The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns have an opportunity on Saturday.
They have an opportunity to even up their conference record at 1-1. They have an opportunity to beat one of the hottest teams in the Sun Belt Conference. But most of all, they have an opportunity to create and continue the momentum this program now has under second-year coach Michael Desormeaux. All of that points to why I feel that Saturday’s game, for a multitude of reasons, is the biggest regular season game Cajun Field has hosted in the past decade.
There have been a handful of games at Cajun Field in the past 10 seasons that had significant implications.
The 2014 team coached by Mark Hudspeth faced Appalachian State at home with a chance to secure a share of the Sun Belt Title and an undefeated conference slate. The difference in that game and this one is that Hudspeth had already established himself. As we would find out later, the program had already reached its peak under him at that point as well. Desormeaux is early enough in his tenure and is looking for a signature win, which in my opinion is critical to get in the first few years of a coaching era.
Another couple of games you could point to would be the 2019 or 2021 games against App State. The 2019 game, however, did not have the division title implications that this one will. UL lost that game and still got their rematch in the SBC Title game. The 2021 game again falls under the category of having happened after coach Billy Napier had his signature wins and had established the momentum of his tenure. The state of the west division also made it to where that game would not have determined who was going to represent the division in the title game.
The Texas State Bobcats are an intriguing football team. They have a first-year coach in GJ Kinne, who was a standout quarterback at Tulsa and made his way through the coaching ranks, most recently as the head coach at FCS Incarnate Word of the Southland Conference. The program itself has never had sustained success since its transition into the Sun Belt Conference in 2013. In fact, their four wins already this season match their highest win total in a full season in the past nine years. Kinne has brought his high-powered offense from Incarnate Word, and the Bobcats are putting up just below 500 yards and over 40 points per game. They started the Kinne era by upsetting Baylor on the road and have made it clear that they are not your parents’ Texas State Bobcats.
The comparison that I have been thinking about all week for Texas State is the 2020 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Coastal went into 2020 having never had FBS success. Coach Jamey Chadwell and his young quarterback Grayson McCall took college football by storm, and the first game that grabbed people’s attention was a 30-27 win over the Cajuns. I see this year’s Bobcats team on a similar trajectory, and it will take an impressive effort to halt their momentum.
As I alluded to earlier, this game has a chance to be a signature win early in the tenure of Desormeaux. It can be really important for a coach to win a big game in the first couple of years that shows progress and keeps fans on board with what you are doing. It can be argued that Napier did not get his until the Iowa State game to begin year three. With that being said, Desormeaux has a chance to get ahead of that scenario and keep this team squarely in contention for a highly competitive SBC West title.
Saturday at Cajun Field should be fun. The weather looks like it will be excellent. the game is nationally televised. And most of all, the Cajuns have a chance for a pivotal win in what I think is the biggest game the stadium has hosted in a decade.
Dawson Eiserloh is the co-host of “RP3, D-Loh & Meche” which is broadcast weekdays (11-1) on ESPN 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles — Southwest Louisiana’s Sports Station.