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Boise State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette: game preview

The Broncos host the Ragin' Caguns in a first-ever meeting on Saturday

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

WEEK 4: Boise State Broncos vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

WHEN: Saturday, September 20, 8:30 PM, MST

WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID (37,000)

CONFERENCES: Mountain West and Sun Belt Conferences

2014 SEASON: Boise State, 2-1, 1-0 (MW); Louisiana-Lafayette, 1-2, 0-0 (SBC)

COACHES: Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin (9-6); Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth, (95-35)

TV: CBS Sports Network

WEB STREAMING: GameTracker

RADIO: Bronco Radio Network: KBOI (670 AM) and KKGL (96.9 FM) in the Boise area; Ragin' Cajuns Radio Network: KHXT (1420 AM) and KHXT (107.9 FM) in the Lafayette area

SERIES RECORD: 1st meeting

WEB SITES: Boise State official | Louisiana-Lafayette official

With a brand new million dollar per year, six year contract Ragin' Cajun head coach Mark Hudspeth is the highest paid coach in the Sun Belt and he got that contract for a reason. The Cajuns were a mediocre 3-9 team when they lured him away from Mississippi State in 2010. Since his arrival in Lafayette the Cajuns have undergone an impressive turnaround with a 9-4 tear in each of Hudspeth’s three year reign, and capped by winning a New Orleans Bowl championship in all three seasons.

Up at Boise State Bryan Harsin is in his first year as the head coach and he is off to a 2-1 start. Last Saturday he took the Broncos to Connecticut to post a 38-21 win over the UConn Huskies. The one thing both of these coaches have in common is that both have dropped games to the same opponent this season. Last week UL-Lafayette suffered a huge loss on the road to #14 Ole Miss, 56-15, while three weeks ago Boise State also dropped a game to the same SEC heavyweight, 35-13.

"Our football team right now is not clicking on all cylinders, but that's part of football and a part of life," UL-Lafayette HC Mark Hudspeth said after their Ole Miss matchup. "Our coaches have to figure that out."

It will be interesting to see if they can get it figured out in one week.  I suspect it will go something like this:

What to expect when UL-Lafayette has the ball: Last week the Ragin' Caguns had 322 total yards against the #14 Ole Miss Rebels and more than half of those were on the ground.  That is because QB Terrance Broadway, 6-2, 221 lbs, completed 15 of 30 pass attempts for just 129 yards, but three of those were intercepted.   So while Broadway averages 210 passing yards a game he has not been stellar in the passing department.  But Hudspeth has to think Broadway can do much better against a Boise State squad that is one of the worse teams in the nation at defending against the pass. The Broncos have been giving up an average of 354.3 yards and 3 TD's through the air per game.  And Broadway has a number of good receivers to pitch to including Gabe Fusealier, 5-11,  175 lbs;  Jared Johnson, 6-5 215 lbs, and Jamal Robinson, 6-4 205 lbs.  Robinson is the deep man with catches that average 20.14 yards

Still, UL-Lafayette will have to run the ball just to keep the Broncos honest, even though any running game is bound to struggle against the #2 best rushing defense in the nation.  That running attack will come from several backs the Cajuns rotate in and out of their backfield: senior Alonzo Harris, 6-1, 238 lbs, and sophomore Elijah McGuire, 5-11, 198 lbs.  McGuire is having a pretty good year so far and averaging 7 yards a carry, but he's capable of doing even better.  Last year he averaged 8.4 yards a touch.  In addition to those two, Broadway himself is no slouch when it comes to running the ball.  In just three games he's ran 29 times for 179 yards for an average of 6.17 yards a scramble.

And a running game would be just what the Broncos would prefer with their vaunted D-line that has stopped their past three opponents in their tracks.  DE Beau Martin, 6-2, 258 lbs, is 3rd in the MW with 4.5 tackles for loss, and LB Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 228 lbs, is 5th with 4.   Freshman  Mat Boesen, 6-4, 219 lbs, and DL Kamalei Correa, 6-3, 247 lbs, each have 3 and tied for 10th in the conference.  Last week Connecticut struggled against these guys to put up just 48 yards rushing.

What to expect when Boise State has the ball:  Boise State will come out both passing and running the ball against the Ragin' Cajuns.  Boise State's offensive coordinator Mike Sanford has called 118 pass plays and 118 run plays, and HC Byran Harsin said this week that the Broncos prefered a balanced attack to avoid becoming one-dimensional.  Look for Broncos QB Grant Hedrick, 6-1, 195 lbs, to continue to improve this week after a rocky start to his season.  Last week he completed 19 of 27 passing attempts for 233 yards and 2 TDs, but more importantly, NO interceptions.  Record breaking WR Matt Miller, 6-3, 220 lbs, caught eight of those passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. He's averaging 16.3 yards a catch. While Miller is enroute to becoming the greatest wide receiver in Boise State history, he's hardly alone out there.  WR Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 158 lbs, is also contributing and will be a thorn in the side of the Ragin' Cajun defenders.

If anything slipped last week with the Boise State offense it was the running game.  Broncos workhorse and star running back Jay Ajayi, 6-1, 215 lbs, was held to just 39 yards on 18 rush attempts averaging of only 2.2 yards a carry.  In fact, the Broncos managed just 52 total yards on the ground last Saturday.  That is why you can expect the coaches to try and get that ground attack back on track and press some of other backs on the depth chart to step up.

Special Teams: Boise State's Dan Goodale, 5-10, 185 lbs, continues to be reliable with kicking field goals and extra points. Look for him to also keep handling the kickoffs. Last Saturday his kickoffs averaged 64.5 yards and 5 out of 6 were touchbacks. Kicker Sean Wale, 6-2, 186 lbs, will be handling the punting duties again this week. At UConn he punted 7 times, averaging 42.7 yards a punt.

Goodale will need to do as good or better kickin off in this game. He'll be kicking to DB Montrel Carter, 5-10, 195 lbs, one of the best kick return specialists in the Sun Belt. Carter is averaging 21 yards a pop. As for punting, UL-Lafayette has a pretty good punter of their own: K Daniel Cardona, 6-4, 218 lbs, is averaging 49.27 yards per punt.

The Bottom Line: Boise State is at home were they have always done very well. Vegas has the Broncos as a 16-point favorite over the Ragin' Cajuns. I think that sounds about right.

 

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