LAFAYETTE — As soon as University of Louisiana at Lafayette receivers Al Riles and Jamal Robinson stepped up with big performances, the Cajuns offense turned in its best and most complete game of the season Saturday in a 49-27 win over Texas State.
The Cajuns scored a season-high points while rolling up 526 yards from scrimmage. Included in that figure was a season-high 238 passing yards, the majority of which came via Robinson and Riles.
“It was great to get our offense on track and see some of our guys step up like Jamal and Al,” coach Mark Hudspeth said after the game. “Made some big plays tonight. … I was glad we could get them the ball … because they can help our team when they do.”
Robinson, who coincidentally played back-to-back games against both of the teams he suffered injuries against to end his 2014 season, finally showed glimpses of his old self.
After catching just 12 passes for 178 yards in the first four games, Robinson hauled in four passes for 67 yards and a pair of scores against Texas State.
While Texas State has one of the worst statistical defenses in the country, Robinson was matched up against David Mims II, the preseason Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, for the majority of the game.
And those pregame defensive statistics meant nothing on those two touchdown catches, in which Robinson looked like the vintage version of himself.
“Jamal just went out and played extremely well at a high level,” Hudspeth said. “That was the Jamal Robinson everybody remembered seeing, and we ain’t seen that in probably about a year. … Hope we can see that more moving forward.”
Robinson’s first touchdown came on a jump ball in the end zone, the type of play he made consistently last season before getting hurt. He leaped, tipped the ball to himself and came crashing down to the turf with it cradled in his midsection for his first score since October of last year.
“The ball was kind of behind the defender, so I tried to grab it from behind him,” Robinson said. “And then the defender hit my arm. … I just kind of kept my eye on the ball and grabbed it.”
On his second score, he gained a half step on Mims on a vertical route down the sideline and used his length to catch a perfect pass from quarterback Jalen Nixon in stride.
Those two plays spiked his confidence after a frustrating start to the season.
“After I got that second touchdown, it was like, ‘Keep throwing it up, I got you, coach,’” Robinson said.
But he’d have to fight for targets against Texas State.
Up until Saturday’s game, Riles had become somewhat of a lost feature in the offense. Coming into the game, he had just seven catches for 69 yards on the season, never topping more than three catches or 38 yards in a game.
But the Cajuns got him involved early against Texas State. He scored the first touchdown of the game on a jet sweep where he stretched the ball all the way to the sideline before turning upfield. He finished the game with career highs in catches (nine) and receiving yards (98).
“I wasn’t expecting to have that much, but once I got into a rhythm, it kind of kept coming to me,” Riles said. “We were focused on having a good, quick game.”
Getting into a rhythm is a key part of it. It’s something the Cajuns hadn’t done with their passing game until the Texas State matchup, but it paid dividends Saturday.
“When a guy catches a couple of balls, he sort of gets into a rhythm,” Hudspeth said. “It’s hard to get into a rhythm until you get lathered up a little bit, it’s like a running back. Once he got his hands on the ball a couple of times, he got into a rhythm and really helped.
“We’ve got to do that, because we’ve got a lot of offensive playmakers, and we need to be able to use them all because they all help each other.”