UL-Lafayette coach seeks more fire from team after lackluster effort against ULM
LAFAYETTE — It might be the final regular-season football game for Louisiana- Lafayette, but there’s nothing anticlimactic about Saturday’s game with South Alabama.
The Cajuns have a chance to win an outright Sun Belt Conference championship and re-establish some momentum entering preparations for their third straight R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl appearance on Dec. 21.
While UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth is looking for more emotion from his team starting with the 7 p.m. kickoff at Ladd-Peoples Stadium, there will be some obvious changes for the Cajuns (8-3, 5-1) against USA (5-6, 3-3).
With arm of quarterback Terrance Broadway in a sling after surgery this week, sophomore Brooks Haack will get his first college start.
Hudspeth announced earlier this week that he has transferred the placekicking responsibilities to Hunter Stover, who has normally specialized in kickoffs.
The Cajuns were denied an historic ninth straight win last Saturday night with a 31-28 loss to UL-Monroe in a game where Hudspeth said his team displayed a low emotional level for the last three quarters.
Hudspeth said that won’t be the case against South Alabama.
“I might have to tear the hinges off the door in the locker room, but we will be ready to play (South Alabama),” Hudspeth said. “We have got to be more aggressive and play with more emotion than we did the last three quarters (against UL-Monroe).
“There are a lot of implications to this game (with South Alabama). A win would mean we’re the outright champion, and we could seize back some momentum going into the bowl game.
“We would like to win it outright. We sort of feel like we’ve already won it outright, because we beat Arkansas State going head-to-head. With that being said, we would like to bring the outright trophy back to Lafayette.”
The rest of the Sun Belt has completed the regular season. Arkansas State (7-5, 5-2) has accepted an invitation to the godaddy.com Bowl in Mobile. A loss to South Alabama would give Arkansas State and UL-Lafayette a share of the league title.
Hudspeth said he’s hoping that elevating Stover to taking over the field goal and extra point duties will help generate some consistency in the kicking game.
Junior college transfer Stephen Brachule has handled the extra point and field goal kicking for the past 10 games, but Hudspeth said he’s looking for more production.
Brachule has made all but two of 49 extra point attempts, but he is hit only eight-of-13 on field goal attempts.
Against UL-Monroe, Brachule missed a 48-yard attempt that would have tied the game at 31 late in the fourth quarter.
Although Stover hasn’t attempted a field goal this season, Hudspeth said he’s willing to give him the opportunity against USA.
“Hunter works awfully hard and Brachule works awful hard too,” Hudspeth said. I just think competition makes everyone step up a little bit.
“It (placekicking) may not be Stover’s job the rest of the year, and he may not make it through this game, but I’m going to give him the first field goal. If he makes it, he’s get the second one.”
Haack led the Cajuns to a touchdown in the final 53 seconds against UL-Monroe. Before that Haack directed UL-Lafayette to a potential scoring drive that ended with Brachule’s missed field goal.
Against ULM, Haack was 10-of-14 for 126 yards. This season Haack has passed for 175 yards.
“(Haack) can really throw it and he’s very accurate,” Hudspeth said.. He’s a guy who manages the game well. We will do what we always do, just with a different quarterback,”
One thing that could bother Haack’s initiation is the Jaguars’ pass rush. South Alabama has a league-leading 35 sacks for 229 yards in losses.
USA linebacker Romelle Jones, a senior who played at East St. John, has nine sacks. Jaguars defensive end Alex Page has seven and Patrick Moore has four.
Jaguars quarterback Ross Metheny leads the SBC in total offense (3,011 yards).
South Alabama’s football program was established in 2009 under current coach Joey Jones. The Jaguars are in their third season as a Football Bowl Subdivision team. Since 2009 USA is 25-15.
This season the Jaguars defeated SBC opponents Western Kentucky, ULM and Georgia State. Among South Alabama’s five victories is a 41-39 victory over Tulane, which meets the Cajuns in the New Orleans Bowl contest.
Hudspeth said USA’s pass rush will challenge the Cajuns to protect Haack better.
“This is a real good football team,” Hudspeth said. “Three of those losses they have are by one point. Then they went up to Tennessee and lost (31-24).”
Hudspeth said if one thing his team has lacked, it’s been the inability to display what he called “a killer instinct.”
“We’ve been beating people just enough to win,” he said. “We have got to be more aggressive.