2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 5 - Florida Atlantic at Louisiana
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Oct. 1 at Louisiana-Lafayette 37 … Florida Atlantic 34
CFN Analysis: Coming off the huge win over FIU, this was a shaky performance against an awful team, but even though ULL dominated, and even though it should've been an easier victory, this might be better remembered as a key gut-check moment. With ten penalties and too many misfired, the Ragin' Cajuns had their share of mistakes, but all that mattered was a terrific final drive with Blaine Gautier closing out a good performance with a great late effort leading to Brett Baer's game-winning field goal. It's time for ULL to show it really is the big dog in the Sun Belt race, and that'll only come with a win over Troy next week. A loss would almost erase all the positives from the win over FIU.
There was a question of whether or not FAU was awful, or if it simply played a bunch of nasty teams. The answer might be a mix of the two, but the close call against ULL showed promise. The offense continues to sputter, but Graham Wilbert had his best performance of the year throwing for 219 yards and three scores. The defense collapsed late, but there were some solid games turned in by parts of the back seven. 11 penalties for 100 yards were the main culprit, and the problems in the secondary didn't help but the Owls showed they could play a bit. With winnable games against North Texas and WKU coming up, it's time to turn the season around.
(AP) LAFAYETTE, La. -- Brett Baer's 26-yard field goal on the final play lifted Louisiana-Lafayette to a 37-34 victory over Florida Atlantic in a Sun Belt Conference game on Saturday night.
Baer also kicked field goals of 47 and 46 yards, the second of which gave the Ragin' Cajuns (4-1, 2-0) a 34-20 lead with 7:43 remaining.
Graham Wilbert brought the Owls (0-4, 0-1) back, throwing a 5-yard scoring pass to Nexon Dorvilus and a 12-yard TD to Xavier Stinson to tie the game with 1:48 left.
Blaine Gautier then directed the Ragin' Cajuns from their 26 to the Florida Atlantic 9, completing 6 of 7 passes on the drive. Gautier completed 26 of 33 in the game for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilbert finished 20-for-38 with 219 yards and three touchdowns. His one interception gave Louisiana-Lafayette the ball at the Owls' 16, but a missed field goal by Baer ended the threat.
Florida Atlantic (0-3) at Louisiana-Lafayette (3-1) Oct. 1, 7:00, ESPN3
Here's The Deal … And now the spotlight is on.
New Ragin' Cajun head coach Mark Hudspeth has done exactly what he was supposed to do by finally, finally appearing to turn the program around. ULL has been close to being really good, or at least good enough to be in the Sun Belt title hunt, but with the stunning road win over a red hot Florida International last week, now a bowl and the conference title are there for the taking. The team proved it's good enough to hang with the better teams – battling Oklahoma State better than the 61-34 final score looks – and now it's time to take care of the easy one. The Sun Belt championship could come down to next week's showdown against Troy to kickoff a three-game home stretch.
Florida Atlantic used to be good enough to be in the mix for big things, but the talent level has fallen off the map. However, the Owls are an X factor having started out the season on the road at Florida, Michigan State, and Auburn; they haven't played anyone their own size. They've beaten ULL in the last four meetings and in four of the last five games, and now they need to make it five of six to turn their season around.
Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: it's not like the ULL offense is moving the ball. The passing game isn't efficient, the running game is spotty, and the points have mostly come off of big plays from the defense and good field position. FAU hasn't done a lot right so far against the three nasty teams over the first part of the schedule, but it's not screwing up that badly. The three picks last week against Auburn came from trying to keep up the pace and pushing the ball down the field and taking chances, and if the Owl defense does its job against ULL, the offense isn't going to have to bomb away. The Ragin' Cajuns might need takeaways to win, and FAU isn't guaranteed to make too many huge mistakes.
Why Louisiana Lafayette Might Win: So how are the Ragin' Cajuns 3-1 with no offense? 1) Turnover margin, with 11 takeaways in the first four games, and 2) a phenomenal pass rush. Granted, eight of the 15 sacks came against Nicholls State, but there were also three sacks against FIU and three against Kent State. Pass protection is one of the few things the FAU offense has done reasonably well, but no one's made too much of an attempt to fly into the backfield and take any chances, mainly because no one has had to. The Owl offense has been abysmal, averaging a nation-low 53 rushing yards per game – almost nine yards fewer than the second-worst rushing team, Arizona. ULL's defensive front might not be a rock, but it's good enough to stop the Owl offense before it can get started.
What To Watch Out For: The 5-11, 173-pound ULL senior corner Dwight Bentley isn't all that big, but he has been around long enough to be the star of the secondary and is tough in the open field when he has to make a stop. He might not look the part, but he's a good tackler finishing fourth on the team with 58 stops last year, but this season he's making more big plays with three interceptions, taking one for a score against Oklahoma State, to go along with 16 tackles. Even when he's not coming up with a pick, like last week, he's coming up with big plays with big hits, forcing two fumbles including a key one last week against FIU.
FIU hasn't had many bright spots, but sophomore linebacker Randell Johnson has stepped up his play with 21 tackles and six tackles for loss, making ten stops and two big plays behind the line last week against Auburn. The 6-3, 210-pound sophomore is more of a safety than a true linebacker, but he's tough against the run, has unlimited range, and could be used even more as a pass rushing specialist.
What Will Happen: All of a sudden, playing someone its own size, Florida Atlantic will start to play much better and will give ULL a fight. The offense won't explode, but it'll do enough to keep the game from being a blowout. Even so, the Ragin' Cajuns are playing well, they're getting good production from the defense, and the offense will do just enough to get by for a surprisingly tough win.
CFN Prediction: Louisiana 28 … Florida Atlantic 17
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Louisiana Lafayette -10 O/U: 49
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