You Can’t Let the Same Team Beat You Twice – From the Bird’s Nest
The first time I heard that phrase, Rickey Bustle was the Cajuns' head coach. I've heard Mark Hudspeth say it as well.
And, don't be surprised if you hear it from Billy Napier's mouth this week.
"Don't let the same team beat you twice."
Now, that doesn't refer to a rematch later in the season. Louisiana is certainly hoping for another shot at Appalachian State after the Mountaineers defeated the Cajuns 17-7 at Cajun Field last Wednesday night.
It was an opportunity lost for the Cajuns. A season high crowd was on hand for the contest and there were plenty of festivities. There was more buzz about that game than aniy other in the short Billy Napier era. But the Cajuns fell short. It was a huge disappointment for the fans in attendance, the community and especially the coaches and players.
By the weekend, the loss was still a topic of conversation in the media and around the city.
We've seen it before. A team takes a win or a loss in a big game and then becomes prime for an upset the following week.
And, that is something the Cajuns must guard against as they prepare for Arkansas State.
The Red Wolves (3-3, 1-1 Sun Belt) began the season with high hopes. The team and the Jonesboro community suffered a huge loss with the death of Coach Blake Anderson's wife, Wendy.
They've suffered losses on the field as well. I don't think I've ever seen a team go through the injuries that Arkansas State has had. Quarterback Logan Bonner went down and is lost for the season. His replacement, redshirt freshman Layne Hatcher, has performed admirably. But Bonner's loss is significant. Running back Marcel Murray has missed multiple games but is expected to play this week. He'll need to because the backups are all injured. The latest is freshman Isaiah Azubuike, lost for the season in the game against Georgia State.
The defense has been decimated by injuries as well. The latest to go down is All-Conference tackle Forrest Merrill. Arkansas State's defense is nowhere near what they have traditionally been. They've given up an average of nearly 45 points per game over their last four. They rank last in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense.
But they are still Arkansas State. They are playing at home this week. And Jonesboro has traditionally been where Cajun teams go to die.
The Cajuns have won twice in Jonesboro since 1992. One came under Rickey Bustle when the Red Wolves had suffered a slew of season ending injuries on their offensive line. And the last time was 2013 when the Cajuns' defense stifled the Red Wolves in Brian Harsin's only season as head coach.
The Red Wolves' offense is dangerous despite the injuries. Omar Bayless is putting up crazy numbers from his WR position, and, at 6'4", is the toughest to cover in the league. Kirk Merritt might be the second best receiver in the league. The Cajuns' defense will have its hands full.
With all of this, the Cajuns are a touchdown favorite in the game, unheard of for a game in Jonesboro.
The Red Wolves were off last week and have had extra time to prepare. They are Arkansas State. They are at home. They will be ready.
Louisiana is very capable of beating Arkansas State, even on the road. Their biggest challenge is understanding they aren't playing Appalachian State again.