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Saturday, December 22, 2012
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl keys

By Adam Rittenberg

Three keys for today's R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl matchup between Louisiana-Lafayette and East Carolina.

1. Broadway show: Terrance Broadway takes center stage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after racking up 2,526 pass yards, 661 rush yards and 24 total touchdowns for Louisiana-Lafayette this season. He makes the offense go for the Ragin' Cajuns, and if East Carolina can't slow him down, it'll be a very long afternoon for the Pirates. Broadway really emerged as a dual threat late in the season, eclipsing 120 rush yards in two of his final three games. East Carolina must contain both Broadway and sophomore running back Alonzo Harris to make Louisiana-Lafayette one-dimensional. Broadway enters the game playing his best football, having racked up 1,275 pass yards, 428 rush yards, 12 touchdowns (8 pass, 4 rush) and three interceptions in his past five games.

2. Red alert: Both offenses can put up points, and a big reason for that is their effectiveness in the red zone. Louisiana-Lafayette ranks third nationally in red zone efficiency with 49 scores (40 touchdowns) on 52 attempts. East Carolina isn't far behind, tying for fifth nationally with 45 scores (35 touchdowns) on 49 attempts. Pirates quarterback Shane Carden has led 42 red zone scores on 45 chances since moving into the starting role. The Ragin' Cajuns have scored on each of their past 25 red zone chances entering the bowl. East Carolina's defense is significantly better in the red zone (tied for 54th) than Louisiana-Lafayette's (tied for 103rd). The defense that forces field goal attempts or generates a red zone stop or two likely comes out victorious.

3. Special teams: When the teams are as evenly matched as these two, the kicking game often decides the outcome. Louisiana-Lafayette has a huge weapon in kicker Brett Baer, a Lou Groza Award semifinalist who had the game-winning 50-yard field goal in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl. Baer already has matched his 2011 kick scoring record of 100 points entering the bowl game, having connected on 17 of 20 field goal attempts. East Carolina could do some damage on returns with receiver Justin Hardy, who ranks 31st nationally in punt return average (9.67 ypr). While East Carolina struggles in kickoff and punt coverage, Louisiana-Lafayette isn't very dangerous on returns.