The Good and Bad From Game One – From the Bird’s Nest
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns win over Southeastern Louisiana Saturday night was an exciting football game. For many, it was more exciting than they would have liked. The Cajuns had to make a play on a two point conversion attempt in the final seconds to secure a 51-48 win at Cajun Field.
As is always the case, there's some good and some bad to talk about in analysis. It's just that the bad sticks out when you don't win by as much as fans think you should. And, they have a point, to an extent. The reality is, the Cajuns are 1-0, which is what everyone expected them to be. More reality: They need to get better in a hurry.
THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT--Elijah McGuire may be gone, but there's plenty of talent at the running back position. If you didn't like what you saw out of Trey Ragas, you weren't paying attention. His 54 yard touchdown run was a mixture of Alonzo Harris and McGuire. And, Elijah part deux is going to be very special. The injury to Ragas gave Mitchell a chance and he made the most of it. Those two are ahead of everyone else in the backfield.
THE RETURN GAME(S)--We knew Raymond Calais was a weapon. We found that out when he went down last year. You're not going to see many teams kick it to him. But lost in Calais' incredible show was Ryheem Malong on punt returns. He's electric. He might pay a price for fielding a punt in traffic, but he's got one thing on his mind. Get the football and run. And, he's good at it.
SPEAKING OF YOUNG MR. MALONE--He gives the Cajuns a weapon in the slot they haven't had since Harry Peoples. He's going to gather lots of attention which will enable the Cajuns to get the ball to Keenan Barnes and Ja'Marcus Bradley. We know the receivers are good weapons, but Malone was the missing link.
THE SCHEME--Don't know how much the average person caught on, but Will Hall used a lot of different formations and I liked what I saw.
PLUS TWO--The Cajuns got a couple of turnovers in the game, (one was actually a giveaway by Southeastern on a bad pitch,) but more importantly, there were no turnovers by the offense. Jordan Davis was good at times and not so good at times. But he didn't turn it over. That's a good thing.
GAME DAY EXPERIENCE--I'm sure there were things that didn't go well on opening day (that ALWAYS happens), but the new additions to game day have added something extra. The setup at Russo Park was outstanding (and will be even better for the next home game...hint) and I really liked the new graphics inside the stadium, especially the ones that highlight each of the Acadiana parishes. If I was from Crowley, I would have been taking a selfie in front of the Acadia Parish signage.
STUDENT TAILGATING--I listed this separately because it was held off site. The students finally have their own place and it was packed and well received. DJ DIgital from Hot 107.9 has been wanting something like this for several years and he helped execute the plan flawlessly. I don't think having the Red Zone filled with students was a coincidence. Nicely done.
HELLO, TEXAS--In the grand scheme of things, it may not have meant much to some of the fans, but it was a nice touch to show the support for the Lone Star State after what they've been through. Houston native Ryheem Malone got the honor of running on to the field with the flag.
KICK RETURN COVERAGE--Covering punts and kickoffs were a strength of this Cajun squad a year ago. Not so Saturday. Two punt returns totaled nearly 100 yards and there were several kickoff returns that gave the Lions good field position. Most of this is correctable since it falls mostly on the kickers.
THE KICKERS--Once Stevie Artigue was able to get his kickoffs toward the sideline, the Cajuns' kickoff coverage got much better. Artigue is a veteran. This was probably just a blip on the radar screen. Sam Geraci has to get better in a hurry. His two returned kicks were both line drives and after having weapons like Baer, Cadona and Coutts, the Cajuns have been spoiled. In Geraci's defense, there were two punts that probably should have been downed inside the 10 yard line. But overall it was a tough night for the Cincinnati transfer.
514--That's unacceptable. Southeastern's #1 running back played sparingly (7-76-1) but the Cajuns allowed Eugene Bethea to carve them up. Now, in the Cajuns' defense, much of that damage came in the first half, when Tracy Walker was sidelined (for a helmet to helmet contact in the NO Bowl) and Travis Crawford went out with an injury. Until the final drive of the game, the Cajuns were a lot better. But everyone will agree there's a lot of work to do here. The Cajuns are going to face better quarterbacks and running backs as the season progresses.
CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TACKLE?--514 wouldn't have been nearly as big a number had the Cajuns tackled well. There were way too many Yards After Contact. YAC is a huge statistic when you're trying to play good defense. The Cajuns were good at this a year ago. It's correctable, but there's a really good offensive team on the horizon. The Cajuns have just a week to fix this.
18,289---Labor Day weekend? Helping others after Harvey? 10-15 the last two seasons? Off the field issues? All of the above? Whatever it is, it isn't good. That's frankly, a very poor opening night crowd. And, you can't blame the weather. Or the students.