LAFAYETTE — If Louisiana-Lafayette’s football team didn’t have a rash of injuries to its offensive line, it was still a question mark whether the Ragin’ Cajuns would stage a full-scale, full-contact spring game Saturday.
“There are a lot of people around the country that are not even doing a spring game anymore,” coach Mark Hudspeth said Thursday. “You’ve got to walk a fine line of getting the right amount of work and also keeping your guys healthy.”
Fortunately for Hudspeth, his Cajuns made it through 14 of the NCAA-allowed 15 spring sessions without an injury that would jeopardize playing time this fall. They’ll hope to keep that good luck at noon Saturday when they stage a new-look Red-White Game.
Because of injuries that have sidelined four depth-chart members on the offensive front, the format of the scrimmage will change drastically and will become more of an offense-versus-defense session where each unit will score points based on performance.
But Hudspeth said the game will still be enjoyable for fans who turn out as part of the Cajuns’ “Three-For-All” promotion Saturday that also includes an afternoon doubleheader between nationally ranked softball teams and a nighttime game for the top-ranked UL-Lafayette baseball team.
“I think the fans will get more looks at their favorite players with the format that we’ve got than just losing them in a game,” Hudspeth said.
The scoring system in use Saturday gives the offense its regular point production for touchdowns and field goals, while the defense scores for turnovers (five), three-and-outs (three) and other accomplishments.
Points will also be scored in a field-goal shootout matching returnees Hunter Stover and Stephen Brauchle, who will be assigned to either the White (offense) or the Red (defense) teams by Hudspeth.
Fans also will be treated to an extended Oklahoma drill where one offensive and one defensive player will clash in individual battles with the rest of the squad forming a circle around them. The winner of each individual battle will score a point for his team. Hudspeth said those drills will take place directly in front of the grandstands on the west side of Cajun Field, giving fans as close of a view as possible.
“We’re always competing in whatever we do,” he said. “We’ll let ’em get after each other, but we want to take care of one another and we really want to come out injury-free going into our summer workouts.”
But they’ll be careful, since the squad is already aiming toward Aug. 30 and the season opener against Southern at Cajun Field.
“We’re to the point right now that we want to get all those guys to the first game,” Hudspeth said. “So the modification of the spring game was more just to take care of our guys, but also to showcase them, too.”
Senior quarterback Terrance Broadway was one that the staff wanted to take care of. The Capitol High product, who has thrown for 5,261 yards with a 64.0 completion percentage and 36 touchdowns in two years, missed the last three halves of the regular season with a broken arm and was severely limited in the 24-21 New Orleans Bowl win over Tulane despite starting.
“I really wanted to get my confidence back,” said Broadway, who said Thursday that he is fully recovered from the injury suffered in the next-to-last game of the regular season. “I didn’t throw any before we started spring camp, but I was able to pick it all back up quick. We’ve started to get our timing back with my receivers and the offensive line.”
“He was a little tentative early,” Hudspeth said of Broadway, who himself jumped into the UL-Lafayette lineup as a sophomore when regular Blaine Gautier went down with an injury. “But he’s a lot more comfortable back there now.”
Since Broadway is a proven commodity, backups Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon will see extensive action in the scrimmage. Elijah McGuire, the Sun Belt’s Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-America pick at running back last year, could also make his public debut at quarterback for a few plays. Hudspeth said the Cajuns will have a QB package for the Vandebilt Catholic product this fall.