By Jalisa Jones
Everywhere you go in the state, you can find LSU fan gear: supermarkets, gas stations, and in pop up shops strategically placed at red lights. From Shreveport to Venice, and everywhere in between, people worship the purple and gold like they have stake in an LSU stock. Even people who have not ventured past the gates of the school find themselves sitting on the edge of their seats on Saturday nights, as the Bayou Bengals take on whichever team that ventures into Death Valley – and for good reason! The SEC school has 121 years of football under its belt, 14 conference titles, and three national titles. It’s no wonder why the Tigers hold the heart of many Louisianans. But this season, the beloved Tigers didn’t do as well as fans hoped. With only a 4-4 record in the SEC, they were not eligible to advance to the College Football Playoffs.However, Louisiana college football fans shouldn’t wallow in their sorrows too long, as four universities had awesome football seasons.
The Southern Jaguars, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Southeastern Louisiana Lions, and Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns have all had winning seasons, coming in at the top of their conferences.
All four schools, representing in the SWAC, Conference USA, Southland and Sun Belt conferences respectively, have had near-perfect conference records, losing only one game in their respective conferences, and have gone on to be invited to postseason play in either their conferences’ championship game, a Football Championship Subdivision playoff game, a bowl game, or both.
Southern in Baton Rouge, would be the “winningest team” in the state if there was such an award. With an 8-1 conference record the Jaguars have pummeled everyone in their division, and almost everyone in their conference. They also made their way to the SWAC Championship Game on Dec. 6, as they took on the only team in their conference to beat them in regular season, the Alcorn State Braves. In a near repeat of their 2013 season, the Southern Jaguars first defeated their in-state rivals the Grambling State Tigers in the 41st annual Bayou Classic, and went on to compete in the now Houston based championship game for the second year in a row.Unfortunately the Jaguars were not able to bring home another title, but the numbers clearly show they had a remarkable season.
Not to be outdone, Louisiana Tech made an extraordinary turnaround from its 2013 season in which the Bulldogs were 4-8. Scoring 488 points to last season’s 230, the numbers show the change in dynamics for the Bulldogs. “Something great is going on here at Louisiana Tech,” said tight end Eddie Johnson, a senior from Dallas. “This season we are a solid team.” Louisiana Tech is 8-5 overall and 7-1 in conference. On Dec. 6, the Bulldogs played in the Conference USA Championship game against Marshall, in which they lost 26-23.
Although Johnson, of course, “wanted to win,” he remains positive about postseason play and is certain that “greatness” takes a more well-rounded approach. “We have a great team, and great coaches,” Johnson said. “ Coach (Skip) Holtz, teaches us about being a man on and off the football field.”
Football isn’t over for Bulldogs, as they have been invited to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dec. 26 in Dallas.
“Illinois is a Big Ten school, but we’ve come off a good season and we’re feeling pretty confident,” Johnson said.
Southeastern has had a continuation of good football this year, tying for first in the Southland Conference with Sam Houston State, each school with a 7-1 record. The Lions made it to the first round of the FCS playoffs in Huntsville, Texas. The Lions, despite their share of the SLC title, saw their season end Nov. 29 with a 21-17 loss at Sam Houston State, the same team they’d played and won against in the first round of playoffs last season.
The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns have made their mark not only in football but on the City of Lafayette’s economy.
Reports from the 2013 season, on Lafayette.com, state “The Ragin’ Cajuns football program had a local economic impact of more than $27.3 million. Of that, $7.6 million is attributed to wages paid to area residents, as the program supported a total of 241 jobs.”Although new statistics have not been released in regards to economic boost this season, the 7,000-seat increase to Cajun Field is predicted to at the very least increase revenue for the Louisiana-Lafayette athletic department.This year, coming in second to 8-0 Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt, the Cajuns ended the season with a 7-1 record.
“We started rough, but we managed to find our swag and pull off a winning streak,” said Senior linebacker Boris Anyama of Houston, as he described the Cajuns’ three, non-conference losses (one of which was to the aforementioned Louisiana Tech), before their six game winning streak. Southern’s first non-conference loss came from the Cajuns in a quasi-rivalry match-up Labor day weekend.
“We’re a good team,” Anyama. “Good leadership got the team ready to take on all opponents.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns have also been offered the opportunity to play in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl for the fourth year in a row. “I’m glad they asked us to play in the New Orleans Bowl again,” Anyama said. “It’s honor to be invited.”The Cajuns have won their first three trips to the New Orleans Bowl and hold the record for the most wins in the bowl game’s history. They will play the Nevada Wolfpack on Dec. 20 in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
Though often overlooked compared to LSU, these teams should really be admired for their achievements this season.
Humble, hard-working young men ready to bring home a victory each week, all four football teams ended their seasons with the exception of those receiving bowl game invitations. Next season, while fans from Lake Charles to Bastrop are cheering on the purple and gold, they shouldn’t be remiss to cheer on the Colombia blue and gold of Southern, the Tech blue and Tech red of Louisiana Tech; the green and gold of SLU and the white and vermilion of Louisiana-Lafayette.