Coming off a game in which they blew a 14-point lead and were outscored 21-0 by South Alabama the Georgia Southern coaches and players said they were happy to get a chance to have a quick turnaround as they play a Thursday night Sun Belt contest at Louisiana. Eagle coach Clay Helton doesn’t feel like there will be a hangover from the South Alabama loss and feels good about the overall mindset of his team.
“One thing I like about our kids is their resiliency,” said Helton. “They knew we had an opportunity to win at home, which we take a lot of pride in, and to become bowl eligible. I told them I expected them to come in Sunday with their jaw set and get ready to play a good Louisiana team and I feel they came out strong at practice. They are a prideful bunch and it hurts them and our staff to not get the job done. We have a mad football office and team and we are ready to play another game.”
The Ragin Cajuns may be just as anxious as Georgia Southern to hurry up and put their 23-17 loss to Troy behind them. Louisiana held a 17-0 lead over Troy, who didn’t score a point until the horn sounded for the end of the third quarter. From there they outscored Louisiana 23-0 and handed them their fifth overall loss and dropped them to 2-4 in conference play.
“The thing I have seen about this conference is everybody plays at a high level and you look at that game last week and it was impressive,” said Helton. “You look at Troy who is leading that western side and they had them down 17-0 late in the third quarter and then lose a heartbreaker. I know they have a lot of pride in that program and I would expect another war on our hands come Thursday night.”
The Cajuns have been the top dog on the western side of the Sun Belt Conference the past few years having won their division the past four seasons. This year Louisiana has struggled under first year head coach Michael Desormeaux who took over for current University of Florida head coach Billy Napier.
On offense the Cajuns are averaging 25 points per game. They are passing for just over 230 yards per contest and are rushing for 167 yards per game. Having lost All-Sun Belt quarterback Levi Lewis, the Cajuns have played both Ben Wooldridge and Chandler Fields at quarterback. Wooldridge leads the team with 1,468 yards passing and 12 touchdowns while Fields has 608 yards and seven touchdown passes. Chris Smith leads the rushing attack with 417 yards and only two touchdowns.
“Offensively they mix personnel groupings and are efficient in running the ball,” said Helton. “I have told our guys we have to worry about ourselves and be gap assignment sound and use our fundamentals in tackling and make sure we are doing our assignments. The other thing is on special teams they have an All-American kick returner in Chris Smith who is very dangerous and the best punt returner in this league. We have to do a tremendous job in our special teams' units as well.”
Defensively Louisiana has been pretty solid as they are giving up an average of just over 21 points per game. They are allowing an average of 129 yards per game on the ground and 216 yards per contest through the air. Helton said he feels Louisiana is just another of a long line of tough Sun Belt defenses.
“Defensively they are extremely opportunistic,” said Helton. “They are ranked fourth in the country in interceptions and they accomplish that with a lot of the zone defenses that they play. They do a good job getting to the quarterback with only a four-man rush. They put pressure on the quarterback and make him make poor decisions in their zone coverage so we will have to be protective of the football through the air. Overall, they do a great job holding teams down points wise as well.”
For Eagle senior defensive lineman Dillon Springer this may be his final chance to play in his home state of Louisiana.
“This is going to be fun,” said Springer. “The last time we went down there was for media day we went on a private jet and we had a lot of fun. As soon as I got off the jet, I took a deep breath and thought it smelt like home. It is going to be the same thing when we go out there this time the only difference is it’s going to be about taking care of business especially for me since it’s my last year and a win makes us bowl eligible.”
Georgia Southern and Louisiana are set for a 7:30 kickoff and the game can be seen live on ESPNU.