Nov 19, 2022; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Treshaun Ward (8) runs the ball for a touchdown during the first half of the game against the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 Florida State keeps rolling, crushes Louisiana

Jordan Travis and Treshaun Ward each rushed for two touchdowns as No. 19 Florida State routed Louisiana 49-17 in a nonconference game Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee, Fla.

The Seminoles (8-3, 5-3 ACC) took a 21-0 first-quarter lead and rolled to their fourth consecutive victory. They have outscored their last four opponents 173-39.

Chandler Fields threw a touchdown pass and ran for a touchdown for the Ragin’ Cajuns (5-6, 3-4 Sun Belt), who need to win at Texas State in their regular-season finale next Saturday to become bowl eligible.

Trey Benson’s 2-yard touchdown run on FSU’s first possession of the third quarter increased the lead to 42-3. Benson finished with 80 rushing yards, snapping his three-game stretch of reaching 100 yards on the ground.

On the first play of the ensuing possession, the Seminoles recovered a fumble at the Louisiana 18. Three plays later, A.J. Duffy threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Markeston Douglas for a 49-3 lead that remained at the end of the third.

On fourth and goal from the 5, Fields connected with Michael Jefferson for the first touchdown against FSU in three games. Fields added a 5-yard scoring run.

On the first possession of the game, the Seminoles drove 75 yards, the last 36 of which came on Ward’s touchdown run.

After the Cajuns went three and out, FSU drove 65 yards and Travis ran 3 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Travis’ 13-yard touchdown run pushed the lead to 21-0 near the end of the first quarter.

Ward added a 1-yard run to extend the lead to 28-0 midway through the second quarter.

The Seminoles scored their first touchdown through the air when Travis connected with Malik McClain on a 9-yard scoring pass for a 35-0 lead.

Louisiana drove to a first-and-goal at the FSU 2 but settled for Kenneth Almendares’ 24-yard field goal as time expired, reducing the lead to 35-3 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis (13) celebrates catching a touchdown pass with wide receiver Johnny Wilson (14) in the third quarter against the Syracuse Orange at JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 Florida State flexing dominance with Louisiana next in line

Florida State is playing its best football of the season behind a defense bordering on dominance.

The No. 19 Seminoles (7-3) have rolled to three consecutive wins by utilizing outstanding defense and a punishing rushing attack.

Having finished with its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, Florida State hosts Louisiana (5-5) in a non-conference game Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.

“When you continue to believe and you’re investing in the work and you pour into each other, and you’re doing it with all your heart, it’s fun to watch,” Seminoles coach Mike Norvell said. “I think our guys are playing as good as anybody right now.”

Florida State coasted to a 38-3 win over Syracuse last Saturday and has won its last three games by a combined score of 124-22. It hasn’t allowed a touchdown in either of its last two games.

The Seminoles’ last three opponents, who also include Georgia Tech and Miami, have averaged a combined 7.3 points and 204.0 total yards per game.

“It just shows that the hard work we have been putting in is finally paying off,” said defensive lineman Jared Verse, one of several defenders to return recently from injury.

“It’s nice to finally have everyone together. It’s nice to finally know what we’re capable of.”

The Seminoles’ offense has produced five consecutive 200-yard rushing games, led by Trey Benson, who eclipsed 100 yards rushing in three consecutive contests.

“It’s just a lot of unselfishness on this team,” Benson said. “That is why we are so explosive, because we are unselfish. We spread the ball around.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns are coming off a 36-17 victory against Georgia Southern in their home finale last week. That win gave Louisiana a chance to become bowl eligible even if it loses to Florida State. The Cajuns finish the regular season at Texas State next week.

“If you focus on what you need to focus on, you’ll accomplish everything else,” defensive end Andre Jones said. “The bigger picture is making it to a bowl game and finishing the right way.”

The Cajuns’ streak of four consecutive Sun Belt West titles has ended, but they can still make a bowl game for a fifth consecutive season and for the 10th time in 12 seasons.

“Our goals at the beginning of the year are the same every year,” said first-year head coach Michael Desormeaux, who has been on the Louisiana staff since 2016.

“Once you lose a couple of games, you’re out of contention for that. You’ve got to refocus and go get what’s left there for you. It’s not one goal, there are multiple goals along the way. It’s our job to get refocused on what’s in front of us and what we can do.

