Saints linebacker Michael Mauti celebrates his blocked punt-touchdown Thursday night in the Superdome.
Photo by Michael C. Hebert/Saints
C’EST BONAt 2-4 the Saints aren’t off the schneid yet, but could there be a better way to begin righting the ship than beating the undefeated Falcons in the Superdome on primetime TV? That was a rhetorical question because no there cannot. The Saints’ young defense played 60 minutes of bend-but-don’t-break football, forcing three fumbles including two in the red zone and sacking Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan five times. The cake was iced in the first quarter via special teams when the Saints blocked a Falcons punt and returned it for a touchdown. The punt block-touchdown came courtesy of Saints reserve linebacker Michael Mauti, a Mandeville native whose dad, Rich, played wide receiver for the Saints from 1977 to ’83. The play reminded a lot of Saints faithful of the team’s triumphant return to the Superdome against the Falcons in 2006 when Steve Gleason, now an emotional rallying point for Who Dat Nation as he battles ALS, blocked a punt that was returned for a TD. Gleason was in the ’Dome Thursday night, watching in his motorized wheelchair. He would later tweet, “Hey, Falcons. #NeverPunt.” The Saints also didn’t turn the ball over, and Drew Brees found two things Thursday night: his magic touch (30 of 39 passing for 312 yards and a touchdown) and tight end Ben Watson, who finished with a career high 10 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Head coach Mark Hudspeth
Photo by Brad Kemp/UL Ragin' Cajuns
UL Lafayette officials acknowledged this week their football program is under investigation by the NCAA because a former assistant coach allegedly schemed to fraudulently boost certain recruits’ standardized test scores. Documents released by the university allege that former linebackers coach David Saunders also funneled more than $6,000 in cash to a prospective student-athlete who was attending a junior college. UL says it has begun operating under self-imposed sanctions which include vacating the 2011 season, placing itself on two years’ probation, a reduction in 11 scholarships spread over three seasons (through 2017-18) and a reduction in recruiting activities. Head coach Mark Hudspeth, who debuted as the Ragin’ Cajuns coach in 2011 and has led the team to four straight New Orleans Bowl victories, has not been implicated in wrongdoing. However, his maiden bowl victory over San Diego State has now been vacated. And depending on how Hudspeth’s inaugural season is vacated — will they simply not count the season or will they count it as 0-13 instead of 9-4? — it could shift Hudspeth’s record as Cajuns head coach from a respectable 38-18 to a pedestrian 29-27. While the allegations don’t rise to an SMU-in-the-’80s level, NCAA sanctions have yet to come and could nonetheless set back Ragin’ Cajuns football for years to come. Read more here
Stanley, left, and Robideaux
Composite photo by Robin May
They say politics in Louisiana is a contact sport, but it used to be more like flag football here in Lafayette. No more. Mud slinging is becoming the rule, not the exception. The sheriff’s race has turned particularly ugly, but who’da thunk the contest for city-parish president pitting two mild-mannered Southside Republicans would become such a nasty affair? Joel Robideaux denies any knowledge of an ugly, dissembling push poll targeting Dee Stanley last week, but the “poll” — it’s just a series of inflammatory, misleading statements about Stanley and glowing praise for Robideaux followed by the rejoinder, “Does this make you more or less likely to vote for him?” — was obviously commissioned by a Robideaux supporter. To the extent that we are the company we keep, the push poll reflects badly on Robideaux, who insists he’s run a “relentlessly positive” campaign — a claim undercut not just by the push poll but by earlier stunts, all of which generally point back to one Hilary “Joe” Castille, Robideaux’s campaign manager who also happens to manage the campaign of Scott Police Chief Chad Leger, the candidate attempting to bully his way into the job of Lafayette Parish sheriff. Read more about the push poll here