LAFAYETTE – Coming off a midweek victory in its last contest, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football team resumes Sun Belt Conference play on Thursday when it travels to Jonesboro, Ark., to face Arkansas State in a nationally-televised game at Centennial Bank Stadium.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., and will be televised nationally on ESPNU with Shawn Kenney (play-by-play) and Ray Bentley (color) providing the commentary. The game will also be available statewide on the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Radio Network with Jay Walker (PBP), former Ragin' Cajuns receiver Richie Falgout (color) and Cody Junot (sideline) on the call.
Louisiana (3-3, 2-1 SBC) claimed its second straight contest last Thursday with a 24-7 win over Texas State. The Ragin' Cajuns scored on their first two possessions of the contest and rode the efforts of a defensive performance that registered six sacks and forced three turnovers.
Andre Nunez, in his first career start for Louisiana, completed 17 of 27 passes for 232 yards and touchdown while redshirt freshman Trey Ragas continued his impressive season with 72 yards rushing with a pair of touchdowns.
Arkansas State (3-2, 2-0 SBC) won its second straight game with a 51-17 victory over Coastal Carolina last week. The Red Wolves opened SBC play with a 43-25 win at Georgia Southern on Oct. 4.
LOUISIANA RAGIN' CAJUNS (3-3, 2-1 Sun Belt)
Head Coach: Mark Hudspeth (Delta State, 1992) • @ULCoachHud
Record at LA: 27-34* (seventh season), Career Record: 93-55* (14th season)
ARKANSAS STATE RED WOLVES (3-2, 2-0 Sun Belt)
Head Coach: Blake Anderson (Sam Houston State, 1992)
Record at A-State: 27-17 (fourth season), Career Record: Same
Oct. 19, 2017 • 6:32 p.m. • Jonesboro, Ark. • Centennial Bank Stadium (30,406)
Series History: Louisiana leads, 23-20-1*
At Lafayette: Louisiana leads, 15-8 | At Jonesboro: A-State leads, 11-8-1*
At Little Rock: A-State leads, 1-0 | Hudspeth vs. A-State: 2-3
First Meeting: Arkansas State 13, Louisiana 12 • October 17, 1953 at Jonesboro
Last Meeting: Louisiana 24, Arkansas State 19 • November 26, 2016 at Lafayette
ESPNU | WatchESPN • Shawn Kenney PXP • Ray Bentley Analyst
KPEL 1420 AM (Flagship) • Jay Walker PXP • Richie Falgout Analyst • Cody Junot Sideline
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
• Louisiana is one of five FBS teams that is perfect (28-for-28 overall; 25 TDs, 3 FGs) in red zone offense this season.
• The Ragin' Cajuns defense has allowed a touchdown or less in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2006 season (at FIU, vs. Arkansas State).
• Louisiana's six quarterback sacks last week against Texas State were the most recorded in a game since collecting eight at ULM on Nov. 15, 2014.
• Tracy Walker is 11 tackles shy of cracking the top-five in Ragin' Cajuns history for defensive backs.
• Keenan Barnes' 31 receptions in 2017 equals his 2016 numbers. His 434 receiving yards on the season surpassed his 2016 numbers (418).
CALL US "LOUISIANA"
• The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns® is the nickname of the University's athletic teams. As listed by the Sun Belt Conference, the NCAA and ESPN.com, we politely ask that you refer to our athletic programs as simply "Louisiana" on first reference, or use any of the following: Ragin' Cajuns or Cajuns.
• For all electronic sports tickers and TV crawls only, please use "LA" as the official abbreviation for all athletic programs.
• The Sun Belt Conference made public its University Reference Guide in 2016 that is used to reference each member institution's athletic title and nicknames. The publication of the guide comes after all of the conference's presidents and chancellors submitted their preferred reference.
• The Sun Belt Conference will begin to use these references immediately. Sun Belt member institutions and media partners are encouraged to use these references so that there is consistency across all communication platforms.
• Louisiana renews one of its oldest gridiron rivalries in school history today when it faces Arkansas State.
• Louisiana leads the all-time series between the schools with an official 23-20-1 record. The Red Wolves hold an 11-8-1 lead in games played in Jonesboro, including a 37-27 victory in the last meeting at Centennial Bank Stadium on Oct. 20, 2015.
• Louisiana claimed last season's contest, 24-19, at Cajun Field in the second-latest meeting between the schools on Nov. 26, 2016.
