Texas State hopes to defend home field, play the role of spoiler in final game

Louisiana running back Chris Smith looks for yardage in the Ragin' Cajuns' game against Georgia Southern on Nov. 10. Louisiana, which has won the last two Sun Belt championships, needs to beat Texas State in Saturday's regular-season finale to become bowl-eligible.
Louisiana running back Chris Smith looks for yardage in the Ragin' Cajuns' game against Georgia Southern on Nov. 10. Louisiana, which has won the last two Sun Belt championships, needs to beat Texas State in Saturday's regular-season finale to become bowl-eligible.

SAN MARCOS — Texas State won’t have a postseason, but it can play spoiler in the final game of the season Saturday at home against a Louisiana team needing a win to become bowl-eligible.

The Bobcats (4-7, 2-5 Sun Belt) have never beaten the Ragin' Cajuns, having lost all nine matchups although Louisiana ended up having to vacate the 2013 win due to recruiting violations. The Cajuns, however, have a new coach this season in Michael Desormeaux, who replaced Billy Napier after Napier left for Florida. Napier had led Louisiana to back-to-back Sun Belt championships and a 40-12 overall record.

Texas State lost last year's game in Lafayette 45-0. The year before that, the Cajuns won by 10 points. The Bobcats are 4-1 at home this season, including a 36-24 win over Appalachian State, a program that the Bobcats were 0-6 all-time against.

“Those guys know that they are capable of playing if we play together and do the right things," Bobcats head coach Jake Spavital said. "That would be a first for our program and the first for this university; same thing with beating App State, first time for this university. I think these kids want to do that.

"At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who we are playing, they are going to go out there and play as hard as they can," he continued. "When you look back at it, that would be a pretty great honor to beat a Louisiana team that has been playing at an extremely high level over the past few years. That would be a great way to end our season.”

More: Nico Ezidore, other Texas State seniors ready to say goodbye in final game

Even with the new coach and some key departures from last season, Louisiana looks "similar" to the team that won last year's conference title, especially offensively, Spavital said.

“There were a lot of guys that left — some skill players, some offensive linemen, linebackers hit the portal and went different places,” he said. “I think they kind of filled the void with that and they are playing a lot of young guys at certain positions, but they’ve still got the depth and physicality.

“If you look at Louisiana the last few years, the ball has always bounced their way and they always found a way to win. I think this year, they are still in the battle, the ball just isn’t bouncing their way at times. I think they are the same style.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns' defense has the third most interceptions in the conference with 14, the fifth-lowest points-per-game allowed average (24 ppg) and tied for the 10th-most sacks with 25.

“You look at them on defense, they’ve still got the pass rush,” Spavital said. “They’ve still got the players that were very disruptive on us last year and you see signs of them doing that now. They are a little more multiple in scheme from what they’ve done in the past. They keep you on your toes and are very random. In and out of fronts, where last year they were predominately four-down, but they’ll go three-down front and drop eight on you.”

Texas State’s offense has struggled: second-to-last in Sun Belt in points-per-game and 12th in total yards per game, but the defense is on the cusp of setting program records. The Bobcats have 26 sacks, two away from the program's record as an FBS team of 28 set in 2014, and have already set the school's FBS mark for tackles for a loss with 71. Defensive lineman Levi Bell and outside linebacker Jordan Revels lead the team with 11 tackles for a loss each, with Bell tied for the team lead in sacks with five and Revels second with 4.5. Defensive lineman Nelson Mbanasor also has five sacks along with eight tackles for a loss.

Saturday's game

Louisiana (5-6, 3-4) at Texas State (4-7, 2-5), 4 p.m., ESPN+, 89.9

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas State can play spoiler for Rajin' Cajuns in season finale game