Best loss ever?

by John Mikell

There's no such thing, but the Cajuns’ season opener against Kentucky was definitely the best in the Hudspeth era.

Photos by Brad Kemp/UL Ragin' Cajuns

Mark Hudspeth’s first-game record now stands at 2-3 with the wins over two FCS opponents (Lamar and Southern). Against Kentucky the Cajuns appeared fresh and fit. Hudspeth dialed back the physicality of preseason practices fearing additional injuries. He should consider a similar practice schedule next year given the way the Cajuns came on strong against the Wildcats in the second half.

A Big Game for Kentucky

The unveiling of a $120 million stadium renovation. The first sellout since 2010. The third year of Mark Stops rebuilding program. The pressing need for a win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. This was a big game for Kentucky and despite that the Wildcats needed a last minute score to edge the Cajuns.

Two Quarterbacks, too.

When asked before a double header how he felt Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks once said, “Let’s play three!” Hudspeth should consider playing two QB’s regularly. Both are redshirt juniors and mature enough to handle it. Their differing styles complement each other and caused Kentucky problems. As long as they both play well “Let’s play two!”

Missing Alonzo

Torrey Pierce was terrific in leading the Cajuns comeback with 110 yards rushing and two TD’s but at 5’9” 171 he’s no Alonzo Harris. Neither is Elijah McGuire. The 2014 Sun Belt POY had 27 rushes, a career high and averaged 3.2 yards/carry, about a third of his career average. Add 4 pass catches and punt return duties and a possibility of diminishing returns comes into play. There’s a reason you don’t see any Ferraris parked at a boat launch.

Big Plays on Defense…For Both Teams

Press coverage and blitz packages require nerve, judicious application, and superior athletes. On UL’s first defensive play from scrimmage they gave up a 75-yard TD, on their third they sacked the QB and set up a third and 16, effectively ending Kentucky’s drive. UL’s defensive play-calling is not for the faint of heart. The defensive adjustments at halftime worked. After giving up 219 yards passing in the first half the Cajuns held Kentucky to 6 /16 for 38 yards and an interception in the second half. UL played nine defensive backs indicating depth and the search for mainstays continues. Left in Lafayette was projected starter CB Simeon Thomas. Saturday the Cajuns faced the best athletes they will see this year. And then there’s preseason All-Sun Belt linebacker Dominque Tovell. Against an SEC opponent he had 5 tackles for losses including two sacks. Expect big things from this defense.

The Home Stand

As well as the Cajuns played there remains room for improvement. A rocky first half showed the Cajuns’ man coverage needs work. Penalties proved costly, especially on Kentucky’s last drive. Fumbles by Cajun stalwarts McGuire and Jamal Robinson gave Kentucky a scoring opportunity and denied the Cajuns their own, respectively. The next two games provide good opportunities to fine-tune in the comfort of Cajun Field. And then a trip to Ruston.