• Today's meeting is the 46th between the schools in a series that dates back to the 1953 season.
• The teams have met annually since 2001.
A RAGIN' CAJUNS VICTORY WOULD ...
• improve their overall record to 4-3
• improve Louisiana's Sun Belt record to 3-1
• improve Louisiana's official Sun Belt Conference record to 51-48
• would give Louisiana its first three-game winning streak since the 2014 season
• would be the Ragin' Cajuns third consecutive victory on Thursday night dating back to 2016 (d. Georgia Southern, 33-26, on Nov. 10, 2016; d. Texas State, 24-7, on Oct. 12)
• would improve Louisiana's record in Thursday games to 4-1 overall under Mark Hudspeth
• would be Louisiana's 19th win (currently 18-21-3) in school history on a Thursday.
RAGIN' CAJUNS COACHING EXPERIENCE
• The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns coaching staff brings a combined total of 196 years of collegiate experience to the table along with 82 bowl/postseason appearances.
• Defensive coordinator Mike Lucas (36 years) and offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue (32 years) are the most experienced coaches on the staff with co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison (19) and Rodrigue (15) the most experience in post-season/bowl games.
• Both coordinators for the Ragin' Cajuns - Will Hall (West Alabama/West Georgia) and Mike Lucas (Southeastern Louisiana) have been head coaches during their collegiate careers.
NEW SURFACE FOR CAJUN FIELD
• Louisiana's 2017 season-opener against Southeastern Louisiana marked the first contest for the Ragin' Cajuns on the new Matrix Turf surface.
• The previous synthetic surface, which was installed in 2008, was replaced with the same surface used at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.
• Hellas Construction, based in Austin, Texas, installed the new surface in August.
#RAGINGRADS - AMONG BEST FBS PROGRAMS IN THE COUNTRY
• Louisiana is one of two in-state FBS schools (LSU) and seven Sun Belt Conference schools (Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, South Alabama, Arkansas State, Idaho and Troy) among a list of FBS schools across the country with at least five graduates on its roster.
• TE Matthew Barnes, OT Grant Horst, LB T.J. Posey and WR Devin Scott all earned their bachelor's degrees from UL with punter Sam Geraci earning his degree from Cincinnati.
• Here is a list of FBS schools with five or more graduates on their current 2017 roster.
18 – Northwestern
14 – Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina
13 – Toledo
12 – TCU, Alabama, Oregon, Virginia
11 – Georgia State, Kansas State, Maryland, UCF, USF
10 – Kent State, Nevada, New Mexico, South Alabama, Texas Tech, West Virginia
9 – Houston, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Temple
8 – Auburn, Clemson, Iowa, Kentucky, NC State, Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, Penn State, SMU, Syracuse, UAB, Western Kentucky
7 – Arizona State, Georgia, Kansas, Marshall, Memphis, Middle Tennessee, Missouri, North Texas, Utah, Virginia Tech
6 – Akron, Arkansas State, Colorado State, Duke, Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma, UMass, UTEP, UTSA, Troy, Tulsa, Washington
5 – Arkansas, Baylor, UConn, FAU, Idaho, Louisiana, LSU, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, USC, Washington State
CAJUNS ADD CINCY TRANSFER GERACI AT PUNTER
• Looking to replace Ray Guy Award semifinalist Steven Coutts at punter, Louisiana picked up former Cincinnati punter Sam Geraci as a graduate transfer.
• Geraci played three seasons with the Bearcats where he averaged 41.5 yards per punt in three seasons with 67 punts placed inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
• Geraci averaged 46.3 yards per attempt in 2015 with 17 attempts of 50 yards or more. He averaged 40.0 yards per attempt in 2016, with 37 punts resulting in fair catches and 31 attempts landing inside the 20-yard line.
• As with most schools, Louisiana has placed a heavy emphasis on recruiting players within its state borders as 58 players on the roster, including 27 from the nine-parish Acadiana region, hail from the state of Louisiana.
• Fifteen players on the current roster come from Lafayette with 19 coming the talent-rich New Orleans metro area.
THE CAJUNS HAVE THE INTERNATIONAL FLAIR
• Reserve lineman Christian Cederquist (Denmark) is the lone international player on the Ragin' Cajuns roster. The Copenhagen native spent last season as a redshirt after transferring from Eastern Arizona College.
