Cardinals set for Saturday's season opener at Louisiana

GO CARDINALS <strong>Head Coach Ray Woodard begins his third season on the Lamar sideline</strong>
Head Coach Ray Woodard begins his third season on the Lamar sideline

Aug. 30, 2012

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LAFAYETTE, La. - Lamar University will renew an old rivalry Saturday night at Cajun Field as the Cardinals will open the 2012 football season against former conference foe Louisiana-Lafayette. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Not only will this be the 27th meeting between the two schools as four-year institutions (they met seven times when Lamar was known as South Park Junior College), but the Sabine Shoe will also be up for grabs. The traveling trophy, named for the Sabine River, was first awarded in 1937 and has gone to the Ragin' Cajuns for three straight meetings.

Like all Lamar football games, the contest can be heard live in the Golden Triangle on KLVI 560 AM with Harold Mann providing the play-by-play and former LU linebacker Bo Brown serving as analyst. It will also be available on ESPN3 for online viewing.

In addition to being the Cardinals' season opener, it will also be Lamar's first game against a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school since the program was reinstated for the 2010 season. UL also served as Lamar's last game against a FBS program when the two schools met toward the end of the 1989 season.

Coach Ray Woodard's Cardinals are coming off a 4-7 campaign and have several new faces on both sides of the ball and on the coaching staff. After returning 19 starters combined on offense and defense in 2011, the Cardinals return just 11 total this year.

"We've started giving the ones more reps and as you get closer to the game, you've got to do more of that," said Woodard about preparing for the opener. "We've put the starting unit out together more and this week we've done more of that.

"Two weeks ago, if you would have asked me if we're ready to play a game, I would have said no. I feel much better about our team now. As a team, I think we're ready to play."

Lamar will have a new quarterback under center with junior college transfer Ryan Mossakowski heading into Saturday as the starter. Redshirt sophomore Caleb Berry will serve as the backup but will likely see time on the field in the first game.

Junior running back DePauldrick Garrett got off to a good start with 105 yards and four touchdowns in LU's 58-0 season opening win over Texas College last year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Garrett returns in the backfield and is joined by Oklahoma State transfer Herschel Sims and a pair of talented freshmen.

Defensively, the Cardinals who have changed to a 3-4 defense this year, return a lot of experience on the defensive line in seniors Adren Dorsey and John Prescott and juniors Jesse Dickson and Mark Murrill. Lamar also welcomes back linebackers James Washington and Blake Chavis.

In the defensive backfield, all four starters are upperclassmen. Senior Jordan Garrett and junior Chad Allen have each earned two letters and will man the strong and free safety positions, respectively, while junior Branden Thomas and senior Adrian Guillory return at cornerback.

The Ragin' Cajuns, who went 9-4 last year, won the last contest 42-33 on Nov. 11, 1989, behind a strong performance from quarterback Brian Mitchell. The 1995 NFL All-Pro rushed for 214 yards and five rushing touchdowns, while also passing for 162 yards.

Lamar quarterback John Evans gave Lamar a 24-21 lead early in the second half when he hit Chris Lafferty for a 61-yard scoring strike. Evans would finish for 281 passing yards and a pair of touchdown passes, while receiver Chris Ford finished with 10 catches for 123 yards.

This year's version of the Ragin' Cajuns returns nine starters on the offense that set a school record in 2011 with 420 points. Quarterback Blaine Gautier has five career 300-yard passing games, and set UL season records with 2,958 passing yards and 23 passing touchdowns last season.

Defensively, the Cajuns return four starters led by cornerbacks Melvin White and Jermarlous Moten. The duo combined for 144 tackles and five interceptions a year ago.

"We're playing a very good team," said Woodard about facing UL in the season opener. "We're playing a FBS school. They're coming off a very good year and so they're a confident team. We're going to play to date the largest crowd we've ever played in front of, but we'll be a better football team for having played this game.

"They've (UL) done a very good job of recruiting. This is a good looking football team. I had a chance to watch their bowl game (a 32-30 win over San Diego State in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl). Their quarterback makes them go. They have a lot of guys up front back and a lot of skill guys back. This is just a good, solid football team."

As a four-year program, Lamar is 22-19 all-time in season openers. The Cardinals are 15-4 when opening at home and 7-15 on the road. Since reinstating the program, Lamar is 1-1 in season openers with a 30-27 loss at No. 11 McNeese State in 2010 and last year's 58-0 win over Texas College.

The Cardinals and Ragin' Cajuns have faced off five times in season openers with Lamar winning three of the games. The two schools opened against each other from 1952-56 and split the two games in Lafayette.




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