Ragin' Cajuns limp into showdown against Oklahoma State

Friday, October 3rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Ricky Bustle has looked at reels of film, quizzed his assistants and had a week of practice to figure it all out. It only left him more confused.

Bustle still doesn't know how his winless Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns are going to slow down Oklahoma State on Saturday night.

``I don't know what's going to help us against them,'' the coach said. ``I'm looking for anything.''

Bustle may be exaggerating, but his roughed-up Ragin' Cajuns don't figure to match up well against the surging Cowboys. This will be Louisiana-Lafayette's third-straight road game _ third on artificial turf, too _ and the fourth in their last six games.

The Ragin' Cajuns have never won on the road under Bustle, a skid of seven straight losses. They're 35-point underdogs as they head to Stillwater.

``We've had quite a haul here in the first part of the season,'' Bustle said. ``We're pretty banged up.''

They also might get plain confused trying to figure out how to defend Oklahoma State's balanced offensive attack.

The Cowboys (3-1) have the Big 12's leading rusher and receiver in Tatum Bell and Rashaun Woods. The only team that has slowed them down was Nebraska in a season-opening 17-7 loss.

In the next two games, Bell piled up hundreds of yards as opponents copied the Cornhuskers by shadowing Woods with at least two defenders and blitzing quarterback Josh Fields on nearly every down.

The following week, Southern Methodist tried to clamp down on Bell and covered Woods with just one defender for much of the game. Woods caught a Division I-A record seven touchdowns in a 52-6 win.

It's those kind of performances that have Bustle clueless about what to do against the Cowboys.

``We will go into the game thinking they will make that decision for us,'' OSU head coach Les Miles said, keeping his offensive plan for Saturday secret. ``Historically, they put a lot of people around the line of scrimmage and make it very difficult to run the football.''

For the Ragin' Cajuns (0-5), doing much of anything on offense has been difficult this season.

Louisiana-Lafayette ranks last in the nation in total offense, averaging just 237.4 yards a game, and is 113th out of 117 Division I-A teams in scoring at 12.2 points a game.

``I hope it doesn't change a lick,'' Miles said.

Quarterback Eric Rekieta, who made his first start of the season last week, is still recovering from the effects of offseason Tommy John surgery, which is a reconstructive elbow operation.

The running game has sputtered because of an inexperienced offensive line and the inability of one of three tailbacks to seize the starting job.

``To win, we have to get every bounce, have no penalties and no turnovers,'' Bustle said. ``And maybe have them line up with eight players sometimes.''

The only thing working in Louisiana-Lafayette's favor could be that Oklahoma State might be looking ahead to next week's Big 12 showdown against No. 16 Kansas State.

Miles and his players say the Ragin' Cajuns better not pin their hopes on that.

``We go out to attack,'' defensive end Antonio Smith said. ``It doesn't matter who the team is or what their record is, we are going to play them just as hard. Every single down we are going to give them all we've got.''