also find a way to create turnovers; Aplin has only thrown 2 interceptions this season and he will get his yards in the passing game. The defense must limit the big plays down field and keep the Red Wolves skilled position athletes in front of them.
Finally, the Cajuns special teams must win the field position battle. UL cannot afford to give Ryan Aplin and the ASU offense a short field to work with during the night. Look for Coach Hudspeth to play the field position battle early and force the ASU offense to drive long distances during the game.