It’s easy to overlook games like the upcoming match against Louisiana Lafayette, but someone has to keep an eye on the opponent when the rest of us are looking towards a national championship. Unfortunately, I drew the short straw this time.
The Ragin Cajuns run a fairly standard spread offense that focuses heavily on running and passing off of play action— similar to Alabama in 2015-2016 under Lane Kiffin, with less misdirection and horizontal field stretching.
Senior quarterback Andre Nunez has been extremely efficient at keeping the chains moving for the Cajuns, completing 72% of his passes for 8.3 yards per attempt. The volume isn’t there, with only 541 yards and 4 touchdowns over 3 games, but the efficiency has been more than adequate for their offense.
Senior Ryheem Malone, senior Keenan Barnes, and junior Ja’Marcus Bradley have been his main pass catches this season. Malone is a diminutive slot receiver who spent his first two years of college at SMU before transferring. He leads the team with 13 catches, and has turned them into 122 yards.
Barnes is a 6’3” prototypical outside receiver with 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. Bradley, meanwhile, has been the go-to target in the redzone. He’s got 9 catches for 125 yards and 3 touchdowns.
5th year senior TE Matthew Barnes is mostly used as a blocker, but has nabbed 5 receptions for 35 yards so far.
The running game is where this team really does its damage. Sophomore Trey Ragas is a 227 pound 3-down back who is as adept at pounding the ball up the middle as he is at taking it off tackle. He has 294 yards and 2 touchdowns so far, averaging an outstanding 8.4 yards per carry. He’s also been a factor in the passing game, pulling in 5 catches for 63 yards there as well.
He’s spelled by sophomore Elijah Mitchell, who’s built similarly at 221 pounds himself. He’s dropped off, efficiency-wise, since last year, but has still taken 18 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown.
The X-factor is junior running back Raymond Calais. The 5’9”, 180-lb speedster has mostly been a kick returner so far in his career, taking two kicks back for touchdowns in 2017. He’s expanded his role into the offense this year and has become a big-play threat anytime he touches the ball. With only 13 carries, he’s racked up 186 yards and 2 touchdowns.
All in all, this is a team that has 1 win to 2 losses, and is 75th in the nation in points per game. If Alabama can bottle up their run game and keep Calais from slipping out of the backfield for a long touchdown, don’t expect them to be able mount any sort of truly dangerous offense through the air.