Play on defense disappoints ULL’s Hudspeth
LAFAYETTE — That fourth quarter magic the University of Louisiana at Lafayette displayed much of last season was noticeably absent Tuesday night at Apogee Stadium.
ULL allowed North Texas to score the game’s final touchdown on a 78-yard screen pass reception with 1 minute 54 seconds remaining.
Then the Cajuns lost a fumble on the following kickoff with 1:39 left, helping seal a 30-23 loss to UNT in a Sun Belt Conference game before a national television audience.
The ULL collapse in the game’s final minute was just part an overall second-half problem for the Cajuns, who were outscored by North Texas 24-10 in the final two quarters.
ULL’s loss ended a five-game winning streak over North Texas.
UNT (3-4, 2-1), which had 184 total offensive yards in the first half, ended the game with 524.
ULL, which dropped to 4-2 and 2-1 in the SBC, finished with 371 total yards after gaining only 144 in the second half.
North Texas took advantage of a Cajuns’ defense that was too generous in the second half, ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said.
“I was disappointed with our play in the second half defensively. We didn’t take advantage of some situations where we had them pinned deep.
“We needed just one stop to get off the field and give the ball back to our offense. Then we let them break a big play and take the lead,” Hudspeth said.
Punts by ULL’s Brett Baer placed UNT at the Mean Green 3- and 1-yard lines on consecutive punts, the last time with 6:45 left in the game.
Each time, North Texas managed to gain escape the goal line and avoid potential trouble, following Zach Orlen’s punts of 49 and 45 yards.
“I thought we played well in the first half, but we made some poor adjustments with our defense, and we let (North Texas) out. And then we couldn’t score.
“I feel like we let one get away. We did everything we were supposed to do in the first half, and then something just got away from us,” Hudspeth said.
North Texas coach Dan McCarney said he told his team what needed to be done at halftime, when the Mean Green trailed 13-6.
“I challenged them at the half to go out and win, and they did,” McCarney said.
ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway, making his second start, finished with 265 passing yards after completing 26 of 41 attempts.
In the first half, Broadway threw for 116, but in the second half, he was without wide receivers Harry Peoples (shoulder injury) and Javone Lawon (wrist).
McCarney said the Mean Green’s defensive strategy was to put increased pressure on Broadway in the second half.
“We started collapsing the pocket, and that put some pressure on (Broadway). I thought we had some guys rise up and make plays,” McCarney ssaid.
Two of those players were North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson (282 passing yards) and freshman running back Antoine Jimmerson, who came off the bench to accumulate 141 all-purpose yards, including the catch on the game-winning screen pass touchdown throw.
Thompson said he could feel momentum change late in the third period when North Texas scored two consecutive touchdowns that erased a 20-6 ULL lead.
“We played with our hair on fire. When the momentum switched on our side, we just went with it,” Thompson said.
While some may have overlooked the Mean Green, Hudspeth said he wasn’t surprised with their performance.
“They played two teams in the top 10 already. We played Oklahoma State (a 65-24 loss) and they are not in the top 10. They (North Texas) showed they are a good team, and we showed we didn’t come to play in the second half,” Hudspeth said.
ULL plays another nationally televised ESPN2 game against Arkansas State at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Cajun Field, followed by another Sun Belt Conference contest at the University of Louisiana at Monroe at 3 p.m. Nov. 3.
The defeat temporarily knocked ULL out of first place with UL-Monroe and Western Kentucky, but Hudspeth said there is much of the season that remains for the Cajuns.
“Our goals are still intact. We just need to head back to Lafayette, practice hard, and get ready for Arkansas State,” Hudspeth said.
ULL running back Alonzo Harris, who started four of the Cajuns’ six games, did not play against North Texas.
Hudspeth said Harris was ill throughout the week of practice for UNT.
Tops in tackles
Cajuns’ safety Rodney Gillis had 12 total tackles against North Texas, while linebacker Justin Anderson provided 11.