Cajuns battle Red Wolves in pivotal Sun Belt clash

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Updated: 10/21/2013 10:55 am

Jonesboro, AR (SportsNetwork.com) - With first place in the Sun Belt Conference on the line, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns and the Arkansas State Red Wolves will duke it out on Tuesday night at Liberty Bank Stadium.

Since opening the season with a pair of tough road losses to Arkansas (34-14) and Kansas State (48-27), Louisiana has ripped off four straight wins to climb to 4-2. The Cajuns have begun Sun Belt play with back-to-back triumphs, taking down Texas State on Oct. 5 (48-24), and most recently earning a 37-20 road victory over Western Kentucky on Oct. 15.

Arkansas State, the two-time reigning Sun Belt Conference champions, have started the 2013 season rather modestly at 3-3, although it is fresh off a win in its latest bout, defeating Idaho at home on Oct. 12, 48-24. The Red Wolves have only played one league contest this season, beating Troy in a 41-34 final back on Sept. 12.

This rivalry has been very close over the years, with Louisiana clinging to a 21-19-1 advantage. Arkansas State got the better of the Cajuns last October, winning 50-27 in Lafayette.

Louisiana's offense averages 440.0 ypg, and while that has the team ranked fifth in the Sun Belt, its ranks first in scoring at 38.5 ppg, thanks in large part to an outstanding 50 percent conversion rate on third down. The unit has also committed only seven turnovers.

The keys to the offense are in Terrance Broadway's possession. The quarterback has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,243 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions, while also making his mark in the rushing attack (194 yards, five TDs). Despite the impressive win over Western Kentucky last week, Broadway had his worst passing performance of the season, going just 5-of-12 for 90 yards.

Alonzo Harris is the team's primary tailback, churning out 444 yards and five touchdowns on 77 carries. Elijah McGuire is also actively involved with 315 yards (on 7.7 ypg) and four touchdowns.

Jamal Robinson is Broadway's most trusted receiver, as he's hauled in 26 balls for 436 yards and six touchdowns. Darryl Surgent has also been effective out wide with 17 receptions for 186 yards and two scores.

Defensively, the Cajuns have not played especially well, allowing 27.2 ppg, but that's good enough to rank them third in the Sun Belt. The unit has also been active in the turnover battle with 16 takeaways.

Al Riles returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown in the win over WKU, and has also tallied a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries this season. Justin Anderson makes plays all over the field with 67 tackles, 5.5 TFL, an interception, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, while T.J. Worthy has picked off a pair of passes.

After combining for just 26 points in its previous two losses, Arkansas State exploded for 48 points in its most recent win over Idaho. On the season, the offense has been generally impressive with averages of 31.0 ppg and 481.3 ypg.

First-year starting quarterback Adam Kennedy has been solid, if unspectacular, this season. His completion percentage is outstanding (.680) and he throws for 262.3 ypg, but that production has only resulted in seven touchdowns paired with three interceptions.

The Red Wolves rely heavily on the rushing attack, with more than 55 percent of their plays coming on the ground. David Oku is the most utilized player out of the backfield with 396 yards and five touchdowns on 101 attempts. Michael Gordon has seen only 21 carries this season but many of them have resulted in big plays, as he has amassed 226 yards and three touchdowns.

Julian Jones ranks third in the league in both receptions (37) and yards (469) while scoring three touchdowns. J.D. McKissic has been a strong complement to Jones with 35 catches, 308 yards and two scores.

Arkansas State could stand to drastically improve its defense if it wants to contend for another conference title. The unit allows nearly 30 ppg and 440.2 ypg.

Qushaun Lee is the team-leader in tackles with 54, adding a pair of forced fumbles for good measure. Rocky Hayes has two interceptions and six pass break-ups to spearhead the secondary, while Ryan Carrethers has 38 stops, 5.0 TFL and 3.5 sacks.

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