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2014 New Orleans Bowl Preview

UL-Lafayette (8-4, 7-1 Sun Belt) vs. Nevada (7-5, 4-4 Mountain West)

Date: Saturday, December 20
Time: 11:00 am (EST)
Location: New Orleans, LA
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (72,589)
Television: ESPN
Series Record: Nevada leads all-time series 1-0
Last Meeting: 9/2/95: Nevada 38 UL-Lafayette 14 (Reno, NV)
2014 New Orleans Bowl recap

Over the last four seasons, Louisiana-Lafayette—which is only a couple hours from the Big Easy—has become a fixture in the nearby New Orleans Bowl and the Ragin’ Cajuns will look to take over NOLA and create a home-field advantage once again.

Mark Hudspeth’s club, which was a late-season loss to Appalachian State away from sharing the Sun Belt title with Georgia Southern, is seeking to capture its fourth straight bowl championship after coming out on top in thrilling finishes against San Diego State, East Carolina and Tulane in its three previous postseason trips to the Superdome. The Cajuns, who started 1-3 after losses at Ole Miss and Boise State, won seven of their final eight games. The program has produced 35 victories since Hudspeth has been at the helm and four bowl trips after not making one from 1970 to 2010.

Meanwhile, Nevada is making its first bowl trip under second-year coach Brian Polian. The Wolf Pack went just 4-8 in Polian’s first season, but responded with a 7-5 mark this year. All five of the losses—Arizona, Boise State, Colorado State, Air Force, and Fresno State—were against bowl teams with only the Fresno State loss (40-20) being by more than a touchdown.

The match-up will feature two of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation in Nevada’s Cody Fajardo and Louisiana’s Terrance Broadway.

Fajarda, a senior, is one of only two quarterbacks in FBS history to surpass 9,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing in a career. Who is the other? Former Nevada star signal-caller and current San Francisco 49ers starter Colin Kaepernick.

The teams are very similar statistically with each averaging 30-31 points while allowing 28. The Wolf Pack and Cajuns each possess great ground games, as they produce 215 and 229 yards respectively.

Fajardo, who ranks in the career top 10 for more than 10 statistical categories, has thrown for 2,374 yards and 18 touchdowns (as opposed to 11 picks) while completing 60 percent of his attempts. The Wolf Pack’s leader has 997 yards (6.1 ypc) and 13 touchdowns rushing.
Don Jackson (932 yards and seven touchdowns) and James Butler (620 yards and five touchdowns) are the best rushing options when Fajardo isn’t toting it.
When Fajardo puts it in the air, senior Richy Turner is his top option. Turner, who is one of four Wolf Pack receivers with over 30 receptions, has 58 catches for 541 yards and four scores.

They will likely have plenty of chances to make some plays versus a defense that is allowing 420 yards per game—including 275 in the air.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, who also possess a veteran quarterback in Broadway, feature a well-balanced attack.
Broadway has completed just over 60 percent of his passes for 2,068 yards and 12 scores (compared to nine interceptions) while also running for 646 yards and three touchdowns.

He benefits from Louisiana’s strong running game behind Elijah McGuire (1,165 yards, 7.8 ypc and 14 TD) and Alonzo Harris (737 yards, 4.6 ypc, 12 TD)
McGuire is also the Cajuns top receiver with 40 receptions for 414 yards.

The Cajuns have been very difficult to beat at home the last four seasons and the Wolf Pack will be forced to essentially win a road game in this one.
If ULL is going to continue its string of success in this bowl, it must protect the football as the Wolf Pack does a tremendous job of forcing turnovers. Nevada has forced 26 turnovers—13 interceptions and 13 fumbles—and has a turnover margin of +11. Safeties Nigel Haikins and Duran Workman each have three interceptions. Defensive ends Ian Seau (7.5 sacks) and Brock Hekking (4.5 sacks) apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks.

The Ragin’ Cajuns will have to play a complete game in order to win, as Nevada leads the nation in fourth quarter scoring margin having outscored its foes, 149-64, during the final quarter.

Both teams possess strong kicking games.

Nevada’s sophomore placekicker Brent Zuzo is 13-of-17 on field goals with a long of 45 while sophomore punter Alex Boy averages 44.5 per attempt and has pinned opponents inside their 20 on 15 occasions.

ULL kicker Hunter Stover is 15-of-18 and punter Daniel Cadona averages 43.3 yards per boot and has had 24 downed inside the 20.
Expect this to be a very competitive and entertaining game, as the teams appear to be evenly matched on paper. There should be plenty of points scored and exciting plays made on both sides of the ball.

Take a well-balanced Nevada team with four narrow losses against some of college football’s better teams to put an end to Louisiana-Lafayette’s run of success in the New Orleans Bowl.

Prediction: Nevada 42 - UL Lafayette 31


By Thomas Rosenbaum
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