Starting at 11 a.m. Saturday inside Jack Trice Stadium, Iowa State football will be officially back.
The No. 23 ranked Cyclones will begin their season with a nonconference opponent like every other season. But for the 2020 season, Iowa State and the rest of the Big 12 Conference will only be able to play one nonconference team before running into conference play head on.
The nonconference team in question that will make the trip out to Ames to square off with the Cyclones in their season opener are the Ragin’ Cajuns of the University of Louisiana. It will be the first meeting between these two teams.
“As far as reaching our full potential this year, it’s just going to come with playing games and after a couple games, we’ll figure that out and see where we’re at,” junior quarterback Brock Purdy said.
Louisiana is coming off a successful 2019 campaign that saw the Ragin’ Cajuns average nearly 38 points per game while finishing the season with an overall record of 11-3 and capping the season off with a 27-17 win over Miami (Ohio) in the LendingTree Bowl.
A big part of this production came from quarterback Levi Lewis and tailbacks Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas. All three of which will be returning for the 2020 season and will lead Louisiana’s high-powered offense.
In the 2019 season, Lewis completed 243 pass attempts for 3,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and only four interceptions. On the ground, Lewis also rushed for three touchdowns. Lewis was also the first-ever quarterback in program history at Louisiana to eclipse the 3,000 yard mark in a single season.
His 2019 production earned him Second Team Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference, along with being placed on several award watch lists.
“So much credit to the quarterback position, Levi Lewis is as talented a quarterback that we’ve seen in terms of what he has the ability to do,” Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell said. “We get to play great quarterbacks in this conference all the time and he’s certainly as talented as the young men we face week in and week out in the Big 12.”
Just as dangerous as Lewis are the tailbacks that will be lining up alongside him in Mitchell and Ragas.
In 2019, Mitchell and Ragas competed in a 1-2-3 punch with senior Raymond Calais. The group rushed for a combined 2,853 yards and 33 touchdowns, with Mitchell and Ragas making up 1,967 yards and 27 touchdowns.
While Calais graduated, Mitchell and Ragas are returning as a prolific 1-2 punch for the talented Ragin’ Cajuns offense.
"I love tough, gritty, hard-nosed football players and to me, that's what you get with Mitchell,” Campbell said. “And I know they've got the ability to change the pace at times with other guys back there. But just really impressed with their run game and their physicality."
To counteract the high-powered offense Louisiana will be bringing into Jack Trice Stadium, the Cyclones will be returning some of the cornerstones from both their offense and defense.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will be matched up against some of the staples of the Cyclones’ defense over the last few seasons. Returning for Iowa State are the likes of junior linebacker Mike Rose, defensive backs Anthony Johnson Jr., Greg Eisworth and Lawrence White, as well as the return of redshirt senior defensive end JaQuan Bailey.
The combination of talent and team chemistry over the years has led Iowa State to one of the best defenses in the Big 12.
“I think all of us are [veterans] now,” Johnson said. “We’ve been in this system for quite awhile now and I think that we’re going to be very good this year.”
The season opener against Louisiana is set to kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. There will be no fan attendance for the season opener, but the game will be televised on ESPN.