When the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns left the field following their 45-38 win over Buffalo, there was a sense of happiness among the team for starting the season 3-1.
However, the way things went down was somewhat concerning.
Louisiana opened the game sluggish on offense but great on defense. However, before long, it was a 31-7 game in the third quarter and the Cajuns had their foot on the gas pedal. Then, a Bulls touchdown followed by an interception deep in Louisiana territory put Buffalo back in the endzone and it was a 31-21 score.
Louisiana ended up adding two critical touchdowns later, but Buffalo added 17 points of their own and had the football in the final two minutes with the opportunity to te or win before Tyree Skipper sealed the win for the Cajuns with a critical interception.
Despite all of this, there are positive aspects to take away from this game. Here are a few:
Zeon played very well in his first start
The redshirt freshman made some mistakes, there’s no question about it. But his mistakes were outweighed by his successes. the Baton Rouge product completed 22-29 of his passes for 249 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. He also had 70 yards rushing with two rushing touchdowns, including a dynamic 54-yard run.
The thing that stood out the most was how efficient the offense flowed. Even with the mistakes, there was an extra level of spark and energy to the offense, especially the running game. Both Jacob Kibodi and Dre’Lyn Washington went over 100 yards in addition to Chriss’ 70. Kibodi had the longest run of the night with a 69-yard scamper for a touchdown.
The defensive front continues to dominate
I know people were frustrated with the performance of the defense late in the game Saturday night, but let’s look at it from this angle.
The offense/special teams gave up two very short fields with the muffed punt and then the interception. So the defense was on the field far longer than they should’ve been and got tired. This defense has had some special performances so far this season and it continued against Buffalo. The Cajuns now lead the nation in total sacks (18), are second in sacks per game (4.50), and 50th nationally in total defense.
Players like Jordan Lawson, Kendre Gant, Mason Narcisse, Cam Whitfield, Jasper Williams, and KC Ossai have made tremendous impacts to start the season and now this group has a ton of confidence heading into its toughest test of the season so far in Minnesota. The Gophers’ star running back, Darius Taylor, is currently 3rd nationally with 532 yards rushing.
To take this one step further, this group that has been fantastic may get even better this week with the return of Marcus Wiser from injury. This could be a big boost, but it could also mess with the chemistry that has been created. We’ll see which way it goes for the Cajuns’ front four.
Jacob Kibodi has been special
After Dre’Lyn Washington missed two games with an injury, the Cajuns needed somebody to step up and be the premiere rusher in the backfield.
Insert Jacob Kibodi.
The Baton Rouge product and Texas A&M transfer has been outstanding in the last two games, rushing over 100 yards in both wins over UAB and Buffalo. He also has three touchdowns in those two games.
This is Kibodi’s third year with Louisiana and is finally making the impact he always believed he could. He didn’t play in 2021 and finished 2022 with just 169 yards. Before Louisiana, he played in 15 games at Texas A&M.
The Louisiana Ragin Cajuns are off to a strong start in 2023, and have to be pleased with what they’ve seen as a whole. However, heading into the thick of your Sun Belt schedule already 0-1 in the conference is a concern for me. Can this team open their slate with Texas State and Georgia State, two of the biggest surprise teams in the conference, and continue to play well?
Can Zeon Chriss get a firmer grasp on the offense and feel more comfortable being the leader of this group as a freshman? Will the defense continue to get pressure on the quarterback without running blitz looks? These are just a few of the questions that I have headed into the final game of September for Michael Desormeaux’s team.
Matt Miguez is the host of the Miguez Mindset Podcast on ESPN 103.7 Lafayette’s YouTube page. He is also a contributor for ESPN 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles.