Lack of discipline, focus dooms Cajuns

by John Mikell

Coach Mark Hudspeth kinda-sorta blamed the new athletic facilities for being a distraction leading up to Saturday’s home loss against the Akron Zips.

Quarterback Brooks Haack passes Saturday versus Akron.

To anyone anywhere but Cajun Field, Saturday’s score at the end of the first quarter, Akron 7-UL 0, meant a close game. The 24,679 in attendance, however, knew otherwise. During the game’s first 15 minutes the Akron Zips had possession for 12:59. They finished the quarter with 12 first downs and 134 yards in total offense. The Cajuns earned no first downs, eight yards rushing, zero passing and 56 yards in penalties, 21 more than during the entire game against Northwestern State two long, long weeks ago. Six seconds into the second period on third and 13, Akron sophomore Thomas Woodson scored on a quarterback draw to align the score closer to reality. They didn’t do it alone. The Zips benefited from three penalties totaling 41 yards on just two plays: two calls for pass interference and an unsportsmanlike conduct against the Cajun bench.

Down 14-0 the Cajuns responded. A seven-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 17-yard run by Eli McGuire brought the Cajuns within seven. But their own effort was, in turn, also aided by 29 yards in penalties and McGuire’s touchdown turned out to be the Cajun’s longest run of the game.

UL’s next possession advanced 70 yards in 10 plays to arrive at the one, first and goal. With a little over three minutes left in the second quarter ,Torrey Pierce’s run appeared to tie the score, but the ever-vigilant Mid-American Conference officiating crew spotted a hold. Facing a first and goal now from the 16-yard line the Cajuns could advance to within only an inch of the goal line before turning the ball over on downs. According to Coach Mark Hudspeth, the failure to score at the close of the first half and the interception that ended the Cajun’s first possession in the second half combined for a “downer.”

One among many.

Akron turned the interception on their own 18-yard line into six more points in just six plays as Woodson continued his career day with a 38-yard run and a 39-yard pass. On their next possession the Zips lived up to their name covering all 72 yards with just one Woodson pass. Halfway through the third quarter Akron led 28-7. Meanwhile UL lost two yards in the third quarter on seven rushes as the Akron defensive line and linebackers continued to dominate the Cajun offensive line.

The final score Saturday was a sobering 35-14.

Running back Elijah McGuire (15) celebrates with teammates after a 17-yard touchdown run versus Akron.

So what happened? Hudspeth told local media he “saw it coming a mile away.” Over the past two weeks the move into the new Athletic Performance Center with “the game room, the fancy locker room, the fancy weight room” were “too much of a distraction” for his players. Hudspeth said the Cajuns “played the way we practiced and prepared.” He had to restart practice Tuesday because it was “sloppy.” Then there were “97 tours going through here like the Grand Canyon” interrupting game preparations. Hudspeth had bad news for fans who haven’t yet seen the new facility that caused all the trouble, “The tours are over.” Hudspeth said “(Akron) whipped us physically.” And “I told the players you’ve seen it now…work is fixing to begin.”

Even given the distractions Akron deserved the 35-14 result as Hudspeth acknowledged, “I told Coach Bowden you just gave us a good butt-kicking.” Hudspeth recast the game as a “wake-up call,” and believes “sometimes they are the best thing that can happen to you.” Whatever it’s called, the Cajuns have a week to regroup before they meet possibly the best team on this year’s schedule: Louisiana Tech.