App State faces weird schedule and physical opponent Wednesday in Ragin’ Cajun land

Appalachian State football coach Eli Drinkwitz says his team must be ready for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun running game when the two teams meet
Appalachian State football coach Eli Drinkwitz says his team must be ready for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun running game when the two teams meet Tim Cowie/Tim Cowie Photography

Unique schedule … that’s a phrase Appalachian State head football coach Eli Drinkwitz is qualified to talk about these days.

Drinkwitz and the unbeaten Mountaineers face a big Sun Belt Conference test this week, playing a Wednesday night game against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in Lafayette, La.

Kickoff for the nationally televised (ESPN2) contest will be 8 p.m.

The Mountaineers are in the midst of an unusual schedule for college football teams.

Their last game was Sept. 28, when they outscored Coastal Carolina 56-37. They were off last weekend, play a Wednesday game this week, and then will be off another 10 days before facing UL Monroe at home on Oct. 19.

Drinkwitz’s personal schedule has been altered too.

His wife Lindsey gave birth to the couple’s fourth daughter early last week. Parker Lynn was born about a month early and had some extra hospital time before coming home.

“All is well with the new baby girl,” Drinkwitz said Monday during his weekly news conference, to which he arrived late. “Sorry about being late. Life comes at you fast, and I had to take care of some family business.”

“She is now at home, and her mom and her are doing pretty well,” Drinkwitz reported.

The Mountaineers’ coach said Parker Lynn’s birth caused him to remember the saying, “Be here now.”

“That’s what I’ve tried to do,” he said. “Just be where my feet are, wherever I am right at that moment, be in that moment, and focus on that moment.

“Don’t be in the hospital thinking about football, and don’t be at football thinking about the hospital. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”

And football — notably, his team’s next opponent — is giving Drinkwitz plenty to think about.

Wednesday offers a rematch of last November’s first-ever Sun Belt championship game, which Appalachian State won 30-19 at home. The Ragin Cajuns (4-1, 1-0) feature a powerful ground-oriented offense that poses plenty of problems for a Mountaineer (4-0, 1-0) defense that has allowed an average of 29 points a game.

“They’ve got a tremendous offensive line,” Drinkwitz said of the Ragin Cajuns. “Five returning starters. Three running backs they rotate through. A dynamic quarterback that can create with the ball, with his feet.”

Drinkwitz said Louisiana coach Billy Napier, who has been an assistant under Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Alabama’s Lou Saban, has patterned his offense after another coach he worked for — Todd Graham, formerly of Arizona State.

“A lot of things that he did at Arizona State, you can definitely see some of that fingerprint,” Drinkwitz said.

Louisiana uses multiple formations and mixes the tempo.

“We’ve got to be disciplined,” Drinkwitz said. “We’ve got to pursue the football.”

Getting Physical?: The Mountaineers and Louisiana met both in the regular season and in the Sun Belt title game last year, and both games were a bit on the rough side. Drinkwitz said the Appalachian State coaching staff has tried to prepare players for more of the same Wednesday.

“They’re a physical bunch,” said Drinkwitz, adding that the Ragin Cajuns’ secondary can be especially tough.

“It all depends on how the officials are going to let the game be played,” he said. “If they’re going to let it be a physical matchup, then it is what it is, and we’ve got to be physical too.”

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle