Marshall and Louisiana Meet Under the Wednesday Night Lights

Zach Bollinger, Sports Columnist

It feels like forever ago when Marshall marched into The Caesars Superdome to take on future Sun Belt opponent, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. Though it may not be in the Superdome, and there will not be a trophy handed out after the game, the Ragin’ Cajuns and the Herd once again matchup, but this time they are playing for a chance at a conference title.

No, these are not the same teams from the 2021 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. No, this is not a revenge game for Marshall. This is a clean slate, a new conference, and many new players for both sides, including two new starting quarterbacks. Here is what the Herd needs to do to walk out of the Joan Wednesday night victorious.

Limit Turnovers

This Louisiana defense likes to take the ball away from the offense and wants to do it a lot. Through 6 games, the Cajuns are tied for the 3rd most interceptions in the nation with ten and are tied for 5th in the nation in turnover margin at +8. Henry Colombi has only thrown three interceptions on 114 attempts. Louisiana will try to force turnovers and steal possessions from the Herd. Marshall must hang onto the ball and win the turnover battle to win.

Create Turnovers

Did somebody say turnover battle? The quickest and easiest way to lose a game is to lose the turnover battle. Before I talk about how Louisiana has ten interceptions and 14 total turnovers forced as a defense, for the Herd, its defense has forced eight interceptions and four fumbles. This week though, Marshall has an opportunity to lessen that gap and potentially jump above Louisiana. The Ragin Cajuns will be without their starting QB Chandler Fields with an undisclosed injury leaving junior Ben Wooldridge in line to make his first-ever collegiate start. Marshall’s front seven should be able to get enough pressure on Wooldridge that they can force him into making mistakes and giving their defensive backs opportunities to make a play on the ball. Marshall’s 4th ranked run defense in the nation should force the Cajuns to rely on the passing attack from Wooldridge, and that is where the defense can find its opportunities.

Continue to Win on the Ground

Marshall has the 15th-best-ranked rushing attack in the FBS averaging 224.4 yards per game. Louisiana has the 46th-best rushing defense in the nation, allowing just 128.2 yards per game. For Marshall to control this game- and give the Louisiana defensive backs fewer turnover opportunities- they need to hit the 200-yard rushing mark as a team. If Marshall wins the ground game upfront against another talented front 7, they should be able to control the clock and put more pressure on a quarterback making his first start.

As conference play ramps up, Marshall needs to stick to their identity of great defense and a decisive run game. Marshall has an opportunity to move to 1-1 in the conference and better position themselves before upcoming challenges in JMU and App state. If Marshall can win the turnover battle and control the clock, then they should leave Wednesday night in a position to make a run at a conference title.