Sat, 24 Oct 2020

No. 19 Louisiana risks unbeaten mark vs. Georgia Southern

Field Level Media
22 Sep 2020, 17:55 GMT+10

The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns already have made history this season. And they haven't even played a home game yet.

The Ragin' Cajuns beat a Top 25 team on the road for the first time in school history when they opened the season with a 31-14 victory at then-No. 23 Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, two weeks ago.

That earned them their own ranking as they moved into the No. 19 spot, which they maintained this week after a 34-31 overtime victory at Georgia State in Atlanta in their Sun Belt Conference opener last week.

Now they come home to meet Georgia Southern (1-0) in the Eagles' Sun Belt opener Saturday.

Louisiana started slowly last week and had to overcome a pair of 14-point deficits to prevail.

"We're very much a work in progress," Cajuns coach Billy Napier said. "We have a team that has tons of potential, but we sometimes don't perform on a consistent basis like we should. We need to start faster, and we need to continue to improve."

Louisiana fell behind 14-0 early and trailed 21-7 in the third quarter before rallying behind running back Elijah Mitchell. He rushed for 164 yards, including a 12-yard jaunt for the winning touchdown in overtime.

Napier called the slow start "a teachable moment."

"I'm proud of the resiliency we showed in the second half," Napier said. "I think we've got resolve."

The Eagles' resiliency and resolve are also being tested. They won their opener against Campbell, 27-26, two weeks ago despite 33 players being sidelined for a variety of reasons, some COVID-19-related.

Georgia Southern was unable to play last week because its opponent, Florida Atlantic, had to postpone the game because of COVID-related absences.

"That 33 number was not all COVID-related," Georgia Southern coach Chad Lunsford said of the season opener. "Some of it was COVID, a lot of it was contact tracing. Then there were other factors like normal injuries.

"We definitely didn't field the team we thought we would field as far as the experience, but I think it was really good with our young guys getting that opportunity. Last week we were looking forward to several guys returning. Every team in the country is dealing with (COVID-19) and dealing with it in their own way," Lunsford said.

The Eagles are on track to get "a majority" of those players back for this week's game, he said.

"It would have been really good for us to be able to get that second game in because we had a lot of things to clean up from that first week," he said. "We could have used that second game to help a little bit. There are definitely challenges there."

The latest challenge is Louisiana.

"You don't really see a weak link," Lunsford said of the Cajuns. "They really got after Iowa State and pretty much controlled that whole football game, and when they got down against Georgia State, you never saw any panic."

--Field Level Media

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