“I know they want to play in a bowl game. I want to play in a bowl game for them.”

Louisiana, like Florida State, has had a strong running game of late. Led by senior running back Chris Smith, the Cajuns have rushed for more than 200 yards in three of the last four games.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA;  Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns wide receiver Dontae Fleming (17) slips on a pass against Marshall Thundering Herd during the first half of the 2021 New Orleans Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 Louisiana rallies past Marshall in New Orleans Bowl

Levi Lewis produced 344 yards from scrimmage and threw a touchdown pass as No. 23 Louisiana came from behind to defeat Marshall 36-21 in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night.

Lewis completed 19 of 31 passes for 270 yards and ran 12 times for 74 yards as the Sun Belt Conference champion Ragin’ Cajuns (13-1) outscored the Thundering Herd 20-0 in the fourth quarter. They extended their school-record winning streak to 13.

Emani Bailey added two rushing touchdowns and 94 rushing yards as Louisiana won in former co-offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux’s debut as head coach. He replaced Billy Napier after Napier was named head coach at Florida earlier this month.

Rasheen Ali rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Thundering Herd (7-6), which lost for the third time in four games.

Louisiana won for the fifth time in six appearances in the New Orleans Bowl while Marshall lost in its New Orleans Bowl debut.

On third-and-goal, Ali ran nine yards for a touchdown that gave Marshall a 21-16 lead at the end of the third period.

Bailey rushed four yards for a touchdown, but a two-point conversion failed, leaving Louisiana with a 22-21 lead with 8:20 left.

Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year Montrell Johnson’s three-yard touchdown run increased the lead to 29-21 with 3:54 remaining. Bailey added a two-yard touchdown with 1:41 left.

On the first possession of the game, Lewis threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Kyren Lacy to complete a 13-play, 81-yard drive.

Nate Snyder kicked a 42-yard field goal on the Cajuns’ next possession for a 10-0 lead.

Ali broke free for a 63-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.

A 14-yard run by Ali gave the Herd their first lead, 14-10 early in the second quarter.

Snyder kicked a 25-yard field goal before Bralen Trahan’s interception of Grant Wells led to Snyder’s 24-yard field goal as time expired, giving Louisiana a 16-14 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football quarterback Levi Lewis (No. 1) hands the ball to Montrell Johnson Jr. (No. 4) during pre-game warm up as the Cajuns prepare to take on Ohio on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.

Cajuns Vs Ohio Football Pregame 5734

No. 24 Louisiana, freshly ranked, aims to prove status vs. Georgia St.

Now that Louisiana has become more widely recognized for its achievements, the Ragin’ Cajuns will try to build on that.

Louisiana entered the national rankings at No. 24 this week, just in time for a quick turnaround to face visiting Georgia State on Thursday night in Lafayette, La.

“Rankings are good,” Louisiana coach Billy Napier said. “I also think, ‘Let’s not lose sight of how we got here.’”

It could be a tricky test for the Ragin’ Cajuns (7-1, 5-0 Sun Belt Conference) against the surging Panthers (4-4, 3-1).

“I think it’s important that you do a lot of pre-planning,” Napier said of playing games on a short week. “Lot of research in the offseason and within the season when you get the opportunity. You have a limited amount of time with the staff to get the players ready.”

Louisiana has been up to the challenges. And once again, a special season could be brewing.

“This is where you can separate yourself if you get ownership from the players and they’re willing to do extra,” Napier said.

Quarterback Levi Lewis became Louisiana’s all-time leader in touchdown passes during a 45-0 rout of visiting Texas State on Saturday.

Lewis threw for three touchdowns, putting him at 65 touchdown throws in his career. He passed Jake Delhomme, who went on to an NFL career. In the most recent game, 12 different Louisiana players caught at least one pass.

The Ragin’ Cajuns have won seven games in a row since opening with a loss to then-No. 21 Texas to open the season. Along the way, Louisiana has one-, two- and three-point victories.

Most impressive was the 41-13 blowout of visiting Appalachian State on Oct. 12. The Mountaineers responded by topping previously undefeated Coastal Carolina, so that result probably gave Louisiana a boost in the polls.

The Panthers are on the move up, topping Georgia Southern 21-14 on Saturday. They own a three-game winning streak overall, putting them in a three-way tie for first place in the Sun Belt’s East Division.

Georgia State took its licks early, falling in September to Army, North Carolina and Auburn before beginning October with a 45-16 loss to Appalachian State.

One of the heroes of the Georgia Southern game was senior Jamyest Williams, who ran 23 yards for the winning points with 26 seconds left. He finished with a career-high 97 rushing yards on 12 carries. Williams has a team-leading five touchdowns.

“It brings out what your team is made of,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said of putting together a winning drive after gaining possession with 1:39 remaining. “Our offense believed we were going to go down and score.”

Georgia State’s three-game win streak has featured 287 rushing yards per game. Tucker Gregg leads the team with 552 yards on the ground this season.

Quarterback Darren Grainger has been steering the offense. He has thrown for 11 touchdowns against just three interceptions.

This is the middle game in a three-week stretch of road games for the Panthers, who will face another currently ranked team, Coastal Carolina, next week.

Considering that North Carolina and Auburn were ranked when the Panthers tangled with them in road games, Georgia State can make a claim to possessing a rugged schedule.

Georgia State is 0-10 against ranked teams on the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

The Thursday matchup figures to be a taxing assignment for the Panthers. Meanwhile, Louisiana was in such a good position against Texas State that the Ragin’ Cajuns could turn for reserves down the stretch of that game.

For instance, running back Chris Smith had 238 rushing yards the week before, but he gained 70 on just nine carries last week.

It was Louisiana’s first shutout in more than nine years.

The upcoming game is a rematch of last year’s 34-31 overtime victory for Louisiana, which will be playing in its fourth midweek game of the season.

–Field Level Media

Jul 15, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA;  Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian speaks to the media during Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

No. 21 Texas hosts No. 23 Louisiana in Steve Sarkisian’s debut

No. 21 Texas will have its hands full when it opens the Steve Sarkisian era against No. 23 Louisiana, a team ranked higher than the Longhorns in last season’s final polls, on Saturday afternoon in Austin, Texas.

It’ll mark the first time Texas has opened the season in an AP Top 25 matchup since 1992.

The Longhorns head into play with a new coaching staff, led by former Alabama offensive coordinator Sarkisian, and with a new starting signal caller. Gone is record-setting quarterback Sam Ehlinger, with redshirt freshman Hudson Card and junior Casey Thompson vying to earn the nod behind center.

Indications from fall camp are that Card will be the starter, but that Thompson should see some snaps.

“I told them, ‘You guys need to make this decision as hard as you can on me,’ ” Sarkisian said. “Because I name one guy the starter doesn’t mean we don’t need the other one because the other guy’s a play away.”

Texas went 7-3 in 2020 and posted a definitive victory over Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. Eight starters return from an offense that averaged 475 yards and 43 points per game in that truncated season. That list doesn’t even include sophomore running back Bijan Robinson, who was named as a preseason All-America by the Associated Press.

Nine players that started on defense in the Alamo Bowl also return for the Longhorns. Sarkisian puts little credence in the preseason polls.

“If we listen to what people say we’re supposed to be, man, life would be tough,” he said. “Then we’d have no Saturdays, and that wouldn’t be very fun for any of us.”

Louisiana’s ranking in the preseason AP poll is its first ever, and comes on the heels of a 10-1 season in 2020. The Ragin’ Cajuns spilt the Sun Belt Conference championship, won their third straight Sun Belt West Division title and posted their second straight bowl victory, a 31-24 win over UTSA in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl.

Louisiana, with Billy Napier heading into his fourth year as head coach in Lafayette, finished 15th in the final AP poll of 2020, four spots higher than the Longhorns. The Ragin’ Cajuns feature an offense triggered by fifth-year quarterback Levi Lewis that averaged 422 yards and 34 points per game a year ago.

The Ragin’ Cajuns set the table for a wild season in 2020 when they upset No. 23 Iowa State in Ames. Twenty starters return from last year’s team, with Louisiana poised to have one of its best campaigns ever.

It’s a talented team on both sides of the ball, with its defense, highlighted by linemen Tayland Humphrey and Zi’Yon Hill, one of the more underrated units in college football.

“When you start, it’s easy,” Napier said after the final fall camp practice last week. “You have great energy; you have great excitement and enthusiasm. Everybody’s motivation is high. Expectations are high, but then reality sets in.

