Can the RedHawks tame another prolific offense enough to pull out a Lending Tree Bowl win that would be a perfect cap to their remarkable 2019 season?
One month ago, the challenge was Central Michigan in the MAC title game. Monday night, it will be the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns -- a team intent on . . .
Louisiana brings a 10-3 record into Monday's match-up. One of those wins came at Ohio, where the Ragin' Cajuns posted a 45-25 victory.
Of course, scoring points is something at which Louisiana excels. It registered at least 31 points in each of its 10 wins. The only team that has seemingly been able to harness UL is Appalachian State, which defeated Louisiana twice. The first was a 17-7 victory in early October. When the two teams met again in the Sun Belt championship game, Appalachian State again prevailed, albeit this time in a 45-38 shootout. Louisiana's only other loss was a 38-28 home field defeat to Mississippi State to open 2019.
Monday, Jan. 6 -- 7:30 p.m. ET (6:30 p.m. CT)
Ladd -Peebles Stadium -- Mobile, Alabama
SERIES: The two teams have met twice previously,
with Miami winning both contests: (1991, 27-14), (1993, 29-28)
LOUISIANA RAGIN' CAJUNS . . .
>> This is Louisiana's first 10-win season in program history.
>> UL is averaging 38.3 ppg and surrendering 19.9 ppg.
>> Of the Ragin' Cajuns 501.3 ypg of total offense, 265.3 ypg came on the ground, while 236.0 ypg went through the air.
>> Louisiana's 3,449 yards on the ground is sixth in the nation, while its 41 rushing scores are third behind Navy (51) and Army (48).
>> Junior quarterback Levi Lewis has completed 224 of 352 pass attempts for 2,804 yards and 24 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
>> Elijah Mitchell became Louisiana's first back to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau and now has 1,092 yards on the year. Mitchell also leads the team with 15 rushing scores, good for 12th nationally.
>> Mitchell, Raymond Calais, and Trey Ragas have combined for 408 carries, 2,755 yards and 32 TDs.
>> Ja'Marcus Bradley tops UL receivers with 53 catches for 818 yards and eight scores.
>> Offensive lineman Kevin Dotson has started every game this season. He was recently named a Pro Football Focus and Sports Illustrated First Team All-American.
>> Louisiana's defense has held 10 of its 13 opponents to less than 30 points, four of which scored less gthan 10 points. The team ranks 20th nationally and leads the Sun belt in scoring defense (19.9 ppg).
>> Senior linebacker Jacques Bordreaux has registered a team-high
91 tackles, while LB Kris Moncrief and LB Joe Dillon have combined for 10 sacks.
MIAMI REDHAWKS (8-5, 6-2 MAC)
>> The RedHawks have had a lead in every game this year -- yes, even at Ohio State (5-0). They led 7-3 at Iowa, 10-0 at Cincinnati, 6-0 at Western Michigan and 24-7 at Ball State.
>> In MAC-only games, Miami's defense ranks near the top in almost every category. MU was second in scoring defense (22.5 ppg), third in total defense (352.9 ypg), first in pass defense (175.9 ypg), sixth in rush defense (177.0 ypg), second in sacks (27), fourth in interceptions (7) and first in opponent's fourth down conversion rate (28.6%).
>> The RedHawks defense held Central Michigan's top-two running backs to a combined 17 carries for 50 yards.
>> MU showed a knack for limiting some high-powered offenses during conference play. Ohio averaged 38.6 ppg, but MU held it to 21. Central Michigan also tallied 21 after averaging 37.8 ppg. Kent State was held to 16 after averaging 35.0 ppg, while Buffalo dropped from an average of 34 to 20 against the RedHawks.
>> Miami had 61 yards of offense in the first half against Central Michigan but managed 211 yards after intermission. Jack Sorenson had a season-high eight catches for 123 yard and a critical touchdown.
>> Maurice Thomas' stunning 97-yard touchdown run to open the MAC Championship game was another big-time contribution by Miami's special teams this season. Thomas ranks 30th nationally in kickoff returns (22.9 ypr) and sixth in punt returns (12.6 ypg).
>> Kicker Sam Sloman is second in the nation with 25 made field goals, while punter Kyle Kramer ranks 35th nationally with an average of 43.2 yards per boot.
>> Injuries sustained during a tough non-conference schedule forced younger players into larger roles. With the long layoff leading up this a very late bowl, the RedHawks should be healthy and more experienced on the two-deep.
>> MU has 17 players classified as sophomores or younger on the two-deep.
>> Quarterback Brett Gabbert earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors. He has completed 153 of 285 passes (53.7%) for 2,163 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has been sacked 22 times.
>> Junior RB Jaylon Bester has scored a touchdown in nine straight games. Overall, he owns 152 carries for 689 yards and 12 TDs. He was hampered by injury early in the year. Tyre Shelton (102 carries, 528 yards, 2 TD) is another key contributor out of the backfield.
>> James Maye has combined with Gabbert for a number of big plays this season His 25.4 ypc average is tops nationally among freshmen.