First Place Cajuns Host SBC Preseason Favorite FIU - KLFY News 10

First Place Cajuns Host SBC Preseason Favorite FIU

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Game 4: FIU (1-3, 0-0) at Louisiana (2-1, 1-0)
When: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, 6:00 p.m. CDT
Site: Cajun Field (ProGrass, 31,000)
TV: ESPN3.com (Jonathan Yardley & Forrest Conoly)
Radio: Ragin' Cajuns Radio Network
(Jay Walker, Gerald Broussard & Steve Peloquin)
(Participating Network Stations
KPEL (1420 AM, Lafayette) Flagship
KXHT (107.9 FM, Lafayette)
WGSO (990 AM, New Orleans)
KTUX (98.9 FM, Shreveport)
KLCL (1470 AM, Lake Charles)
KJEF (1290 AM, Jennings)
KRJO (1680 AM, Monroe)
Series:        UL Leads, 7-2
Last Meeting:        UL 36, FIU 31 (at FIU, Sept. 24, 2011)
UL Web Site:        www.RaginCajuns.com
Tickets:        UL season tickets available at RaginCajuns.com and by calling (337) 265-2357.  Single game tickets are $30 Reserved, $25 General Admission (FIU & Tulane)  $25 Reserved, $20 General Admission (Arkansas State, WKU & South Alabama)
        
The Storyline:
After two straight road contests and the only bye weekend of the season, Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns football team returns home to continue Sun Belt Conference play when they host FIU on Saturday, Sept. 29 beginning at 6:00 p.m. in Cajun Field. . . the game will be televised live on ESPN3.com with Jonathan Yardley and Forrest Conoly providing the commentary. . . UL is coming off a disappointing 65-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Sept. 15, a game which saw the Cajuns fall behind 44-0 at half before putting together a solid second half. . . the Ragin' Cajuns (2-1, 1-0) have won six straight games at home going back to last year, the fourth longest win streak in Cajun Field history. . . kicker Brett Baer continues to shine, leading the nation in field goals with eight and leading the Sun Belt with a 43.0 punting average. . . UL has achieved one early season goal, ranking fifth nationally with a +6.0 turnover margin, forcing eight turnovers (3 INTs, 5 Fumbles) while committing just two. . .FIU (1-3), which will join Conference USA next season, is coming to Lafayette for the final time as a Sun Belt Conference member. . . the Panthers are coming off a tough 28-21 loss to No. 17 Louisville last week. .  .this will be the 10th straight season that UL has played FIU with the Cajuns owning a 7-2 lead in the all-time series, including a 3-1 record in Cajun Field. . . the Panthers have won two of the last three meetings.

Series vs. FIU:
Saturday's game marks the 10th series meeting between Louisiana and FIU with the Cajuns holds a 7-2 series edge.  UL won the first six meetings from 2003-09 before FIU claimed back-to-back victories in 2009 and 2010.  Last year, UL won in Miami for the fourth time in five tries.  The Cajuns are 3-1 against the Panthers in Lafayette.  

That's Why They Are Called "Special" Teams:
The play of the Cajuns on special teams this year has been. . . well. . . special.  Special teams play has had an impact in both wins to date:

Punting:  UL leads the SBC and is 18th in nation with a 41.0 punting net.  Brett Baer is second in the SBC with a 43.0 avg.  
Punt Returns:  The Cajuns are third in the SBC with an 8.4 avg.
Placements:  With Brett Baer leading the nation in field goals, the Cajuns have successfully converted all 20 of the 21 kicks from placements this year (8-9 FG, 11-11 extra point).
Kickoffs:  UL leads the SBC with a 44.1 yard net on kickoff coverage with opponents averaging just 20.3 yards per kickoff return.  
Kickoff Returns:  UL is 2nd in the SBC with a 22.3 kickoff return average.

Black Jack Remembered:
Ceremonies centered around the FIU game will honor former UL equipment manager Bill "Black Jack" Landry, who passed away in 1998 after 36 years of service to the university.  The events includes a dinner  and dedication of a statue in his honor on Friday outside of Gate A in the southwest corner of the stadium.  Funds for the project were raised by a group of former student-athletes whose lives were touched by Landry, the only non-athlete inducted into the UL Athletics Hall of Fame.

ESPN3:
Saturday's game will be the third of nine games that will be available on ESPN3.com this year, and the second of two being produced exclusively for the site.  UL defeated Troy, 37-24, in the other ESPN3.com exclusive contest of the season.

