Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Look: Louisiana - Lafayette

With a just over a week to go until the start of the 2010 season, here is our first look at Georgia’s opening day opponent, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Nickname: Ragin’ Cajuns – An appropriate nickname for a school in Louisiana. Apparently, they want to be called just Louisiana instead of Lafayette.

Conference: Sun Belt – Louisiana – Lafayette joined the Sun Belt conference in 1991. Did you know that Georgia State was a founding member of the Sun Belt? I wonder if their football program turns out if they try to rejoin in a few years. The Troy Trojans have either outright won or shared the conference title for the last four seasons. Georgia defeated Troy 44-34 in 2007, the last time the Dawgs faced a team from the Sun Belt.

Coach: Ricky Bustle – 2010 will be his 9th season as a head coach, all at Louisiana-Lafayette. He has a career record of 38-56 (including a 28-31 record in conference). His best season came in 206 when the team finished 6-5 and tied for the conference championship. Before coming to Lafayette, Bustle served as offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech from 1993 – 2001 (including the Michael Vick years).

2009 Record: 6-6. The Ragin’ Cajuns won six games to become bowl eligible for the fourth time in the last five season. Unfortunately, they failed to earn a bowl bid for the fourth time in five seasons. They played three games against BCS opponents, going 1-2 in those contests. They defeated Kansas State 17-15 at home on September 12 but then dropped games the next two weeks to LSU (31-3) and Nebraska (55-0) the next two weeks. They finished with a 4-4 record in conference play, including a 48-31loss to conference champion Troy in the season finale.

Returning Starters: 14 (5 on offense, 7 on defense, kicker, and punter)

Offense: Averaged only 22.2 points per game last season (93rd in the country). The offense is lead by returning quarterback Chris Masson, who threw for over 2,400 yards on 60 percent completions with 10 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The Cajuns leading returning receiver is tight end Ladarius Green (533 yards). On the ground, the Cajuns are very inexperienced with Julian Shankle (only 38 yards in 2009) expected to be the starter. The offensive line will also be replacing three starters but will have senior Ian Burks, who has 32 career starts but will be moving from guard to center this fall.

Defense: The strength of Lafayette’s defense in 2009 was its ability to produce interceptions. They finished 13th in the country with 16 picks in 2009 and the defensive backfield returns 3 starters in ’10. As successful as the pass defense was running defense was not. The rush defense allowed over 180 yards a game last season, something Georgia backs should be looking forward to. Their best overall defensive player is senior linebacker Grant Fleming and every projected starter will either be a junior or senior this fall.

2010 Outlook: Once again, Louisiana Lafayette faces a tough out of conference schedule with match ups against four teams that made bowls in 2009 (Georgia, Oklahoma State, Ohio University, and Ole Miss. ) In conference, they are not expected to challenge reigning champion Troy and with only 5 home games, it looks like they are headed to another season that ends without a bowl game invitation.

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