“The challenges come, the obstacles come, doubt comes, and fatigue sets in. We want to be finishers.”

If the Ragin’ Cajuns can duplicate their beginning from last season, it could be a benchmark year on the bayou.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2020; Dallas, TX, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns running back Trey Ragas (9) runs the ball against the UTSA Roadrunners in the first quarter at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 Louisiana rallies past UTSA to win First Responder Bowl

Levi Lewis threw two touchdown passes and Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas ran for one each as No. 19 Louisiana defeated UTSA 31-24 in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl on Saturday in Dallas.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (10-1) saw the Roadrunners score 17 straight points to tie the score at 24 before Ragas ran 1 yard for the winning score midway through the fourth quarter.

Lewis completed 12 of 22 for 146 yards and Mitchell had 127 yards on 19 rushes as Louisiana finished the season with seven consecutive victories.

Frank Harris passed for 208 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 91 yards and one touchdown to lead the comeback for the Roadrunners (7-5).

Zakhari Franklin caught five of Harris’ passes, including one of the touchdowns, for 115 yards. Sincere McCormick rushed for 122 yards.

UTSA first-year coach Jeff Traylor was not at the game after learning Wednesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Associate head coach and offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. led the team in Traylor’s absence.

Louisiana led 17-7 at halftime and on the second play of the third quarter Ferrod Gardner recovered Harris’ fumble at the UTSA 3. On the next play, Mitchell ran for a touchdown that increased the Cajuns’ lead to 24-7.

Harris threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Franklin and added a 10-yarder to Joshua Cephus to close the deficit to 24-21 at the end of the third quarter.

Hunter Duplessis kicked a 20-yard field goal to tie the score early in the fourth quarter before Louisiana drove to Ragas’ tie-breaking touchdown.

UTSA reached the Cajuns 35, but turned the ball over on downs.

Lewis threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Williams that gave the Cajuns a 7-0 lead after one quarter.

Kenneth Almendares’ 31-yard field goal pushed the lead to 10 points before Harris ran 11 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Roadrunners within 10-7.

Lewis’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Kyren Lacy increased the Louisiana lead to 17-7 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Dec 7, 2019; Boone, NC, USA; A Sun Belt Conference logo is affixed to the pylon during a game between the Appalachian State Mountaineers and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Sun Belt cancels conference title game between Chanticleers, Cajuns

The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers have cleared every opponent put in front of them this season.

That changed Thursday night.

The Sun Belt Conference announced the conference championship game between the No. 12 Chanticleers (11-0) and the No. 19-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (9-1), to be held in Conway, S.C., has been canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test within the Coastal Carolina program.

In a press release, the Sun Belt said because of contact tracing, an entire Coastal Carolina position group would not be available to play because of possible exposure to the virus. According to conference bylaws, both teams will be recognized as 2020 co-conference champions.

“We are very disappointed that the championship game cannot be played, but we are so proud of all of the players and staff members and their hard work during this truly challenging season,” Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill said in a statement.

In a meeting earlier this season, the Chanticleers edged the Cajuns 30-27 on Oct. 14. The rematch figured to offer Coastal Carolina to make its case one last time to move up in the College Football Playoff rankings and possibly earn a spot in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

“We are all obviously devastated with this development and hurt for the student-athletes from both institutions in that they will not have a chance to compete for a conference title,” Coastal Carolina athletic director Matt Hogue said in a press release. “However, the adherence to health and safety protocols for our student-athletes has been and remains the first priority. Those protocols and guidance from our medical team fully governs this decision.”

Louisiana, which knocked off current No. 6 Iowa State early this season, was looking to avenge its only loss of the season and earn the conference championship. Instead, both programs will be looking forward to probably bowl game berths to be announced Sunday.

“We are severely disappointed for our student-athletes and staff to not have the opportunity to play in what would have been a truly exciting championship game for the Sun Belt Conference,” Louisiana athletic director Bryan Maggard said in a press release. “For our football program, fans, and alumni we look forward to learning of our bowl destination this weekend.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns head coach Billy Napier watches his team play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium. The Ragin Cajuns beat the Cyclones 31 to 14.   Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

No. 12 Coastal Carolina battles No. 19 Louisiana in Sun Belt title game

A special season is about to become even better for either No. 19 Louisiana or No. 12 Coastal Carolina.

