FCU Bowl Season 2014-15: New Orleans Bowl Preview

The College Bowl Season is upon us, and Pylon University is bringing the breakdowns on offense, defense, and special teams, along with the sport’s traditions and great moments. In this edition, it’s the New Orleans Bowl preview, one of five bowl games that get things started Saturday.

The Matchup

WHO: Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4)

WHAT: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

WHEN: Saturday, December 20 – 11:00 a.m. EST (ESPN)

WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA

The 2014 college football bowl season kicks off early Saturday with the Wolf Pack seeking their first bowl win since 2010, when they knocked off Boston College in the Kraft Hunger Bowl. For the Ragin’ Cajuns, this is their fourth straight appearance in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Both teams feature strong ground attacks, but the one difference between these two squads is that while ULL can stifle a rushing attack, Nevada has struggled to slow opposing running games.

When Nevada Has The Football

The Wolf Pack feature a pistol offense triggered by senior quarterback Cody Fajardo. Here’s a bit of trivia: Who are the only two quarterbacks in college football history to pass for 9,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards? Fajardo is one, and former Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick is the other. The senior passer has 31 touchdowns to his credit this season: 18 through the air and 13 on the ground. Nevada likes to put the football in his hands at critical moments, as they did on this 3rd-and-4 play against UNLV:

Nevada runs a read option off of a dive play to the tailback. They also implement a lead aspect, as FB/TE Jarred Gipson (#47) curls around the left edge; he will seal the flank of the defense should Fajardo keep the football. The QB reads the unblocked defensive end on this play and how the DE reacts determines whether Fajardo keeps the football or gives it to the tailback:

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The defense commits to the dive and the QB wisely keeps the ball, picking up 33 yards on the ground. ULL faces a tough task stopping this multi-faceted offense, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have a Top 50 rushing defense, allowing only 147 yards per game on the ground. Defensive end Dominique Tovell and defensive lineman Christian Ringo key the defense. Tovell leads the team with 75 tackles, while Ringo has a whopping 19.0 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks to his credit.

When ULL Has the Football

ULL’s offense depends on the success of their ground game. The Ragin’ Cajuns rank 102nd in the nation in passing offense (189 yards per game) but 22nd in rushing offense (288.9 YPG). Sophomore running back Elijah McGuire leads the squad with 150 carries for 1165 yards and 14 touchdowns, including this 75-yard burst against Troy:

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With the quarterback in the shotgun the offense uses the fake jet sweep to free up room for McGuire. The slot receiver comes in motion just before the snap, and the fake handoff draws notice from the Troy defense:

Once he gets the ball, however, the rest of the play is McGuire. He shows great vision and quick feet as he makes a cut in the hole before turning on the afterburners, out-running everyone to the end zone. The challenge for the Nevada defense is obviously slowing down this ground game ‒ a task with which the Wolf Pack have struggled. They have surrendered 179 yards per game on the ground in 2014, and things will surely not get easier for them on Sunday.

Pro Prospects

Ringo and fellow defensive lineman Justin Hamilton are potential selections in the upcoming NFL Draft, with CBS Sportsline ranking the latter 30th among defensive lineman. For Nevada, Fajardo will draw some interest given the comparisons to Kaepernick.

Prediction

This will be a close contest until the 4th quarter, when the success and persistence of the ULL ground game finally wears down the Wolf Pack defense.

Louisiana-Lafayette 28, Nevada 24

All video and images courtesy ESPN.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

 

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