Behind Enemy Lines: The Vermilion’s Louis Prejean previews Louisiana-Alabama matchup

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

Alabama received 60 of the 61 possible votes in the latest AP Poll to remain the No. 1 team in the country. The Crimson Tide took down then-No. 22 Texas A&M handily for its fourth win of the season. Since we at The Crimson White focus primarily on Alabama, we caught up with sports editor Louis Prejean from The Vermilion, Louisiana-Lafayette’s student newspaper, for a different perspective on the game.

Q: What is the mindset for Louisiana-Lafayette going into a game on the road against the No. 1 ranked team in the country?

A: Louisiana Football head coach Billy Napier said in a press conference on Monday that he wants his team to “eliminate the negatives and control the controllable things.” The mindset of Louisiana coming into this game will be trying to see improvements within their program game-by-game.

Q: How important are games against Power Five opponents for schools like Louisiana-Lafayette who are trying to build a program?

A: Louisiana started establishing their program with four straight New Orleans Bowl appearances from 2011-14 under former head coach Mark Hudspeth. But after three straight losing seasons and a transition under new head coach Billy Napier, games against Alabama can be a showcase for the talent and potential within Louisiana’s program.

Q: We saw Texas A&M place a big emphasis on stopping Alabama’s running game. What approach do you expect the Ragin’ Cajuns to take to slow Alabama down offensively?

A: Napier has admitted that the defense is “inexperienced,” and when it comes to Alabama it’s “pick your poison.” Texas A&M’s plan to stop the run worked for only so long and Alabama will find any and every way to get their offense going. If Louisiana wants to stop the run, Alabama has two talented quarterbacks with Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts that they can rely on. Louisiana struggled stopping the run in their most recent game against Coastal Carolina as they gave up 311 rushing yards. The defense gave up 40 points a game in 2017 and, with 40 percent of the roster being new to the program in 2018, Alabama has an opportunity to score at will.

Q: Saban mentioned in a press conference this week that Napier’s offensive system can prove to be challenging. What kind of offensive system does Louisiana-Lafayette run and what problems does it pose for opposing defenses?

A: Louisiana’s offense will play both quarterbacks Andre Nunez and Levi Lewis. Nunez is more of a pocket-passer while Lewis presents elusiveness and the ability to run the ball out of the pocket. Nunez has proved to be accurate this season with a 71 percent passing completion through three games. Behind the quarterbacks are a trio of running back talent with Trey Ragas, Raymond Calais and Elijah Mitchell. They all had a rushing touchdown last week against Coastal Carolina. The offense can pick up the tempo with the pass and be efficient in the run. This could possibly make Alabama question which approach Louisiana will take and will require in-game adjustments.

Q: What changes has Billy Napier made to the Louisiana-Lafayette program?

A: With a rehaul of the roster, the biggest changes for Louisiana came on the defensive end. The defense gave up 40 points per game in 2017, and one area of weakness was the linebacking core. Linebackers Jacques Boudreaux and Chaiziere Malbrue have brought the improvement needed. Another change on the defense is defensive back Michael Jacquet. Jacquet played wide receiver last season but Napier believes he has “NFL-caliber talent” as a defensive back.

Q: What is your score prediction, and how did you arrive at it?

A: Alabama wins 52-7. Score-wise, I expect this game to be similar to the Mississippi State game for Louisiana since they are only two weeks removed from a top-25 opponent. Of course, Alabama is in a tier all by themselves, and this should be another win for the number one ranked team in the country.