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November 8, 2012

Game Week: Louisiana-Lafayette Breakdown

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    After emerging from a rough and tumble SEC schedule with an 8-1 record overall, 7-1 in the league, Florida has what basically amounts to a two week exhibition season over the next two weekends. Inside the Gators has the very latest on this weekend's match-up in this Game Week Breakdown. Guerry Smith breaks down Louisiana-Lafayette with his answers to five burning questions as well previewing five Ragin' Cajuns players Gator fans should keep an eye on this weekend.

    BURNING QUESTIONS: Guerry Smith provides answers to these five burning questions
    1) Can Louisiana-Lafayette be dangerous if Florida comes out flat?

    Yes and no. If the Gators are as sluggish offensively in the first half as they have been numerous times this year, any team with a pulse can hang with them for a while (see: Bowling Green). Louisiana-Lafayette is on the same level as Bowling Green, but the Ragin' Cajuns are not as good as they were last year, when they earned the first bowl bid in program history and upset San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl. With that game in mind, UL-L was a fashionable upset pick over Oklahoma State in September. Oops. Despite losing its starting quarterback on the sixth snap, Oklahoma State led 44-0 at the half of a 65-24 laugher. Since then, the Ragin' Cajuns lost back-to-back games to North Texas and Arkansas State (50-27), and their 40-24 upset of Arkansas-killer Louisiana-Monroe last week came with an asterisk-UL-M lost star QB Kolton Browning to an injury in the first quarter.

    2) What do the Ragin' Cajuns do best?

    UL-L has pretty good balance offensively but is middle of the pack overall, so that won't scary Florida's loaded defense. The Ragin' Cajuns are decent against the run and mediocre against the pass, so nothing stands out there. What they really do well is get touchdowns when they reach the red zone. In 34 such possessions, they have scored 25 touchdowns behind dual-threat quarterback Terrance Broadway, ranking among the top 10 nationally. The problem will be moving the ball well enough to see the red zone. Significantly better teams than UL-L have struggled to do any damage against Florida's defense.

    3) Do the Ragin' Cajuns have any players who can scare Florida?

    Not really. If the Gators stop Broadway, they will stop UL-L. He is a good runner, averaging 5.7 yards per carry with a long of 75, although he averages only seven carries. He has completed a surprisingly high 64.55 percent of his passes, an indictment of the defenses UL-L has faced because he has a scatter-shot arm and tends to overthrow receivers when he feels pressure. He is averaging 203 passing yards and figures to take a couple of shots deep to wide receiver Jamal Robinson, who averages a preposterous 30.2 yards on his 14 receptions. Five UL-L receivers have caught passes of 45 yards or longer. If teams put an extra man in the box to slow down the read option, Broadway chucks it long.

    4) Has Louisiana-Lafayette ever pulled off an upset of this magnitude?

    Nope. UL-L is 1-26 against ranked opponents. The lone victory came in 1996 against No. 25 Texas A&M, which finished 6-6. The Ragin' Cajuns scored 34 points against No. 9 Oklahoma State in their 2011 season opener but gave up 61. Their last three games against ranked SEC teams were ugly -55-7 to No. 23 Georgia in 2010, 31-3 to No. 9 LSU in 2009 and 59-7 to No. 24 Tennessee in 2007. Granted, the arrival of coach Mark Hudspeth, who worked with the wide receivers under Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen from 2009-2010, was a significant upgrade. He knows what he is doing. Unfortunately for the Ragin' Cajuns, they do not have enough talent to challenge the big boys.

    5) Who is the Ragin' Cajuns most famous player?

    It's the kicker. Brett Baer had a remarkable year as a junior, connecting on 18 of 20 field goals, including the game-winner in the final seconds of UL-L's 32-30 victory over San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl. He has not been quite as reliable this season, making 13 of 16 kicks, but he still was named a Lou Groza Award semifinalist this week. He has a strong leg, and with two more made field goals will have enough career attempts to top college football's all-time list in accuracy. He has hit 38 of 43 (.884), better than long-time leader Bobby Raymond of FSU (43 of 49, .878). Bear also does double duty as a punter, where he ranks 26th nationally with an average of 42.8 yards.

    FIVE TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Here's a list of five Ragin' Cajuns players Gator fans will want to keep an eye on
    1) Alonzo Harris, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound sophomore running back
    Smith Says: Harris, a hard runner, is no breakaway threat. Outside of the Troy game, when he had a 50-yard burst, his longest run is 18 yards.
    2) Terrance Broadway, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound sophomore quarterback
    Smith Says: Broadway supplanted Blane Gautier, who threw a school-record 23 touchdowns last year, as the starter early this season. He has thrown for seven scores in the last two games.
    3) Rodney Gillis, a 5-foot-1, 186-pound senior free safety
    Smith Says: Gillis has a team-high four interceptions and is second with 47 tackles. He made a season-high 12 stops against Oklahoma State.
    4) Justin Anderson, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior linebacker
    Smith Says: Anderson leads the team with 58 tackles and returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown against Tulane.
    5) Cordian Hagans, a 6-foot-5. 280-pound defensive tackle
    Smith Says: If the Ragin' Cajuns get any pressure on Florida QB Jeff Driskel (of course, that assumes the Gators will try to throw), it will come from Hagans, who had 2.5 sacks against FIU and nine tackles against North Texas.

    1) UL-L and Florida have played four times, with the Gators winning all four easily. Their most recent meeting was 1996. In Bob Stoops' debut as Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator, Florida scored four defensive touchdowns in a 55-21 victory that set the tone for the Gators' first national championship. All four meetings have been in Gainesville, and the average margin of victory is 43 points.
    2) Injuries have hit UL-L hard on offense. Gautier, who was getting some playing time even after losing his job to Broadway, has missed the last three games with a broken left (throwing) hand. Wide receiver Javone Lawson, who caught a team-best 63 passes for 1,092 yards a year ago, is out with a broken wrist. Running back Montrel Carter, who beat out Harris in the preseason, tore an ACL in the season opener and is gone for the year.
    3) If the Ragin' Cajuns offense had played all year like it did against Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday, they would be in better position to contend for the Sun Belt Conference title. They had six scoring drives, and all covered at least 75 yards, including a 19-play, 99-yard possession that took 9:33 off the clock. Broadway threw for 372 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another 87 yards and a score.
    4) Famous UL-L alumni include Super Bowl quarterback Jake Delhomme, who played against Florida twice in the mid-1990s and still is hanging around the NFL in Cleveland, and Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who is a leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He forced an NFL-record four fumbles against Tennessee last Sunday.
    5) UL-L has six players from Florida -Brandon McCray, a backup junior defensive lineman from Merritt Island, senior starting right offensive tackle Jaron Odom of Carver Ranches, freshman defensive lineman Remaine Douglas of Parkman, freshman linebacker Rodney Smith, Jr. of Hallendale Beach, Gillis, Gillis, from Fort Lauderdale, and freshman linebacker Chris Hill of Homestead. Florida has no one from Louisiana.

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