UL Season Ticket Record Continues To Climb:
After opening the regular season having broken the school record by selling over 10,000 season tickets this year, the number continues to climb heading into the FIU game.  As of Sept. 18, the Cajuns sold 10,860 season tickets, a 33-percent increase over the previous school record of 8,125 season tickets in 2011.  The total is easily the highest number in the Sun Belt Conference.

4th Down Exploits:
The Cajun defense has successfully stopped its opponents on four of its five fourth down conversion attempts.  Two of the stops came at Troy and figured prominently in the win.  With UL leading 20-7 in the second quarter, Troy drove 66 yards to the UL 9, only to be stopped on a 4th-and-2 when Jake Molbert broke up a Trojan pass with 3:43 left in the half.  After the Cajuns extended their lead to 30-17 in the third quarter, Troy was stopped on a 4th-and-1 at the UL 25 when Christian Ringo wrapped up Shawn Southward for no gain with 1:04 left.  The lone conversion came on a 4th-and-1 at Oklahoma State.

Home Sweet Home:
UL returns to Cajun Field for back-to-back outings and will attempt to extend its six-game home win streak, the fourth-longest streak in Cajun Field history.  It equals the six straight wins that spanned the 2003-04 seasons.  The Cajuns started the current streak by going 5-0 at home in 2011, the third undefeated season in Cajun Field history and first since 1987.  The record win streak is 11 games, set from 1976-77, and there are also streaks of seven (1994-95) and nine games (1987-88).

Baer Kicks Way To The UL Record Book:
Senior kicker Brett Baer has started his senior season out on the right foot, connecting on eight of his nine field goal attempts and all 11 extra points this year.   Baer. . .
. . . made his first seven field goal attempts to extend his streak of consecutive field goals made to 18 dating back to last year, breaking the Sun Belt record of 17 consecutive field goals made by La.-Monroe's Cole Wilson (2006-07) and besting Mike Shafer's UL school record of 14 consecutive field goals made, which was set in 1994.
. . . tied the school mark for points in a game by a kicker with 16 in the win over Lamar on Sept. 1.  He equalled the record of 16 points by Rafael Septien (vs. San Jose State in 1974) and Mike Lemoine (vs. Central Michigan in 1989).  Baer's 52-yard field goal to open the scoring was the longest of his career and tied for the seventh longest in school history.
. . . set a career high for field goals made in a game against Lamar, coming one field goal short of the UL school record of five shared by Rafael Septien (vs. San Jose State in 1974) and Mike Lemoine (vs. CMU in 1989).

Protecting The QB:
Through three games, the Cajun offensive line ranks fourth nationally, allowing just one quarterback sack.  Only three schools (Air Force, Middle Tennessee and Oklahoma State) have not allowed a sack and UL is joined by Boise State and TCU as having given up one sack in three games.  Last year, UL allowed 25 sacks totalling 169 yards lost in 13 games.

. . . Sacks vs. Pass Attempts:
When comparing sacks allowed and passes attempted, only Oklahoma State has thrown the ball more and allowed less sacks than the Ragin' Cajuns this year.  UL is allowing one sack for every 91 pass attempts this year while OSU has thrown the ball 134 times without a sack.  Middle Tennessee (86 attempts) and Air Forces (39) are the other two teams that haven't allowed a sack to date while Boise State (89 attempts) and TCU (8) have given up just one.

The Defense Gets On The Board:
When Jemarlous Moten returned a fumble 56 yards for a touchdown against Troy on  Sept. 8, it marked the ninth time in under Mark Hudspeth that the Cajuns defense scored a touchdown.  Last year, UL defenders ranked second nationally with seven interception returns for scores and also added one fumble recovery for a TD.  For Moten, is was his third defensive touchdown over the last two years.  Moten posted interception returns for scores against Arizona and Oklahoma State.  Senior Melvin White is the only other returning defender with a touchdown, returning an interception 89 yards for a score against Troy and returning a blocked field goal 68 yards vs. Nicholls State.

. . . And Pitches A Shutout:
The 40-0 victory over Lamar on Sept. 1 marked the first shutout for the Cajuns since a 6-0 win at Florida Atlantic on Oct. 18, 2006, a span covering 69 games.  Going even further back, the last shutout by a UL squad at Cajun Field came 54 home games prior in a 34-0 win over UAB on Sept. 21, 2002.

