GAME NOTES: The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns will try to continue their reign atop the Sun Belt Conference standings on Thursday night, as they welcome the Troy Trojans to Cajun Field.
Troy had been winners of a season-high three straight games prior to its 49-37 setback at home to ULM on Halloween night, which caused it to slip to 5-4 overall and 3-2 in conference. Despite the setback, the Trojans need just one more victory to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
Since opening the season with two straight losses, Louisiana has ripped off six consecutive wins to become bowl eligible for the third straight season under head coach Mark Hudspeth. The Cajuns suffered a scare in their Homecoming game against New Mexico State last weekend, falling behind by 21 points in the first half, but they put it all together after the break to roll to a 49-35 victory. They are 3-0 in conference play, the only undefeated team left in the Sun Belt.
After 16 meetings, Louisiana holds a slim 9-7 advantage over Troy in the series, although the Trojans have won seven of 10 matchups since 2004, when the teams became Sun Belt Conference rivals.
The Trojans have been known in recent years to possess a potent offense, and this season is no different as the team averages 34.4 ppg behind a league-best 479.6 ypg.
The unit is paced by the efforts of quarterback Corey Robinson, who is the Sun Belt's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. His senior season has been stellar, as he is completing 68.7 percent of his passes for 2,557 yards, and he has accounted for 19 touchdowns (one rushing) and eight interceptions. Troy also gives plenty of snaps to Deon Anthony (22-of-38, 318 yards, three TDs), who is utilized primarily as a rusher (392 yards, three scores).
In the ground game, it's Brandon Burks (509 yards, TD, 31 receptions) who receives the majority of the work, while Jordan Chunn (386 yards) gets his number called near the goal line (10 touchdowns).
Robinson has the good fortunate of throwing to one of the league's top receiving duos. Eric Thomas has 48 receptions for 742 yards and 10 touchdowns (all league-highs), while Bryan Holmes (35 receptions, 539 yards, six TDs) has also made a habit of breaking off big plays.
Troy's downfall this season has undoubtedly been its defense, which allows opponents to keep pace with its high-flying offense nearly stride for stride (34.6 ppg, 471.6 ypg).
Camren Hudson paces the unit with 57 tackles, while Marty Stadom (7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and Tyler Roberts (5.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) create a strong pass rush. The defense has not been very opportunistic, forcing only six turnovers.
Although Louisiana's offense lags behind Troy's in terms of yardage (443.8 ypg), it leads the league in scoring (37.9 ppg), as it once again showed last week in a 49-point effort against New Mexico State.
The Cajuns are a run-oriented team, piling up 226.8 rushing yards per game. Earning the most work is Alonzo Harris (655 yards), who after a five-touchdown performance in the comeback versus NMSU, leads the league with 12 rushing scores. Elijah McGuire is used sparingly, but he has made the most of his limited touches by turning 57 carries into 497 yards (8.7 ypc) and five touchdowns.
Terrance Broadway is in the midst of an impressive season, as he has completed better than 64 percent of his passes for 1,679 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. The dual-threat also has five rushing scores to go with 250 yards on the ground.
Jamal Robinson has emerged as Broadway's go-to option this season, as he ranks eighth in the league in receptions (37), third in yards (608) and tied for second in touchdowns (six).
Unlike Troy, Louisiana has an impressive defense that can effectively support its potent offense, as the unit ranks second in the conference in both points (25.6) and yards allowed (377.6) per game.
Linebacker Justin Anderson is well on his way to an All-Sun Belt selection at year's end, as he has racked up 85 tackles, 7.0 TFL, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Dominique Tovell (9.0 TFL, two FF) is a force along the defensive line, while Al Riles (INT, two FR), Darius Barksdale (two INTs) and T.J. Worthy (two INTs) have been active in the turnover battle.
Louisiana is in for a difficult task playing a quality team on a short week, while Troy, which played last Thursday, will have its usual full week to prepare. Robinson and the Trojans will certainly put up some fireworks, but the Cajuns can match them every step of the way, and with the home field advantage on their side (3-0 in Lafayette), they should be able to remain unbeaten in league play.