The teams, both of which have had unprecedented success, meet in the Sun Belt Conference championship game Saturday afternoon at Conway, S.C.

“Our team has played well all year long and earned an opportunity to obviously host it, and one that our team is looking forward to,” Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said. “We know that we have our work cut out for us.”

That’s because the host Chanticleers (11-0) must tangle with Louisiana (9-1) in a rematch of a regular-season game decided in the final seconds.

“Each week that’s kind of what’s consumed us, is coming up with plans for improvement,” Ragin’ Cajuns coach Billy Napier said. “We played that game, we learned from that game and we moved forward after that game. I think we’ve been focused on improvement since then.”

Coastal Carolina won 30-27 on Oct. 14 at Louisiana on Massimo Biscardi’s 40-yard field goal with four seconds left. CJ Marable had two touchdowns for the Chanticleers, while Louisiana’s Elijah Mitchell scored two touchdowns

Quarterback Levi Lewis of Louisiana will be one of the focal points for the Chanticleers.

“The thing that’s happened is they’ve gotten better and better, the receivers have gotten better and better since we played them in early October,” Chadwell said. “We’re going to have to do some different things to try to not allow him to beat us with his feet, and that’s where he really gave us issues that time.”

Plus, Ragin’ Cajuns linebacker Ferrod Gardner, who’s the team’s second-leading tackler behind linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill, didn’t play in the first matchup.

Coastal Carolina can counter with Grayson McCall, who has thrown for two or more touchdowns in eight of the 10 games he has played this season. Marable has at least one touchdown in each of the last 10 games.

“They’ve got a very consistent team,” Napier said. “They haven’t had a lot of injuries. They’ve had a lot of continuity in terms of the players that play in the game.”

Louisiana has played five games decided by four points or less, going 4-1 in those contests.

Coastal Carolina has been involved in a couple of thrilling finishes the past two weeks, stopping BYU at the 1-yard line on the game’s final play to hold on for a 22-17 win, and then scoring a last-minute touchdown to win at Troy 42-38.

The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t played since the thrilling 24-21 victory on Dec. 4 at Appalachian State. Running back Trey Ragas has 37 career rushing touchdowns.

Louisiana has developed numerous reliable players in terms of production.

“I think each week’s been a little bit different, different personnel available, different variables, different matchups,” Napier said. “The big thing is we’ve found ways to win, and certainly we’ve been consumed with improving.”

The title game is sold out, though the current capacity at Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium is less than usual due to the pandemic.

“We’ve had great electricity here, so we’re thankful we don’t have to travel and thankful for having it here,” Chadwell said. “I think that is a benefit, especially with us playing this past weekend and them sitting at home. I don’t know how much of an advantage it is …it’s about the team that’s most rested and ready to go preparation wise.”

Coastal Carolina is the only team in the country with more than 10 victories after the program’s first undefeated regular season.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis (1) runs with the ball against the Georgia State Panthers during the first half at Center parc Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 Louisiana takes roll up against C. Arkansas

Louisiana aims to continue its torrid streak on Saturday afternoon when it completes a run of three consecutive home games with a nonconference meeting against Central Arkansas in Lafayette.

The 24th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns (7-1) enter the matinee in a flow, with a four-game winning streak that has powered the team to its third straight Sun Belt Conference West Division title.

Louisiana punched its ticket to the conference title game next month with a 38-10 romp over South Alabama on Saturday.

Levi Lewis led the way with three touchdown passes on a day in which he connected with 12 different receivers.

A potent ground attack rolled up 254 yards, a total only eclipsed by the 282 accumulated by the Ragin’ Cajuns in their 44-34 victory over Texas State on Oct. 31.

“We played with balance and I thought we were kind of mixing the tempo,” Louisiana coach Billy Napier said. “I thought Levi was sharp early, and certainly in the first possession we were able to rush the ball.”

Chris Smith highlighted his 99-yard rushing performance with a 22-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Trey Ragas, who capped the scoring with a 25-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, had 78 yards on the ground and Elijah Mitchell added 61 rushing yards to boot.