A Good Month:
The month of September has proven to be a good one for the Cajuns under head coach Mark Hudspeth as UL enters its final game in the month with a 5-2 record in September over the last two seasons.  The only team to trip the Ragin' Cajuns up in September is Oklahoma State, which has been responsible for both UL losses in the month.

Red Zone Rewards:
The Ragin' Cajuns scored on both trips to the red zone at Oklahoma State, improving to 13-for-13 on the year.  UL is one of 16 teams in the nation to be perfect in the red zone this year with its 13 trips to be tied with Clemson and Purdue for the fourth-highest total among the group.  The Cajuns have scored eight touchdowns and five field goals in its 13 red zone trips.  Last year, UL  was successful on 38 of its 41 red zone trips (.927), scoring 27 touchdowns.  

A Turnover Tale:
The Cajuns continue to excel at one of Mark Hudspeth's preseason goals of taking better care of the ball and being more opportunistic defensively, ranking fifth nationally in turnover margin (+6.0).  In three games, UL has forced eight turnovers (5 fumbles & 3 INTs) while committing just two.  More importantly, the Cajuns have turned those eight miscues into 37 points (4 TDs & 3 FGs) while the two UL turnovers have led to just three points.

The Harris Poll:
The 137-yard rushing performance by Alonzo Harris at Troy on Sept. 15 was his second career 100-yard rushing game.  It trailed only the 189 yards gained last year against Middle Tennessee.  With 195 yards rushing this season, Harris has now carried 205 times for 895 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career.  

Baer Moves Into Scoring Top 10:
With six points at Oklahoma State, Brett Baer has moved into 10th place on the UL career scoring chart and seventh among kickers with 178 career points (33 field goals and 79 extra points).  His performance at OSU allowed him to pass Kenyon Cotton (174 points from 1993-96) and left him just one point shy of ninth place John Rovetto (179 points from 1977-79), four points away from eighth place Mike Shafer (183, 1993-95) and 14 points away from Drew Edmiston (2006-08) and Mike Lemoine (1988-90), who are tied for sixth with 192 points each.  Baer has scored 35 points this year to lead the Sun Belt and rank 16th nationally (and second among kickers).  

Getting the Juice Flowing:
Sophomore nose tackle Justin Hamilton, who has earned the nickname "Juice" from his teammates, celebrated his first career start against Lamar on Sept. 1 by getting the defense going.  He made four tackles for losses (-13 yards) with a quarterback sack and a pair of forced fumbles.  On Lamar's first possession, he stripped quarterback Ryan Mossakowski of the ball and Justin Anderson recovered at the UL 29.  On the next series, Hamilton forced running back Herschel Sims to cough up the football with Qyendarius Griffin recovering at the UL 25.  The two turnovers resulted in 10 Cajuns points.

The Wait Has Been Worth It For Gillis:
It took fifth-year senior Rodney Gillis more than four years to break into the starting lineup, but since earning his first start in the season opener, he has made the most of his playing opportunities.  He is third on the team with 19 tackles this year, including a career-high 12 tackles at Oklahoma State and six at Troy.  In the season opener vs. Lamar, he had a hand in two of the four turnovers that UL forced.  He was at the right place at the right time in the second quarter when Melvin White separated a Cardinal receiver from the ball after a catch with Gillis recovering to set up a Brett Baer field goal.  On the next possession, Gillis intercepted a Lamar pass to end the best Lamar drive of the first half.  Gillis joined the program in 2008 and redshirted.  He did not play during the 2009 campaign and then tore an ACL in his knee the following spring and missed the 2010 season.  Gillis came back to play in 11 games as a reserve last season, making nine tackles.

Griffin Makes Most Of Position Change:
After rushing 69 times for 210 yards and three touchdowns in the first 11 games as a true-freshman in 2011, Qyendarius Griffin made the move to the secondary in order to get more time on the field.  Already one of the team's best special teams performers — he was third on the team with nine special teams tackles last year — Griffin has taken to the move.  In his first start at linebacker, he led the Cajuns with six tackles against Lamar, returning a fumble five yards in the first quarter to set up a field goal.  In three games, he is tied for fifth on the team with 14 tackles.

