Louisiana and Marshall will get an early start on their Sun Belt Conference rivalry when they meet in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday in the Caesars Superdome.
The No. 23 Ragin’ Cajuns (12-1) secured the host berth in the New Orleans Bowl by defeating Appalachian State 24-16 in the Sun Belt championship game Dec. 4.
The Thundering Herd (7-5), who finished second in the Conference USA East division, will join the Sun Belt no later than July 1, 2023.
Louisiana has won a school-record 12 consecutive games since losing the season opener at Texas.
The Cajuns’ fourth consecutive Sun Belt West division title helped head coach Billy Napier land the head-coaching job at Florida. Napier coached the team in the conference championship game before departing.
Co-offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux was named as Napier’s successor and will make his head-coaching debut against Marshall. After the bowl game, Desormeaux will have to fill three spots on his staff that were created by Napier hires at Florida.
“I don’t want there to be a whole bunch of distractions among the players any more than what we’ve already had,” Desormeaux said. “These guys for the last two or three weeks, they’ve been through the ringer. The No. 1 priority for myself and my staff is to send this team off the right way in this New Orleans Bowl.
“We started this thing a long time ago — for some of these kids for four years in the making — and we’ve got one more mission this year that we plan on finishing. We have a great team. They deserve to finish this thing the right way.”
Cajuns super senior quarterback Levi Lewis is 34-7 as the Cajuns starter and will be playing his final game.
Louisiana is 11th in the country in scoring defense (18.2) and created 21 turnovers while committing just eight.
Marshall lost two of its last three games, which included a 53-21 thrashing at the hands of Western Kentucky.
“We’ve got a point to prove,” first-team All-CUSA running back Rasheen Ali said. “We all want to finish strong because we didn’t get the outcome we wanted at the end of the season, so we can go down to New Orleans, and come out with a victory.”
Ali, a freshman who averages 103.4 rushing yards per game, is tied for first nationally with 20 rushing touchdowns and is second with 22 total touchdowns and 11.0 points per game.
Marshall is tied for fourth nationally with 35 rushing touchdowns and is 10th in total offense (470.8) and 12th in passing offense (310.9). The defense is led by All-CUSA linebacker Abraham Beauplan (104 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble) and is tied for 13th nationally with 38 sacks.
The game is a Louisiana homecoming for three members of the Thundering Herd. Safety Cory McCoy, voted defensive MVP by his teammates and coaches, is a graduate transfer from McNeese State. His head coach with the Cowboys was Lance Guidry, who is a native of Welsh, La., and the current Marshall defensive coordinator. Tight end Hayden Hagler is from Sulphur, La.
Louisiana went to the New Orleans Bowl each season from 2011-14 and won each game before losing to Southern Miss in the same bowl in 2016.
This will be Marshall’s first appearance in the New Orleans Bowl.
–Field Level Media