“We’ve been talking about it since Week 1 and (on Saturday) we finally put it together,” Smith said. “The O-line, they were working together, working hard, being confident. We had faith in them. Our running back, receivers, quarterback — we all believed in them.”

There’s plenty to believe in the ground game, considering Mitchell (563 rushing yards), Ragas (522), Smith (290) and Lewis (178) all are averaging at least 5.6 yards per carry.

Central Arkansas (5-4) surrendered 144 points during a 1-3 stretch but turned it around to outscore the opposition 89-35 en route to winning its last two games.

Bears quarterback Luke Hales made the most of his first start since 2018. The junior threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns to help the team rebound after squandering a 24-point lead. The Bears posted a 37-25 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.

“I think they do have poise. I think they’ve been in situations that are tough and tight many, many times,” Central Arkansas coach Nathan Brown said of his team. “And I thought they responded in a really positive manner (on Saturday).”

Tyler Hudson reeled in eight receptions for 154 yards, highlighted by a 69-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Lujuan Winningham, who had five catches for 77 yards, had a 12-yard scoring catch in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Running back Kierre Crossley found the end zone in two of his last three games for the Bears.

Louisiana booked Central Arkansas to its slate on the heels of seeing previously scheduled games against New Mexico State and Missouri canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ragin’ Cajuns will play Saturday’s game without its band in the stands due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis (1) runs with the ball against the Georgia State Panthers during the first half at Center parc Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Louisiana aiming for conference championship vs. South Alabama

The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns host the South Alabama Jaguars on Saturday afternoon with a chance to clinch a berth in the Sun Belt Conference championship game.

No. 25 Louisiana (6-1, 4-1 in conference), ranked for the second time this season following a 27-20 victory last week against Arkansas State, can lock up the top spot in the Sun Belt’s West division with a win.

But a victory for South Alabama (3-4, 2-2) would give the Jaguars a chance to make a run for the West title if they also win their remaining conference games against Georgia State, Arkansas State and Troy.

“I told the guys in the locker room that of the five teams in our division, only one has one conference loss and we play them next week,” South Alabama coach Steve Campbell said. “If we can go on the road and beat Louisiana, we’ll own the tiebreaker over them. We still control our own destiny.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns have had their share of close battles with all five of their conference games decided by 10 points or less, including three of them by four points or less.

Louisiana has won three consecutive games since suffering their lone loss against unbeaten Coastal Carolina, the current leader in the Sun Belt East division.

South Alabama just held Coastal Carolina to its season-low point total but lost 23-6.

“Everybody was hitting on all cylinders and doing their job,” South Alabama senior linebacker Riley Cole said. “The defensive line was holding their gaps, the linebackers were flowing and the safeties and corners were playing well.”

The Jaguars are led by the conference’s most accurate passer in 6-3, 200-pound sophomore quarterback Desmond Trotter, who has a 70.1 completion percentage (89 of 127 attempts) and has thrown for 1,187 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

South Alabama receivers Jalen Tolbert and Kawaan Baker are ranked among the Sun Belt’s top five in receiving yardage and touchdowns.

“This will be one of the more impressive teams we’ve played despite the record,” Louisiana coach Billy Napier told ESPN 1420 during a radio interview on Monday. “We have to make sure our focus is on them and not (being ranked again).”

South Alabama has allowed 23 sacks this season, and this weekend they will face one of the nation’s toughest pass defenses as Louisiana ranks fifth among FBS schools with 10 interceptions and is ranked 19th in passing yards allowed per game (187.1).

Junior safety Bralen Trahan and junior cornerback Eric Garror each have three interceptions — tied for second-most in the conference with the latter recording his three over the past two games.

“Eric is a consistent practice player,” Napier said. “He’s very engaged all the time and from the minute he got here we knew he was going to be a factor.”

The matchup will also feature two of the Sun Belt’s best running backs in South Alabama’s Carlos Davis (134 attempts, 586 yards, two TDs) and Louisiana’s Elijah Mitchell (87 attempts, 502 yards, five TDs), who rank fourth and fifth in the conference in rushing yards, respectively.

Louisiana’s prolific rushing attack also features Trey Ragas and Chris Smith as well as quarterback Levi Lewis, who have all run for 175 or more yards.

Lewis leads the Sun Belt in passing with 1,624 yards on 117 of 195 attempts while throwing 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.

–Field Level Media