A Comeback For Stover:
Another feel good moment for the Cajuns in the opener came midway through the second quarter when sophomore Hunter Stover took over the kickoff chores from Brett Baer.  Stover kicked off 47 times in the first eight games for the Cajuns last year before suffering a torn ACL in his right knee at Western Kentucky, requiring season-ending surgery.  The surgery was nothing new to Stover.  In high school, he tore the ACL in his left knee and a post-surgery infection required a second ACL replacement.  The surgeries must have worked as Stover kicked off eight times in two games this year, recording three touchbacks and a 63.9 average.  Last year, he averaged 60.3 yards with only one touchback.  

The Baer Foot:
Senior kicker Brett Baer is quickly moving towards being the most accurate kicker in NCAA FBS history.  In three seasons as UL's regular kicker, he has made 33-of-36 field goal attempts (.917), which is ahead of the NCAA field goal accuracy mark of .878 by Florida State's Bobby Raymond (43-49 in 1983-84).  Baer will need to attempt nine more field goals this year to meet the NCAA minimum of 45 career attempts.  Baer made all seven attempts in 2010 and was 18-for-20 last year to lead the country in field goal percentage (.900).  He is eight-for-nine this year to share the national lead for field goals.

. . . And The Baer Truth:
Brett Baer turned in one of the best all-around kicking performances in UL history in 2011, earning second team All-Sun Belt honors as both a kicker and punter while also being a semifinalist for the Groza Award, which is given to the nation's top kicker.  Baer. . .
. . . led the nation in field goal accuracy, making 18-of-20 attempts (.900).
. . . ended the season making his final 11 attempts, leaving him three short of Mike Shafer's school record of 14 straight field goals made set in 1994.
. . . recorded the second-highest field goal total in school history (18), one short of the record 19 by John Roveto.
x. . . was 46-for-50 in extra points, four short of Drew Edmiston's record of extra points in 2008.
. . . led the team with 100 points, the third-highest total ever and the most by a kicker.  He trailed only the 114 points by Tyrell Fenroy (2008) and Brian Mitchell (1988).
. . . won two games with field goals as time expired, a 26-yard kick vs. Florida Atlantic and a career-long 50-yard effort vs. San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl.

Coaching Continuity:
UL is one of only 16 FBS schools to return the head coach and all nine assistant coaches from the previous season, according  to research by Coachingsearch.com.  To take things even further, the Cajuns also bring back the four graduate and administrative assistants on the coaching staff and all three weight room staff members.  The other 15 schools with their entire coaching staff back are BYU, Colorado, Florida State, Georgia, Louisiana Tech, Miami (FL), Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Oregon, San Diego State, Texas, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Lawson Surpasses 100 Catch Mark:
Senior Javone Lawson had a season-best eight catches for 92 yards at Oklahoma State to move into eighth place on the UL career passing chart.  He passed Willie Culpepper (1985-88) and Derrick Smith (2004-08), each of whom made 104 catches.  Lawson will enter the FIU game with career totals of 158 catches for 1,634 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Last year, Lawson became only fifth Cajun to catch passes for more than 1,000 yards last season, making 63 catches for 1,092 yards and eight touchdowns.  

Impact Freshmen:
Despite the increased number of players seeing action this year, one number that is down significantly is the number of true-freshmen to see the field.  Last year, UL used nine different first-year freshmen during the season.  That number dropped to just three to date this season as linebackers Christian Hill and Tyren Alexander and safety Al-Damien Riles are the only first-year freshmen to see playing time.  Alexander has made seven tackles, including a pair of tackles for loss (-5 yards), in the three contests while Riles has made three stops and Hill one.

The Line That Plays Together, Stays Together:
Blaine Gautier should feel comfortable under center this year as four of the five starters on the offensive line return, each of whom played in almost 95-percent of the snaps last year.  The quartet of seniors Leonardo Bates (LT) and Jaron Odom (RT), junior Andre Huval (C) and sophomore Daniel Quave (RG).  The foursome combine to have made 80 career starts, including all the last 16 games together.  Odom and Huval each played 925 of the 936 offensive snaps last year with Quave (890) and Bates (887) being not far behind.  The fifth starter on the unit this year is Mykhael Quave, the younger brother of Daniel.

. . .And The Line Features Size:
The offensive line not only features experience, but size as well.  The five starters average 6-4, 308 pounds, giving UL one of the biggest offensive lines in the SBC.  The left side of the line features tackle Leonardo Bates (6-5, 296) and Mykhael Quave (6-5, 300) with Andre Huval (6-1, 290) at center.  The right side of the line starts tackle Jaron Odom (6-6, 330) and guard Daniel Quave (6-3, 324).

