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New Mexico State (1-7) at Louisiana (5-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 2, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cajun Field (31,000) -- Lafayette, Louisiana. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: NMSU 1-4, Louisiana 2-0. Away Record: NMSU 0-3, Louisiana 3-2. Neutral Record: NMSU 0-0, Louisiana 0-0. Conference Record: NMSU 0-0, Louisiana 3-0. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 4-3.
GAME NOTES: The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns take aim at their sixth consecutive win on Saturday afternoon, as they step out of conference to take on the New Mexico State Aggies in their Homecoming game at Cajun Field.
After losing its first seven games of the season and 18 straight dating back to last year's season opener, NMSU finally got in the win column last weekend at home against FCS foe Abilene Christian, 34-29. All seven of the Aggies defeats this season have come by double digits, and they have not defeated an FBS team since taking down Fresno State on Nov. 12, 2011 (48-45).
Since opening the season with a pair of tough road losses to Arkansas (34-14) and Kansas State (48-27), Louisiana has been red-hot with five straight wins, including three on the road. The Cajuns made a statement on Oct. 22 by defeating two-time defending Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State (23-7), and they now sit alone in first place at 3-0 in league play.
Louisiana holds a 4-3 advantage in the all-time series with NMSU, but the Aggies won the most recent matchup in October of 2004, 35-32.
Despite putting up 469 yards and 34 points against inferior competition a week ago, NMSU still has an unproductive offensive attack, averaging just 18.5 ppg and 368.6 ypg.
Andrew McDonald is the team's starting quarterback and has actually been surprisingly effective in completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,473 yards and seven touchdowns, but he has also thrown eight interceptions. He can make things happen with his legs as well, rushing for 192 yards and two scores.
McDonald does a good job distributing the ball to several different receivers. Jerrel Brown leads the way with 325 receiving yards, while Joshua Bowen, Adam Shapiro, Austin Franklin and Joseph Matthews have all logged at least 221 yards.
Brandon Betancourt and Germi Morrison have split the carries in the backfield, with the former tallying 415 yards, while the latter is called upon more often in the red zone with four touchdowns.
While the offense certainly hasn't played well, the Aggies' biggest problem is without question their porous defense, which ranks last of 123 qualifying FBS teams in both scoring defense (45.9 ppg) and total defense (570.0 ypg).
Davis Cazares is one of the few defensive playmakers of note for NMSU, as he has amassed 76 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Trashaun Nixon has made his mark behind the line of scrimmage with 8.0 TFL.
Louisiana's offense has been a well-oiled machine this season, picking up 444.3 ypg while ranking first in the Sun Belt in scoring with 36.3 ppg. Its efficiency has been put on display both on third down (51-of-99) and in scoring in the red zone (30-of-35).
The Cajuns' efforts are orchestrated by dual-threat quarterback Terrance Broadway, who has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 1,448 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions, while adding 222 yards and five scores on the ground.
Alonzo Harris is the club's workhorse tailback, turning 106 carries into 549 yards and seven touchdowns, and he turned in a 105-yard, two-touchdown performance in the win over Arkansas State. Elijah McGuire (425 yards, four TDs) has also been strong, averaging more than eight yards per rush.
Jamal Robinson has established himself as one of the best receivers in the Sun Belt, ranking eighth in catches (33), third in yards (540) and tied for second in touchdowns (six).
Louisiana's defense has played just as big a role in its first-place run as its offense, as it ranks second in the league in both points allowed (24.3) and yards allowed (367.3) per game, while forcing 17 turnovers. The unit was especially good in the win over Arkansas State, holding the usually-potent Red Wolves to a meager 168 yards.
Justin Anderson has made plays all over the field from his linebacker spot, logging 71 tackles, 6.5 TFL, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Al Riles has accounted for three takeaways, including a 99- yard pick-six a few weeks back. T.J. Worthy has a pair of interceptions, and Dominique Tovell has 5.5 TFL and a two forced fumbles.
Louisiana is one of the hottest teams in the nation, and it is presently clicking on both sides of the ball. Don't expect a letdown in this non- conference matchup against a NMSU squad that hasn't been relevant against FBS competition in a couple of years.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana 51, New Mexico State 24
10/30 10:38:00 ET
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