Dual QB threat led Ragin’ Cajuns to victory

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Blaine Gautier looks for a receiver in the second quarter of the New Orleans Bowl against East Carolina on Dec. 22, 2012, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Blaine Gautier looks for a receiver in the second quarter of the New Orleans Bowl against East Carolina on Dec. 22, 2012, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

NEW ORLEANS — On Saturday, Mark Hudspeth could have been called a gambler because he had a pair of aces tucked inside his winning hand.

The trump cards Hudspeth possessed in the New Orleans Bowl were his quarterbacks — one the MVP from last year’s game and the other aspiring to duplicate the effort.

Nothing that happened as Hudspeth’s Louisiana-Lafayette squad defeated East Carolina 43-34 before a record crowd of 48,828 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome changed his opinion.

“They’re two great leaders,” he said. “I don’t feel there’s another team in the country that has those two types of quarterbacks.”

Some would debate Hudspeth’s proclamation, but who could argue with the results?

Sophomore starter Terrance Broadway turned in the MVP performance this year, passing for 316 yards and running for 108. Then there was senior Blaine Gautier, last year’s starter and bowl MVP. Gautier was the starter again early this season, but he broke a pair of bones in his throwing hand in the fourth game, allowing Broadway the chance to start, mature and eventually blossom.

One question as ULL’s season progressed was how Gautier would fit in once he became healthy and again able to make those left-handed, roll-out throws that became his trademark at Lutcher High School and ULL. Gautier answered that against ECU by leading a 92-yard touchdown drive, capped by Alonzo Harris’ 68-yard run, as the Cajuns (9-4) seized a three-touchdown advantage in the second quarter.

“I’m really happy for these guys,” Gautier said as he watched his teammates celebrate the win. “I’m just trying to live in the moment. For me personally, what a way to end a career — with a (92-yard) drive for a touchdown.”

Hudspeth said passing the torch from Gautier to Broadway was a delicate task made easier by the senior’s attitude.

“Blaine gets injured, and Terrance comes in and has just a phenomenal season — and then Blaine gets back with about two games left,” Hudspeth said. “At that point, we had really hit our stride (with Broadway), and the best thing about Blaine is that he really understood. He’s such a team player. But we felt like we owed it to (Gautier) and, knowing Terrance, he’d be the first one to agree that Blaine deserved to play in this game.”

ULL was 18-8 in Gautier’s final two years, the best two-season span in the program’s 111-year history. Gautier expects the success to continue.

“I think they are getting ready to do some major things, and I think they are just going to keep things going,” he said.

Hudspeth alluded to the same thing.

“I’m very proud to come back and be back-to-back bowl champions,” he said. “This gives us back-to-back nine-win seasons. We were looking to show some consistency as a program, and hopefully that solidifies that we’re doing some good things.”

Offensive coordinator Jay Johnson, part of Hudspeth’s staff that took control in December 2010, said the coaches brought a different feel to Lafayette — a new culture that the players accepted.

“It’s always challenging, but I think we’ve got a good bunch of coaches and an even better group of players,” he said. “(The players) really stayed the course, and we overcame some adversity during the year and played hard, and offensively we were also able to make plays.”