Inside The Numbers On Gautier:
Blaine Gautier emerged from a heated battle to claim the starting quarterback slot in 2011 and turn in one of the most outstanding offensive seasons in school history.  Gautier:
. . . set UL season records for yards passing (2,958), passing touchdowns (23), completion percentage (.628), passing efficiency (153.6), total offense (3,444) and touchdowns responsible for (26) as a junior while also ranking fourth in total plays (462).
. . . set a single-game record with 492 yards of total offense vs. San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl and was sixth with 430 yards at Western Kentucky (10/22).
. . . his 470 yards passing vs. San Diego State was the second-highest total in school history, three short of the school record (473 by Erik Rekieta in 2003).
. . . also had 419 yards passing at WKU (sixth best), making him the only player with multiple 400-yard games in a career.
. . . tossed four TD's vs. North Texas (10/15) and La.-Monroe (11/5), one short of the school record.
. . . his career-high 32 completions vs. WKU was fifth best
. . . ranks fourth in school history with 27 career touchdown passes, needing three to catch Jerry Babb (30 from 2003-06) for third place.
. . . received first team All-Louisiana and Louisiana Offensive Player of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writer's Association and was a second team All-Sun Belt choice
. . . led the Sun Belt and ranked 14th nationally in passing efficiency (153.6)
. . . threw just six interceptions on the year, including none in the five games at home and he threw 157 passes over a six-game stretch without an interception early in the season

A Little Of This. . . A Little Of That:
•  The wins over Lamar and Troy to open the season allowed the Cajuns to start with a 2-0 record for only the second time since 1990 and the first since 2009.
•  The 40-point halftime spread against Lamar allowed Mark Hudspeth to use 68 players in the game, the most since he took over the program (58 was old high vs. North Texas and Middle Tennessee in 2011).
•  The longest play of the season resulted in no points when Jamal Robinson caught an 86-yard pass from Blaine Gautier vs. Lamar.  It was the longest non-scoring pass play in school history, besting the old record of 82 yards of Michael Desormeaux to Richie Falgout vs. FIU in 2008.  It was also tied for the fourth-longest pass play as well.  
•  The Sept. 8 win at Troy saw a pair of extended streaks come to an end.  It was the first victory in a road opener since upending Tulane, 48-6 on Sept. 1, 1990, a streak of 21 straight losses.  It also halted Troy's 25-game win streak in home openers.
•  Five Cajuns were named to the 2012 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team, which was determined by a vote of head coaches and select media throughout the conference.  Seniors Melvin White (CB),  Brett Baer (K), Leonardo Bates (OT) and Javone Lawson (WR) and sophomore Alonzo Harris (RB) were each honored.
•   In five games last year, the Cajuns drew 145,854 fans to set the school and SBC records for average attendance (29,171) and the SBC mark for total attendance.  The total was a Cajun Field record for a five-game season, but fell short of the overall record of 163,143 set in 1976 when the Cajuns played seven home games.  The 2011 season produced five of the top 15 crowds in Cajun Field history.
•  The Cajuns also led all FBS schools in 2011 with an attendance increase of 11,788 fans per game.  UL averaged just 17,383 fans per game in 2010 but improved to 29,171 last year to beat out Arizona State, Stanford, Iowa State, Temple, Florida State and Oklahoma State for the top honor.

Remembering Mickey:
The UL football team is honored to include on their helmets in 2012 a decal in memory of 21-year old UL student Mickey Shunick, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle and later murdered  in the early morning hours on May 19.  The football staff worked with the Shunick family to come up with the design of the decal.  It features a drawing of a woman riding a bicycle with her hands in the air with the name Mickey underneath, a design that has become popular among the friends and family of Shunick.  "We're just honored to do this for Mickey and her family," head coach Mark Hudspeth said.  "Obviously, what we do on the field doesn't even come close to the kind of courage and fight that she showed.  We just want to remember one of our own in a way that would make her proud."

Next Up:
The Cajuns remain at home, hosting Tulane on Saturday, Oct. 6 starting at 4:00 p.m. in Cajun Field.  The game, which will be televised by the Ragin' Cajuns Network, will serve as the annual Homecoming game

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