THE BOOK OF ELI: CHAPTER 2
• With the departure of four-year letterwinner Elijah McGuire at running back, a new chapter begins this season as true freshman Elijah Mitchell
• Wearing the same number (15) that McGuire wore for his final three seasons, Mitchell carried a team-high 11 times for 56 yards and a touchdown in a season-opening win over Southeastern Louisiana.
• Mitchell added a pair of TDs in Louisiana's game at Tulsa on Sept. 9, scoring on a 20-yard run in the second quarter and hauling in a 19-yard pass from Jordan Davis to open the second half.
• Quarterback Jordan Davis, linebacker T.J. Posey, offensive tackle Grant Horst and nose tackle Taboris Lee were voted as team captains for the 2017 season.
SBC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME COMING IN 2018
• The Sun Belt Conference will hold its first ever football championship game as the league's presidents and chancellors, as well as athletic directors, voted unanimously to play the game beginning in 2018. The announcement was made on June 8, 2016.
• Details regarding how the two participants will be selected will be available at a later date. Rules set forward by the Division I Council in January require conferences with fewer than 12 members to hold championship games in football, as long as they meet one of two conditions.
• A conference can choose to either play their championship game between division winners after round-robin competition in each division or between the top two teams in the conference standings following full round-robin, regular-season competition between all members of the conference.
HUDSPETH HEADS THE SUN BELT COACHING FRATERNITY
• Now in his seventh year at Louisiana, head coach Mark Hudspeth is the dean of the Sun Belt Conference coaching fraternity, having taken over the reins of the Ragin' Cajuns program in 2011.
• Hudspeth, in his 14th season as a head coach, spent seven years as head coach at North Alabama and was an assistant at five schools, including FBS programs Navy and Mississippi State.
CUE UP SOME WILLIE ... THE CAJUNS ARE ON THE ROAD AGAIN
• For the first time since the 2011 season, Louisiana will play seven football games on the road, including trips to SEC opponents Texas A&M and Ole Miss, along with American Athletic Conference member Tulsa.
• Also on the road schedule are dates at Sun Belt Conference co-championships Arkansas State (Oct. 19) and Appalachian State (Dec. 2), plus league rivals Idaho (Oct. 7) and South Alabama (Nov. 4).
CAJUNS ONE OF FIVE TEAMS PERFECT IN THE RED ZONE
• Under first-year offensive coordinator Will Hall, Louisiana has been perfect through the first give games when entering the red zone.
• Louisiana, which is now one of five FBS teams that are perfect in red zone opportunities this season, finished 8-for-8 (7 TDs, 1 FG) against ULM and was 7-for-7 (6 TDs, 1 FG) at Tulsa.
• The Ragin' Cajuns were a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone against Texas State, scoring on three touchdowns while adding a field goal by Stevie Artigue.
• In 28 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line, the Ragin' Cajuns have scored all 28 times with a national-best 25 scores coming via touchdown (17 rushing, 8 passing).
RAGIN' CAJUNS RECEIVERS IN ELITE GROUP
• Louisiana is one of eight FBS schools to have three players record 100 receiving yards in a game during the 2017 season.
• Keenan Barnes (at Tulsa, at Texas A&M), Ryheem Malone (at Tulsa) and Jarrod Jackson (vs. ULM) have all surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark in games this season.
• Currently four players - Barnes, Malone, Jackson and Ja'Marcus Bradley - have all recorded 100-yard receiving games in their careers for the Ragin' Cajuns.
• FBS teams with at least three players with 100 or more yards receiving in a game:
Arizona State – 5
Oklahoma State - 4
Louisiana - 3
Virginia – 3
Washington State – 3
SMU – 3
Louisiana Tech – 3
Massachusetts – 3
FORMER DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JAMES WILLIS REJOINS CAJUNS AS ANALYST
• Former defensive coordinator James Willis rejoined the Ragin' Cajuns program as a defensive analyst during the team's open date and will be in the booth beginning with Louisiana's game at Idaho on Oct. 7.
• Willis served as defensive coordinator for Louisiana from 2013-14, helping lead the Ragin' Cajuns to a pair of bowl games. He left after the 2014 season to become a defensive assistant/linebackers coach for the NFL's New Orleans Saints.
• A former Auburn standout and seven-year veteran in the NFL, Willis worked as an assistant at Rhode Island, Temple, Alabama, Auburn and Texas Tech before joining the Ragin' Cajuns program in early 2013.
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