Never has a Mark Hudspeth-coached UL-Lafayette team been so outplayed and outmanned as in Thursday night’s 47-3 humbling at the hands of Arkansas State.
Since Hudspeth became head coach in 2011, the Ragin’ Cajuns have played five Southeastern Conference opponents and three Big 12 Conference opponents and twice against a ranked Boise State team. Twice in that time, Oklahoma State hung more than 60 points on the Cajuns.
But never in that time had UL-Lafayette lost by the 44-point margin it did Thursday.
“This was a game we felt like we were gonna come in and compete,” Hudspeth said after the Cajuns (3-4, 2-2) suffered their second-worst loss ever in Sun Belt Conference play. “And we did not get it done tonight.”
That was an understatement.
Arkansas State, a team the Cajuns beat last year, more than doubled up their visitors in total offense 571 to 270, including 262-91 in rushing yards. A-State quarterback Justice Hansen, who entered with more career negative-yard rush games (nine) than positive rush games (eight) and who had never rushed for more than 68 yards in a game, ran though gaps in UL-Lafayette’s defense for 121 yards.
It was almost a side note that he threw for 275 yards and two scores, becoming the fifth quarterback in Sun Belt history to throw for 275 and rush for 100 in the same game.
Meanwhile, the Red Wolves’ defense didn’t allow the Cajuns inside their 25-yard-line all evening. UL-Lafayette entered the game as one of six teams nationally scoring on every trip inside the red zone this season — and exited the same way thanks to a zero-for-zero evening inside the 20.
“Our motto this week was leave no doubt,” said A-State coach Blake Anderson, “and I thought we did that very thing.”
The Wolves left an impression, rubbing salt in the wounds of a Cajuns team that looked like a hospital ward by game’s end. Four Cajuns left with apparent head injuries and had to go through concussion protocol, including starting quarterback Andre Nunez, and four others had to be helped off. That included backup quarterback Jordan Davis, who entered after Nunez was ineffective early under pressure from A-State’s defensive front.
“The pass rush was just ridiculous and made them uncomfortable,” Anderson said. "We hit people on both sides.”
Ironically, with ASU’s intent to be as physical as possible, it was a Cajuns player who was ejected. Defensive end Jarvis Jeffries was tossed on a targeting call in the second half and is ineligible for the first half of UL-Lafayette’s next game, Nov. 4 at South Alabama.
The two UL-Lafayette quarterbacks combined for an anemic 15-of-37 passing performance for 179 yards, and the Wolves posted five sacks — one resulting in a fumble returned for a touchdown by Caleb Caston 43 seconds into the game.
It never got any better for the Cajuns, most notably when Hansen faked a clock-killing spike and instead threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Justin McGinnis one second before halftime. That made it 34-3 and ended all UL-Lafayette hopes.
“We got ourselves in a hole we couldn’t dig out of,” Hudspeth said. “Poor job by myself and our coaching staff preparing our team for this game. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked, but I’m putting this one on myself and the coaches. We’ve got to do a better job of preparing our football team.”
Arkansas State, which has won seven straight home games, had no such problems despite a short week. The Red Wolves (4-2, 3-0) were coming off a 51-17 home win over Coastal Carolina on Saturday, but they didn’t look tired in averaging almost 7 yards per play and rolling up 30 first downs.
“I thought we had a great week of work in terms of how we prepare guys physically and our approach to rest, recovery, and it really shows during a short week,” Anderson said. “You look at our last three Thursday night games, they are probably the best three games we have played since we have been here.”
Hansen completed two passes in ASU’s next-to-last drive, which was capped by Chauncey Mason’s 10-yard touchdown run that made it 47-3. Hansen didn’t leave the game until 4:17 remained. Shortly thereafter, the Cajuns were assured of their worst league setback since a 48-3 loss at Troy in 2008.
“We’re beat up. We’re a MASH unit,” said Hudspeth, whose team has 16 days before returning to action against South Alabama. “The break will give us a chance to heal up and recover. We need time to heal up, and we’ll start back and go back to work on Monday.”